An illuminating idea for a business

Founder of Oast & Rye Philippa MacKinnon tells SO Magazine all about the gorgeous candle and scent business she founded four years ago and why shes opened a beautiful new shop in Cranbrook in which to showcase them…


So lets start with you telling us about when and why Oast & Rye started?

I have been a career coach and outplacement consultant for over 30 years and also run three holiday lets. I was using the beauty brand called REN in them and noticed that people never seemed to comment on the products so I thought I might be able to design something that looked better and get a company to make a better offering for us. We started making soap and toiletries four years ago and then began formulating candles, room sprays and diffusers which our guests could buy during their stay. Other holiday let businesses then started to approach us to use our products and then two years ago The Hurlingham Club in London started stocking our soaps, shampoo, conditioner, hand cream and candles throughout their club.


What is the origin of the name Oast & Rye?

We live on the border of Kent and Sussex and so we wanted the name to be synonymous with that. I chose the iconic oast houses of Kent and then Rye, which happens to be my favourite antique hunting town in Sussex!


Why did you feel the need to create this brand?

Apart from formulating gorgeous products for our guests to use during their stay in our holiday homes, I wanted to develop high-end products – but without the high-end price tag.


How would you sum up Oast & Ryes USP?

There are 14 different fragrances to choose from in the Oast & Rye range and I would say our unique selling point is providing good quality, good branding and affordable products.


Where are the productskey ingredients sourced from?

We only use British recycled glass for our candles and diffusers and some soaps. Obviously bottles in showers have to be plastic but we use BPA free ones. I source the jars and soap bottles from a lovely small company in Wales which sell bee-keeping products. All the candles, room sprays and diffusers are made in Kent. Everything we do at Oast & Rye is British.


What are the most popular products in the range?

Diffusers are always a winner but at this time of year the candles go down a storm! Best-selling candles at the recent Spirit of Christmas fair were our Winter Solstice and Ras al Oud varieties. Our best-selling diffuser is the Thyme one and all our candles are individually hand poured in Kent.


You have recently opened a beautiful shop in Cranbrook. What was the thinking behind this?

We had sold our house and needed somewhere to make and store our products. I wasn’t thinking of having a shop until it came up but I am loving it! It’s so nice to meet our customers and get their reaction to our products. The other day a lady who’d been in the shop earlier that day phoned me to say how much she loved the products she had bought that morning!


Weve spied your products in a few places such as Taywell Farm. Where else are you stocked?

In the local area we are also stocked at The Green Duck Emporium in Tunbridge Wells, Taywell Farm in Goudhurst, The Ceramic Studio in Tonbridge, Decorative Antiques in Etchingham and obviously The Hurlingham Club in London, as well as Rathfinny Wine Estate in Alfriston and Will’s Bakery in Northiam near Rye.


How was your recent visit to Spirit of Christmas and did it open up the brand to a host of new customers?

We had a fabulous time at Spirit, although we managed to catch Covid while we were there! But lots of people there commented on how they loved the brand and its design. When I started out I looked at all the base notes in my perfumes and discovered there are many similarities. I love a quite masculine fragrance with notes of vetiver and cologne. If you like one of my fragrances you will like a lot of them. Our wax is a clean burn with all the chemicals taken out so it does not have soot and is safe. People need to watch soy as lots of it has been genetically modified and is therefore full of nasties.


How would you sum up how things are going for Oast & Rye right now?

The shop has been the best thing this year and I am loving it. I really enjoy going to work as I now realise it was quite lonely working on my own before – but now I get lots of company thanks to people popping in.



Oast & Rye’s founder, Philippa MacKinnon, has some useful advice on how to make sure your candle burns longer…

  • When lighting your candle for the first time, make sure you light it for two hours or until the whole layer of the top wax melts as this will prevent tunnelling and the candle will last longer.
  • Do not touch or move your candle when burning, as it will be hot and always trim the wick before each burn.
  • Keep the lid on when not in use as it will prevent dust or objects getting into the candle.
  • Burn candles for no more than four hours at a time.
  • Cease use when 5mm of wax remains.
  • Reuse or recycle your container when possible.


Oast & Rye’s packaging is made with compostable starch that melts in water and shredded recycled paper and the bottles and candles are designed to extend beyond single use, so refills are available.

The company sells products in different sizes and advocates that larger bottles not only last longer but have a lower carbon footprint.

Many of Oast & Rye’s suppliers are fellow artisan businesses who are also passionate about sustainability and driving their carbon footprint down.


To find out more about Oast & Rye products which are perfect for use in hotels, offices and homes please visit their website at

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