Light my fire: Inside the world of candlemaker Cire Trudon

Light my fire: Inside the world of candlemaker Cire Trudon

House of wax

Text: Renée Batchelor

Cire Trudon is more than just a candle brand. Find out about its storied history as the oldest, surviving candlemaker in the world

It's likely that you've seen and sniffed a Cire Trudon candle before. Whether in Escentials in Singapore, or overseas in swanky department stores like Harrods or Barneys New York, the unmistakeably chic, bottle green jars with the gorgeous gold insignia certainly stand out. Hinting at a rich heritage, and boasting complex, intriguing scents, a Cire Trudon candle is anything but run-of-the-mill. 


The brand currently has 27 candles, but introduces new limited-edition scents during the Christmas period and a new, permanent scent every year or so. Its newest scent Cyrnos, is inspired by the island of Corsica, and is the brand's most fruity scent to date. Rather than creating an obvious fig fragrance, this has notes of lemon and thyme to bring out the ingredient's more aromatic aspect while celebrating its Mediterranean roots. When asked to describe Cire Trudon in three words, Elodie Herreria, the commercial director of the brand, thoughtfully responds, "Quality, history and perfume." She also reveals that Cire Trudon will be working on a collection of  perfumes next year, with scents distinct from what is currently on offer with its candles. Herreria says the brand finally has gained the expertise and experience neccesary to expand into this area. In the meantime, here are other interesting facts that she revealed.

Cire Trudon Cyrnos

The brand dates back to 1643
The brand's founder Claude Trudon had a company that first started selling accessories, including candles. But his growing interest in wax meant he ended up purchasing the royal manufacturer of wax in the south of France. The Trudon company then started producing 100 percent beeswax candles for the well-heeled individuals and institutions of the time, including royalty and the French church. Unlike the cheap candles of the day which were made of animal fat, smelled terrible and produced black smoke, Trudon candles were known for their quality — one dinner candle cost as much as a days' wages.

Over the years, the brand constantly re-invented itself to adapt to changing times — think the birth of electricity and the French revolution. Another important 'revolution' occured when candles went beyond being used for lighting to being scented, in the beginning of the nineteenth century. In 2007, the brand Cire Trudon — which translates roughly to Trudon's wax — was born. It combines the brand's history of candle making with innovative, elaborate new scents centred around persons and even locations.

Each candle is handmade — glasses are made in Italy and even the wicks are customised to each particular scent
In the age of mechanisation, Herreira says that producing things by hand, "especially in Europe can be very luxurious". The signature, glass jars have a special bottom that looks like the base of a champagne bottle and are handmade by artisans in Italy, so they are perfectly imperfect. Each candle is painstakingly handpoured in layers to blend the wax and the fragrance evenly, and even the wicks — Cire Trudon uses eleven different kinds that burn at different rates — are selected according to the intensity of the perfume and how quickly it burns. This allow the scent to permeate "discreetly and intensely" around a space, as a candle should never overpower its surroundings. 

Candles being hand poured

The house works with noses to create their complex fragrances
Unlike other brands, Cire Trudon employs actual noses to create their candle 'juices'. Among those who work regularly with the brand, include Antoine Lie — who also created many Commes des Garçons and Etat Libre d'Orange fragrances — and noses Amelie Bourgois and Emmanuel Philip. And because of the involved manner in which Cire Trudon creates its scents, the results are elaborate and intriguing. From Balmoral — which smells like the wet soil in the famous Scottish castle — to Spiritus Sancti  — which gives you a whiff of what a traditional church might smell like — don't expect the typical candle scents. Says Herreria, "You'll never find a mono note in Cire Trudon."


Many candles are influenced by historical figures
Some of the more popular candles were created in homage to historical figures, though the references are sometimes so oblique you might not get them at first. Ernesto — named for Ernesto "Che" Guevara — is a Havana-inspired candle with notes of tobacco, leather and a hint of rum. Another favourite Abd El Kader, named after the Algerian revolutionary, smells like a refreshing brew of mint tea. 

Napoleon Wax Busts

The company makes wax busts
Today, the brand still makes the tapered candles and pillar candles that were traditionally used to light houses, castles and churches. These high-quality candles do not drip and ruin tablecloths and mantles, unlike the candles you might pick up say, at the local supermarket. In addition, Cire Trudon has the distinction of collaborating with the French Museum Council to produce wax busts from moulds of historical figures like Napoléon and Marie-Antoinette. These make brilliant and dignified home decoration items — just make sure you don't leave them under direct sunlight or actually light them, or they might just melt into an unrecognisable puddle.

Cire Trudon candles and room sprays are available at Escentials