Jonathan Ward is a British brand with resolutely ethical, small-business values - each candle is hand-poured, and uses sustainable materials, from the glass to the cardboard outer packaging. The brand is sold mainly through Whole Foods at the moment, although you can expect to see it branching out this year thanks to a solid cult and celebrity following.
Jonathan Ward himself is tall, softly-spoken and quite charming, and speaks with an authentic passion about his products. The candles are created and marketed by a small team based in London, and led by Jonathan himself, who is very much a hands-on business owner (in a similar way to Linda Pilkington of Ormonde Jayne) who is completely dedicated to making the products as good as they can possibly be. Jonathan works with a perfumer (I'm not sure who) to come up with the scents, which are complex and layered like fine fragrance. You won't find any generic combinations or even soliflore scents in the range - they're all creative compositions.
The Russian Collection consists of three candles. Kartushya, which was the focus of the event, is a spicy, boozey woodsy scent perfect for winter. The Gypsy is a jasmine-laden floral, again with a woody base, and The Empress and Darya is a gorgeous leathery-liquorice sort of smell with cloves, cinnamon, vetiver and cedarwood. (This one is going on my Christmas list.)
In order to show us how the candles are made, Jonathan and the team brought along a pan, a hob, a bag of soy wax and a chunk of beeswax, along with a bottle of incredibly precious concentrated Kartushya perfume oil, which he gave us to sniff before mixing the wax - it's powerful stuff.
The first step is to melt down the beeswax - carefully stirring and monitoring the temperature so it doesn't burn. The beeswax plays an important functional role in making the scent from the candle spread out into the air while it's burning. It also creates a beautiful honey smell, which filled the room as Jonathan melted it in the pan.
Next, grains of soy wax are poured in and slowly melted. As Jonathan's assistant Justine stirred the pan, we looked in and saw the grains mixing with the beeswax into a kind of wax-risotto. It took a few minutes for the whole lot to melt into a clear liquid, and in the meantime we tied the wicks in the candle glasses to get them into the right positions.
There were some powerful red cocktails being served, so the knotting techniques weren't as precise as they might have been...
Finally, the wax was poured into the glasses, in two stages. Justine supervised me as I poured mine, showing admirable restraint as I very nearly poured too much. The wax hardens from the bottom up, and you can see it beginning to go cloudy as it sets. At the final stage, Justine adjusts the wicks so they're perfectly in position, before adding the final layer of wax on top.
Once cooled, the candles are put into their beautifully designed cardboard boxes, which are made without glue for sustainability reasons.
And there you have it! A sustainably sourced, hand-poured, seductively scented premium candle in my favourite colour - red.
The Russian Collection is out now, and is absolutely worth exploring if you like your scents dark, complex and rich. There's also a new range of diffuser scents on the way - just 3 scents at first, but hopefully more as the brand gets more into its stride.
The Russian Collection candles come in 2 sizes -
Large: £35 - 8.5oz (241g) , burn time: 45hrs
Medium: £25 - 6.5oz (185g) , burn time: 30hrs
You can find Jonathan Ward London candles at branches of Whole Foods and at http://www.jonathanwardlondon.com/
*Disclosure - Kartushya candle was given to me at the event