Monday 23 March 2020


There are times when real life can suddenly turn an intimate event into a major occasion. That is what happened on Tuesday 17th March. Plans had been made months in advance to launch the latest candle from Jonathan Ward at his Hackney studio, but a global pandemic was coming ever closer to the United Kingdom. By the time the day arrived all fashion shows and product launches had been cancelled, and so an independent studio in E8 was about to host the final physical event in the beauty industry's calendar. The candle is called Assassin Belarus and it truly does shine a light in these dark times.

When Jonathan Ward relaunched his candle range in 2018 it comprised The Scent Of Time collection. These contained incredibly complex fragrances and, unsurprisingly, made regular appearances in the magazine recommendation lists. An independent company was taking on the big corporations at their own game, and was succeeding. The original range was followed by a series of matching diffusers and subsequently expanded to include The Harvest Collection. These formed a separate capsule series with each taking a more addictively experimental direction. Smaller in size, they quickly became “the must-have candle for casual gifting.” However, there was something lurking in the shadows.

Jonathan had created two collaboration candles, as well as his Christmas Hermitage Noel 1878, but he wanted to add mystery to the candle industry and continue his emotive style. The idea was to take the subject of espionage, that coming together of two worlds, and present a scent that epitomised sensuous danger and gunmetal intrigue. The finished candle is housed in a matt black sprayed version of his regular glass, but the shape instantly seems to take on the appearance of a gun barrel. With blood red text on the box, and an explosive design, everything has been managed to perfection.

The evening also featured a reading from A Shadow Intelligence, Oliver Harris’ new espionage novel, which perfectly matched Assassin Belarus’ concept of “delving into the worlds that exist under those that shape our human experience.” Jonathan Ward managed to give the beauty industry one final event that sent us all into the unknown with a blaze of artistic glory. I wrote on Twitter that evening, “We drank, we celebrated, and we all looked forward to being together again very soon.” So, that’s the background to this emotional launch but what does the candle actually smell like? It’s time to discover the scent of espionage.

Assassin Belarus feels as if it’s centred around the aroma of dry black pepper and this, in conjunction with the cedarwood and ginger, manages to give the evocative impression of a gun barrel coldness. As the scent develops you start to get the most indulgent blend of birch tar and patchouli but, and this may sound slightly strange, there is a dryness and a warmth at the same time. It could be the vetiver that pushes that earthiness but the peat note almost takes you into that MI5 briefing room. Addictive yet distant, sensuous yet aloof, Assassin Belarus is a must-have in these challenging times.

Assassin Belarus is available from the Jonathan Ward website at priced at £48 for 165g. [Candle provided by Jonathan Ward and A Shadow Intelligence provided by Abacus Publishing]

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