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Waxing lyrical about ethical candles

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Beck Scougall pictured inside her shop, the Saarti Candles. Photograph: Miranda Glasser

A new luxury scented candle is wafting its way through town. Follow your nose and it will lead you to Saarti Candles, which features ethically-sourced beeswax from the Maddox Jolie-Pitt Foundation and come in such delicious fragrances as basil and lavender, and fig and vanilla.

Australian Beck Scougall developed the idea three months ago after realising just how un-environmentally-friendly paraffin wax was.

“It’s a by-product of petroleum. It’s super cheap and super nasty. When you burn it there are eleven carcinogenic toxins in. Have you ever noticed the black soot that you get from candles? That’s carbon.

“I thought need to use soy candles and there are no soy candles here, so I decided to make my own. And then everyone asked if I could make them one.”

Scougall quit her hotel spa manager job and started making candles at her kitchen table, despite being a complete candle-making novice.

“I just Googled it, I figured it out. I’m still learning,” she smiles. She buys her supplies in Thailand, mixing beeswax with soy wax to make it less soft, and adding handmade essential oils. She also uses cotton lead-free wicks.

“I love the essential oils and making all different scents,” Scougall says, admitting there is some trial and error in the process.

“The thing with the candles is until you burn it you don’t know how it’s going to smell. Like, the citrus ones unfortunately don’t seem to work. I bought 100mls of kaffir lime oil and it just smelt terrible.”

Lemongrass however is proving a firm favourite.

“Everyone loves lemongrass,” she says. “Lemongrass or jasmine. Some new ones that I’m using are fig extract, cocoa absolute and vanilla absolute – that’s yummy. I just made a rose one last night and it smells awesome.”

The concept uses natural  ethical products with the aim of providing the local community with fair-trade employment. The name Saarti combines the Khmer for ‘beautiful’ (‘sa art’) with ‘Aarti’, a Hindu ritual involving candles.

“It’s this beautiful ceremony they do in India,” explains Scougall. “I think they do it here for the water festival as well. You get this banana leaf and they put little candles and incense and flower petals on it.

You say a prayer, make a wish and put the little boat into the river. It’s just beautiful, there are 1000 lights floating down the river.”

Scougall’s candles come in little ceramic bowls produced by Prolung Khmer, an NGO training local Khmers in the art of traditional Khmer pottery. Others are set in pretty silver monks’ alms bowls.

Candles are priced from $6.50 upwards. Top of the range candles cost $120 and are made using sterling silver bowls. “I guess the candles would be more towards the luxury side of the things,” Scougall says.

Saarti is only three months old but already has a steady following, with boutique hotels Amansara and La Residence stocking the range.

Maison Polanka plans to carry them and Song Saa Resort has just placed an order for its own line, a wild mint and cardamom number.

Two shops in Melbourne are selling the candles and requests have also started coming in from other overseas countries, including the US and Spain. Scougall has also just opened a stall in the new artisans section of the night market.

The enduring success of companies such as London’s Jo Malone and Diptyque in Paris proves there is a big market for high-end, perfumed candles. At the rate Scougall’s going, she might just end up there with them with her luxurious yet ethical brand of olfactory loveliness.

For more information please visit the shop's facebook page.

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