Candles have the power to bring us back to our favorite vacations: the romantic big-city getaway, the cozy-grandma beach cottage, the fir-scented national park.
Enter Super 8, a nearly 50-year-old brand with more than 1,200 hotels in the United States and a mission to reach a new generation of road-trippers. The chain, part of Wyndham, debuted a batch of eight candles on Dec. 1. The “Scents of the Open Road” collection intends to represent a range of travel experiences, such as sleeping on hotel sheets, grabbing a cup of joe or refilling the tank.
That raised the question: What does a Super 8 candle smell like? We wanted to know, so Super 8 provided a bundle for The Washington Post to review.
The cost: $19.74, a nod to the year the first Super 8 opened. After initially selling out, more candles go on sale Wednesday. Mike Mueller, president of Super 8 by Wyndham, said the company’s hotels are rarely a destination, but are more often a stop along the way to greater adventures. The candles, he said, were “just a fun, kitschy way” to set expectations for a stay.
“Even though we’re an economy brand, no matter what you’re paying for your hotel stay, you should have a great experience,” he said.
For our sniff test, we enlisted 10 Post colleagues. The candles were unlit in an office environment for the purpose of safety. Testers knew only that the candles came from Super 8 but did not have information about each scent; their reviews are part reaction, part guess about what they were reacting to.
Candles were rated on a scale from zero to 10, for a maximum possible score of 100. No single scent came close to a perfect score, and several earned a zero from at least one smeller. Some testers, however, had clear favorites, with one vowing that they would stay in a Super 8 room if it smelled like the candle.
Total score: 33
Super 8’s description: Fresh ground coffee, for those get-up-and-go kind of days.
Regardless of how our testers felt about actual coffee, they were not even lukewarm about this coffee-scented candle. A few called out an animalistic overtone: “canned meat” or “notes of singed fur.” Others had closer guesses, comparing the scent to flan, an iced cookie or stale chocolate. One hit the scent on the nose: “cheap latte.”
Total score: 36
Super 8’s description: Thirst-quenching cherry slushie, a truly sweet cup-holder treat.
Brain freeze is rarely a pleasant experience, so it’s appropriate that reviewers largely had negative feelings about this scent. One was fully on board, noting that the experience was “like how the color pink should smell.” Some invoked cherries — either the car air freshener or carwash soap varietal — while others were reminded of “those cupcake dolls we had as a kid” or “kids’ makeup.” The toughest note went even younger: “sanitized changing table.”
Total score: 38
Super 8’s description: Because every great morning starts with a little something to get you started.
Most testers accurately identified this scent as being food-related — but that didn’t mean they loved what the chef was cooking. “Bad drugstore ice cream,” one suggested; “if high fructose had a smell,” another scoffed. Another waxed nostalgic, reminded of “vanilla Lip Smackers.” The most accurate sniffer called out the right notes: “sweet, syrupy, vanilla. Like breakfast.”
Total score: 39
Super 8’s description: Crisp, clean linen, essential for a super night’s sleep.
Clean hotel sheets: pretty great. The smell of clean hotel sheets? A mixed bag. The least impressed of our group got notes of “urinal sponge” and “gas station bathroom,” but more tuned in to the “clean” fragrance. Referred to as “cleaning supplies” and “dryer sheet,” this scent was “kind of like laundry.” Well, exactly like laundry. Said one of the biggest fans: “Soapy, bath (in a good way) scent.”
Total score: 40
Super 8’s description: Smokey, savory beef jerky, the perfect road trip snack.
One of the more divisive odors, this scent was the only to land two zeros and two nines. The key seemed to be how you feel about smoke as a smell. The highest scores were enthusiastic about “charred embers after you put the campfire out.” Someone called it a “boyfriend smell.” Detractors were much more negative about bonfires, and also pointed out notes of “old bacon grease” or “beef jerky from a grocery store if you burned it with a lighter.”
Total score: 57
Super 8’s description: Fresh and reinvigorating, like a hot shower after a long day’s drive.
We don’t know what a hot shower after a long drive smells like, but we know that it’s pretty good. Although some reviewers found the hints of “low-quality motel/hotel toiletries” or “bathroom soap,” others suggested pineapple hard candy or sugar cookie. The biggest fans were perhaps reminded of the post-shower experience, praising the scent of “fresh, clean cotton sheets.”
Total score: 60
Super 8’s description: A windows down, spirit of the open road kind-of feeling.
The scent fell flat with some, who labeled it as “cheap aftershave” or “incense.” But overall, the fragrance was a winner that seemed to capture fresh air and forests. Our testers called it “outdoorsy,” reminiscent of a road trip and “a bit woody.” It gave strong late-fall vibes: “Warm, reminds me of a fire but not super strong,” one wrote. “Cozy.”
Total score: 60
Super 8’s description: Glorious gasoline, the fuel that keeps the journey going.
The takeaway from this endeavor is that no one knows what gasoline smells like — or the candle doesn’t actually smell like fuel. Whatever the case, most of our testers were fans, naming multiple delightful possibilities. “Eggnog!” wrote one, explaining: “There’s cinnamon, custard and the unmistakable scent of nutmeg.” Some smelled lemon or “candy you’d get at an old folks’ home.” The journey of one review practically required its own road trip: “Yellow mustard. And pink bubble gum. And they added cinnamon. And they had a baby.”
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