With its marine tang and refreshing fragrance, Rock Salt & Driftwood has become one of our favourite scented candles this summer. When we looked at our favourite summertime smells last month, we touched on the scent of the seaside as one of the most evocative seasonal fragrances. Here’s a bit more about this much loved and most recognisable of smells.

What causes the smell of the sea?

That energising ocean smell is actually caused by gas released by bacteria – not so fresh-sounding now! Biology Professor Andy Johnson from the University of East Anglia identified a molecule called dimethyl sulfide (DMS).

DMS comes from a compound produced by phytoplankton, called dimethylsulfoniopropionate (DMSP). When the bacteria feed on the phytoplankton, they convert it to DMS. This smell attracts the sea birds, because where there’s plankton, there are tasty fish.

It’s not just birds that are attracted to the smell, it seems, as DMS is added to some processed human foods. It’s used in tiny quantities to give a savoury flavour, and it also occurs naturally in our own kitchens when some seafoods, asparagus and cabbage are cooked.

Why we love the smell of the sea

As we’ve discussed before, smells and memories are closely linked, and most of us have positive memories of the sea. Days out on the beach, seaside holidays, winter walks along windy sands… In Britain, where you’re never more than 70 miles from the coast, the sea features in many people’s lives at some point.

As well as the happy and positive associations, there’s the sheer loveliness of the invigorating scent. In the summer, the uplifting ozone scent is joined by the coconutty smell of warm sand – although there is definitely a point on hotter days when massed seaweed crosses a line between “heady” and “overpowering”.

However, in small doses seaweed smells wonderful, and it’s used as an ingredient in perfume. If an eau de cologne is described as “marine”, it’s likely to have seaweed or algae in its blend.

Capturing the sea smells in a scented candle

Our inspiration for the Rock Salt & Driftwood candle came from walking the real life Dexter and Mason along the shore near where we live. Like our scented candles, the sea breeze has top notes and base notes. Since we started hand making candles, it’s become a habit to think with our noses; and humans and dogs alike walk along the beach drinking in the air.

The first smell that hits is that fresh breezy feel, with a maritime salty edge. That’s the smell we really wanted to capture with our ocean scented candle, but we didn’t want to neglect all those other evocative scents that we experienced on the shore.

There are deeper, darker tones under that ozoney tang, and that’s where the rich scents of driftwood come in. When that part of the fragrance hits you, you can almost taste the salt on your tongue. We use amber, patchouli and musk for that smoky old wood scent. These conjure up memories of beachcombing for treasures and exploring the flotsam at the shoreline. They’re about scrambling over algae-upholstered rocks to reach seaweedy rock pools. That’s what sets our candle apart from many sea-scented products – we wanted to capture the whole beach!

So, whether you’re actually 70 miles from the sea, or you want simply to recreate that seaside freshness indoors, try our Rock Salt & Driftwood candle. For other evocative seasonal scents, have a look at our Summer scented candle collection.