Not a whiff of mistletoe

A few days ago, someone told me that they didn’t hang mistletoe, but they did use mistletoe candles every Christmas, because they liked the mistletoe smell.  I pointed out, gently I hope, that mistletoe doesn’t have a scent.  To which they replied, indignantly, “yes it does”.

But, er, no, it doesn’t.

Mistletoe may be a winter evergreen, but it has no discernible smell.  So what on earth are all those mistletoe-scented candles, and oils you see peddled in the shops every Christmas?

Well, if you believe they’re anything to do with mistletoe, you’re being conned.  The only property they have in common with mistletoe is they are (usually) green or white, and they appear at Christmas.  There the similarity ends.

I’m not sure what the ‘mistletoe scent’ is, but after a bit of googling came up with these descriptions:

No help from this one:  “Perfumed with  ‘Country Lane Mistletoe’  – Just imagine you are taking a walk down a country lane on a frosty winters day…  the aromatic scent of fresh greenery, top notes of pine and plump Mistletoe berries will fill your home with a welcoming crispy, clean perfume that is sure to please.”

But this one’s honest at least:  Mistletoe:  “A festive pine scent with a top note of sweet berries and green apples. The heart is the scent of Siberian pine needles.  This fragrance oil is infused with natural essential oils, including Fir Needle, Cedarwood, Fir Balsam and Treemoss”.

This one says it’s masculine (urgh!):  Mistletoe Clean Car Gel Scent: Described by Yankee Candle as…”Many have fallen under the spell of this mysteriously charming provocatively masculine scent. Energizing.”

And here’s another honest one: From a review of a Yankee Mistletoe Candle: “The best thing about the mistletoe candle is that it smells exactly like a fresh cut pine Christmas tree.  I find the smell to be sweet and very woodsy.”

Marks & Spencer’s description is impressively unhelpful:  “Set the mood with this gorgeously scented pillar candle.”

There are a lot more I could quote, but the consensus, from those that admit it, seems to be that ‘mistletoe-scented’ stuff is actually pine-scented, or similar.  Why not say it’s pine scented then?  Dunno – but pine-scented makes me think of disinfectant and soap, so perhaps it’s just re-branding that scent for Christmas, hoping no-one notices it’s not mistletoe, it’s disinfectant.

Please spend 5 minutes completing the 2010 Mistletoe Questionnaire!!

And why not buy the book?

7 thoughts on “Not a whiff of mistletoe

  1. You have done so much for mistletoe. We’re trying to do our share, too. Check out this fun way to meet under the mistletoe and have a great holiday!

  2. You say that mistletoe has no discernible scent but presumably you are only talking about Viscum album. Given how many other types of mistletoe there are in the world surely there must be some which have a recognisable smell? Perhaps these products are using such a source and so not in contravention of the Trades Descriptions Act after all?

    1. Jambo Mr Ray!

      You are, of course, correct that other mistletoe species might have a scent. But do they really all smell of pine disinfectant? Do you not think that there’s something wrong here….?

      And, if the scent is based on another mistletoe species, shouldn’t the label say which one? For instance, if it’s Tapinanthus sansibarensis subspecies sansiberensis (sensu stricto) (you know, the pretty one from the mangrove swamps, though I think the generic name might have changed recently), that could, surely be put, discreetly, on the label – which could then read “Mistletoe” (followed by small print insert – “from Tapinanthus sansibarensis ssp sansibarensis, gathered lovingly from Indian Ocean Mangrove Trees” and then, back to full size font – “Scented”. Works for me!

      Btw remind me to talk to you about mistletoe bugs (and moths, naturally) sometime soon.

  3. I read here [] that the flowers smell like oranges. Is this a different species? It also says they bloom in Feb, so marketing them as a “Christmas” scent is also erroneous. Thoughts?

    1. Thanks for your comment. Yes that link is for the right species. The flowers may have a delicate scent (they are insect pollinated and being small and green/yellow do need some attractant) but – as you point out – mistletoe does not flower at Christmas. The whole ‘mistletoe scent’ thing at Christmas is, as far as I can tell, a complete fabrication of the scent industry, who just want to sell a ‘seasonal’ scent and give it a ‘seasonal’ label (in this case a mistletoe label). The fact that most ‘mistletoe’ scents seemed based on pine and other conifer scents seem to reinforce this view – that it is just a generic winter scent – nothing to do with mistletoe, flowers or no flowers.

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