When Owensboro Grain announced in August of 2018 that the refinery would soon be using soybean oil and biodiesel to create candle wax, there was still a bit of uncertainty concerning what that future process would look like.
“Soy is environmentally friendly and clean-burning,” said Owensboro Grain Executive Vice President John Wright. “It’s a brand new product in the candle market, replacing paraffin wax which puts out a lot of negative emissions.”
While Wright said they are still in the early stages, Owensboro Grain is currently working with several large Kentucky-based candle companies.
“It’s a process to get approved by those companies,” Wright said. “The plant has a certain capacity to produce so much wax and our goal is to fill the production of that wax completely up. We have a plant that can produce several 1,000 pounds of wax a year — that makes a lot of candles. You have to have a lot of candle customers to take the amount of wax we are going to produce.”
One local company that quickly partnered with Owensboro Grain, was O.Z. Tyler Distillery. After meeting Philpot candlemaker Krista Foster at a Christmas event, the distillery decided they wanted a candle in the gift shop that was locally made.
“We wanted a local candle that was affordable and different — it kind of snowballed from there,” said O.Z. Tyler Manager of Visitor Experience Nicole Ebelhar.
Now, 100 percent of the soy wax Foster uses for the O.Z. Tyler candles comes from Owensboro Grain.
“I started making a Bourbon Brulee candle and made some for the O.Z. Tyler Christmas show,” Foster said. “They approached me after the fact and asked if I’d consider doing a special mix for them — but more localized and said Owensboro Grain would supply me with the wax. Soy’s a little more challenging, but I’ve been doing it so long, it’s become like second nature to me.”
Foster began making candles approximately 17 years ago as a way to bring in additional income as a stay at home mother.
“I loved candles, but was tired of buying candles out that didn’t smell or only lasted a day,” Foster said.
She began filling baby food jars and experimenting with different fragrances, placing them in a room and shutting the door.
“If I opened the door and could smell it, it went on my scent list,” Foster said. “Women buy candles to smell them — but if you add too much fragrance the wick won’t burn or the fragrance comes up to the top.”
Foster said she has created candles in every scent from honeysuckle to heat wave, with hot maple toddy and blueberry cobbler being her best sellers.
Although her candles were very popular locally, her daughter began growing up and Foster eventually went back to work full-time, leaving the candle business behind. Until one day her daughter called and told her how much the community missed her candles.
Foster began making candles again on a part-time basis using a paraffin-soy mix.
“When I used to make them on the stove, I could make about 35 candles within an hour,” Foster said. “Now, the soy wax is different, you kind of have to baby it. You could burn it if it’s too hot, if it’s too cold, the scent won’t throw right. So, I can make about 10 candles in about 45 minutes. A lot of people like soy because it is better for the environment and for farmers.”
For the O.Z. Tyler candles, Foster said she did try actual bourbon in the candles in addition to the soy, but the bourbon’s water base did not mix well with the wax or give off a good smell.
Foster’s candles are now available in the O.Z. Tyler gift shop in 16-ounce mason jars with one piece lids. She said they offer anywhere between 90 to over 120 burn hours because soy seems to burn longer.
“When you burn the Bourbon Brulee with soy — it can’t get any better,” Foster said. “I hope to offer a smaller version and wax melts in the future.”