“It’s a pretty unique smell for Londoners.”
Lewis recreated those distinctive aromas of fond childhood memories and shared local experiences on his kitchen stove. The whiff of barley and hops is called Downtown Brewery Breeze and the sweet bouquet of cookie heaven is labelled East Dundas Cookie Factory.
There are 10 hand-poured boutique candles in his new London Smells collection available through his Battle Rattle Candle Company. They include notes of the cotton candy at Western Fair, call-backs to skating on the ice rink at Victoria Park, the fresh produce at Covent Garden Market and, once successfully navigating through the “perennial goose nuggets,” a spot on the warm grass at Springbank Park.
Lewis moved all over the country during his career as a lieutenant-commander in the Royal Canadian Navy. Before he retired and returned to London, he had never made a candle in his life.
“I started it just as a way to stay involved with the military,” he said. “I pretty much lived it 24-7, and when you get out, it’s like, ‘Who am I without the uniform?’ I started by making scents that were related to military life and doing them as fundraisers for cadets and different organizations.”
Every scented candle he produces has its own story, which is described on the underside of the tin. One of them, called Afghan bread, reminded him of his six-month tour in Kabul when a nine-year-old boy walked past his window beaming with pride while carrying a stack of the great-smelling fare.
“There were so many fruit stands there — just set up haphazard with sticks and tarps — and a guy selling hundreds of melons,” Lewis said. “I remember the convoy grinded to a halt and the generals bounding across to the stands to buy them and we’re loading all these watermelons into these vehicles. Half an hour later, you’ve got 30 military men cracking melons against a rock out in the desert somewhere where it’s safe and eating them with the general.
That turned into a candle with the fragrance of roadside melons.
Lewis’s products are available for sale for $14 at battlerattlecandlecompany.com and various military museums and gift shops. He donates 10 per cent of net sales to Canadian veterans’ charities and has a particular fondness for the Can Praxis organization, which offers horse riding for veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder.
“It makes me feel like I’m still involved and contributing,” he said. “The military scents sell well and the London one is a little more unique and I’m really having fun with it.
“There’s not really an inch of the city that I don’t have good memories of.”
(The 10 locally inspired scented candles produce by the Battle Rattle Candle Company)
Covent Garden Market Mornings: “I remember lifting my toddler onto the penny horse, just as I recall being lifted onto it by my mother.”
Downtown Brewery Breeze: “It’s still a great scent when you’re feeling Blue.”
East Dundas Cookie Factory: “The glorious white façade of five floors of cookie-heaven stood regal in the sun.”
Grade 5 Sugar Bush Field Trip: “We all did it at least once during grade school.”
Pioneer Village: ”We would be picked up early by my grandparents and spend the day going from building to building, listening to their stories shared through the lens of these familiar surroundings.”
Victoria Park Ice Skating Rink: “For over 100 years the crisp sound of blades cutting across the ice has been matched by the crisp fresh air of a December afternoon.”
Video Store Free Popcorn: “You just had to pretend for a moment that you might rent a video.”
Western Fair Cotton Candy: “That pink cloud eaten fluffy or scrunched into a ball, it means you’ve been to the fair.”