The first time I visited my wonderful friend Miss Whistle in her wildly chic Laurel Canyon home in Los Angeles there was something that felt vaguely familiar. All through the faint-makingly delicious Ottolenghi-inspired feast something nagged away at the back of my mind.
It wasn't the spotty dogs or the enticing piles of books or her fabulous taste that had caught some part of my attention: they were obvious and this was something nebulous that I could not place. Then I visited her downstairs loo and saw the Votivo Red Currant candle burning by the basin. The smell had been drifting through the hall, catching on my sub-conscious.
They are my mother's favourite candles and they scent our family home in the UK, along with the glass jars of diffuser reeds, and I can't smell them without being transported back to the English countryside.
I'm not a huge fan of scented candles as I have a wide-ranging floral fragrance intolerance which causes my rosacea to flare and gives me a hideous headache. I can't predict which smells, bar Madonna lilies which are poison to me, will set me off so I tend to avoid scented candles wherever possible.
But the entire range of Votivo candles, soy based and incredibly long-lasting - 50 hours, has only a benign effect on me. The Red Currant is utterly, utterly delicious, quite as lovely as anything Diptique produces, and less expensive too. I highly recommend for Christmas presents.
They are widely stocked in America, are exclusive to Liberty of London in the UK, and can be bought online in the UK at www.votivo.co.uk & in the US here