The home fragrance market is massive and varied, and when we decided to turn our beloved hobby into a business, we spent lots of time thinking about how to carve out our own little section. For us, it has always been about the fragrance, whilst it would be so easy to produce some Jo Malone "Smell-a-like" products, this isn't what we are about.
The inspiration behind Notes of Northumberland has always been our beautiful county, the varied landscape, the local traditions and the people. Understanding the powerful link between fragrance and memory we wanted to come up with a way to combine the two, and so our signature fragrances were born.
We have seen recently a couple of local chandlers who have thought this was a fantastic idea and chosen to mimic it, there are more and more Northumberland Inspired candles coming onto the market. This doesn't upset us, after all, I think it was Oscar Wilde who said "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery that mediocrity can pay to greatness."however it is sad to see that there has been no more thought put into this than a new label on an existing fragrance, especially given all of the inspiration this beautiful county has to offer.
We keep being asked about the links between our fragrances and their inspiration, and how the process works, so we thought this was a perfect time to talk you through it.
Choosing a Subject
With so many beautiful parts of Northumberland, where do we start when selecting what will go in our range? Initially it was quite simple, we chose places and pastimes that meant something to us. Our initial collection was therefore all of our special places.
As time has progressed and we have added new fragrances this has usually been after conversations with our stockists and customers who have suggested a new line. Not all places lend themselves to inspiring a fragrance, and often we draw a blank at the design stage, but sometimes we just have to dig a little deeper, learning about the history, and really getting to know the subject.
A great example of the process is our Hadrians Wall fragrance. We were asked many times for this but despite visiting the area and walking along parts of the wall there was not a distinctive aroma that jumped out at us. This is such an iconic part of Northumberland that we refused to be beaten so we took a different approach and started to think about emperor Hadrian and the Romans. We came across by chance that the Romans were the first to use fragrance for spaces rather than just on their person, and therefore the inventors of home fragrance. This was the perfect link for us, we then went on to investigate what Romans would have used to fragrance their spaces, discovering that they used items that were readily available such as rose petals and leafs from fruit trees and bushes.
My Favourite Part
The next step is my favourite part of the process, where we begin to experiment with the different fragrance oils available to us. We use the notes identified in our research and blend them together until we reach the perfect fragrance. It's worth noting that the perfect fragrance isn't always something that I love, fragrance is such a personal thing, and everybody likes something different, we focus on a fragrance that best represents the subject rather than our personal favourite. All of our oils are high quality oils expertly blended in the UK. We only use cruelty free, Vegan friendly oils that have been IFRA approved, because of this the depth and longevity of our fragrance is unrivalled.
Once we have reached what we think is the perfect fragrance blend we have to test this in our different product lines. Just because an oil smells good doesn't mean that it will behave well in candles, have any sort of throw in larger spaces or react well with our diffuser base, we therefore produce all of our different products using the new fragrance oil. This is a long, sometimes frustrating process, as we never get it right first time. Our home is always full of candles being test burned - which isn't a bad thing, we don't stop with this process until we have created perfect products that smell divine.
This is the fun bit, we send samples out to friends, family and loyal customers to get feedback about or fragrance. Again, as fragrance is such a personal thing we try to get a good cross section of people with different tastes so ensure we have covered all bases.
Creating our packaging comes in two parts, the fun part is selecting a colour that represents the subject. In our above example, Hadrians Wall, we went for Roman Red. This colour is both beautiful, links to the fragrance, and is sufficiently different to the rest of our range for our customers to identify it.
The less exciting part is ensuring that our packaging is compliant and legal. We have to ensure that anything we intend to release to the public contains the relevant safety information and is compliant with European CLP (Classification, Labelling and Packaging) requirements. This part is less than exciting, and often very expensive, but so important. If you bought a product that did not contain this information and you had an accident or became ill the vendors insurance would be void and you would not be able to make a claim, so make sure the next product you buy is compliant.
We are then ready to release our product to the market and sit back and wait for the amazing feedback to come in.
So, What is in a name?
You can now see that for us there is so much more to our fragrances than sticking a local named label on an existing product, and therefore despite other local named candles on the market this is still our USP.
Footnote, it it worth pointing our that we are not averse to competition, there are lots of other local candle makers out there who produce amazing products. They have identified their own USP rather than piggybacking off another business and thankfully the market is big enough for us all.
Here are a few examples:
Urban Candle Company https://urban-candle.com/
Black Candle Company of Northumberland https://www.blackcandleco.co.uk/
Northumberland Candle Company https://www.thenorthumberlandcandlecompany.com/
Alnwick Candle Company https://www.facebook.com/alnwickcandleco/
Northumbrian Candleworks https://www.northumbriancandleworks.co.uk/