I'll admit it: I'm a candle snob. Previous connections in the industry have left me with dozens of delightful home fragrances, and it doesn't take me very long to determine a candle's quality (usually a whiff or two). This January, I was introduced Hazeltine, a local business thoughtfully crafting candles by hand, and I couldn't resist the opportunity to try a few new scents. In just one month I had successfully burned through River Daze (notes of smoke, redwood, and vetiver), and I am officially onto Oasis (notes of rosewood, dried fig leaves, and cedarwood). 

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Jane Bleecker, the creator of Hazeltine, started making candles as a hobby over six years ago and first launched her company under the name Xodo Botanicals. She rebranded to Hazeltine this fall and scaled down her line to six signature scents, each inspired by a place and experience including Night of Joy, a candle dedicated to New Orleans.

Originally from Northern California, she lived in Chicago and Bangkok before eventually settling in the Crescent City. "I came to visit New Orleans when I was in college, fell in love with the city, and moved here the first chance I got. That was 14 years ago! I eventually married a Louisianan and we have a toddler who I hope will love living here as much as I do. It's the best place, period."

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The products are all made with coconut wax, a blend of essential oils, and perfume-grade fragrance oil. They are clean-burning candles (sans paraffin-wax), strong smelling, and have approximately 40 hours of burn time. Each arrives in a sturdy package featuring the scent's unique label on the front. The candles are $42 each and are currently sold at Merchant House and online on Hazeltine's website. 

So how does the brand stand up to larger names in the industry? While I will always have a place for a luxury candle in my home, I relish in the fact that for under $50 I can safely enhance my home's ambiance with an intriguing blend while also supporting a local business.

Learn more about Hazeltine and its origins below.

When did you first start your brand and when did you officially rebrand? What inspired the rebrand?

I started making natural perfumes, skincare products, and candles as a hobby in 2014 and that turned into Xodo Botanicals, which I had until this past November when I rebranded as Hazeltine. I'd been in a creative funk with Xodo but brewing up new ideas for a whole new direction in my head for a while, and then 2020 happened and I decided to just take the plunge and start completely fresh. Hazeltine is a focused collection of six scents that I've been dreaming up for years and it's been fun to finally share them with people!

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How did you get into candle making?

My background is in behavioral health, actually, but I've always been fascinated by scent and the power it has to conjure up memories and emotions. I like listening to people talk and learning about their histories, which is what drew me to the behavioral health field and then ultimately to perfumery. Candle-making is intense–there's a lot of heavy lifting, hot wax, hard math, and sometimes broken glass and big messes–but then you end up with a finished product that has the power to bring someone joy or spark a conversation about some random forgotten thing in their past, and that's just the greatest thing.

Where does the name Hazeltine come from?

Hazeltine is my middle name and an old family name. I disliked it growing up because it was different, but later in life I learned to appreciate that. It reminds me of the fact that we're all made up of these unique stories and memories, and I think scent is a good platform to explore this aspect of humanity so it felt like a good fit for the brand.

How do you choose scent combinations and names? Each is so unique!

Thank you! The scents are based on specific memories of places and experiences. For example Pasadena is based on my grandma's house in L.A. where I spent a lot of summers as a kid. When she passed away a few years ago, I wanted to recreate the smell of her house so that I could always access the sensory experience of being there. The result is a candle that smells like bright citrus blossom, warm amber, and a touch of sunblock; it's a sunny, comforting scent that I hope brings people a positive emotional response even if they never knew my grandma, who was very cool. Each of the scents has a story attached to it, and the names are pulled from those stories.

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Who designs your labels?

I design them myself, and they're all printed locally by Jessica at The Southern Letterpress. I'm really into vintage and foreign product packaging and old fonts, and wanted to make something that looked like it could be from a different time and place. I had really specific ideas about aesthetics but I'm not a graphic designer so it took me a while; when the pandemic hit and everyone was baking bread and getting fit, I was furiously doodling and trying to learn Photoshop. I'm glad I decided to do them myself because I think they look handmade and sort of weird, which was my goal.