English Lather

English Leather

English Lather... No. It's not a typo. To me English Leather smells more like soap than it smells like leather. And analyzing the notes (again - what I'm smelling, not what the marketing material tells me) makes it bubble-clear why.

English Leather opens with suede-like notes of tobacco leaf and ionones, which are reminiscent of violets where they occur naturally. These are mingled with plenty of petitgrain, which soon enough takes over. Therefore, the leathery association end pretty quickly. The reason is not only this note's inherent dominant character; but also because it's more likely the actual material used here is linalyl acetate. Underneath it all there is plenty of coumarin to give it a very powdery-soapy character.  It really is more of a fresh tobacco leaf scent than a leather fragrance. Curiously, it brings to mind another violetty masculine classic, Geoffry Beene's Grey Flannel, a scent that is only one year my senior. As far as violetty masculines scents go, I find Grey Flannel cloying and overpowering, and am much more fond of English Leather. As far as tobacco-leaf fragrances, I much prefer my very own Sabotage. And as far as cheap classic drugstore scents, so far Tabac Original and Old Spice (which is next up on my to-review list) are both unsurpassable.

I don't know how English leather is supposed to smell, but I was thinking about saddle leather more than suede gloves. I have expected to be transported to the tack-room, but instead was sent straight to the shower for a scrub before I even got a chance to get dirty at all... I have a feeling its formula got scrubbed a bit since it was first created in 1949.

English Leather - Soap On A Rope

"Wear English Leather or wear nothing at all", says the box of the Soap-on-a-rope.
This daring slogan cannot be taken seriously. But it sure adds to the fun of exploring drugstore and barbershop colognes. Personally, what I'd like to wear with it on what smells like just-showered-skin is my baby-blue flannel pyjamas... I suspect it will smell more alluring and bold on a man though...

So let's move over to English Leather's Soap-on-a-Rope. That's a triple-milled white soap, stamped with the stirrup and accessorized with a white rope handle, in a sizeable length, enough to bring to mind Hitchcock's film. I am not certain what the tope is for, so can only guess that either men lose their soap bars quickly; or that they like to hang them to dry on the shower-head. I really did buy this one with someone in mind as a giftee, so I don't want to crack it open completely (plus I'm not particularly fond of milled soaps - and much prefer the artisan cold-processed ones, which can be made in much less drying formulae). I will only comment on the scent and report that it's even more cologne-like and far less reminiscent of leather, suede or anything of the like.

Über Lavender

Über Lavender soap is that rare thing: simple, yet luxurious scent that is authentic and as the name implies - as lavenderish as a soap could get. Using a single high quality botanical with its two faces - oil and absolute - renders a more true to nature experience. Rather than just a pale, runny ethereal quality of the essential oil, there is also the lush velvety feel of freshly picked and rubbed lavender buds and elongated leaves. The whole experience of lavender. And bathing with it - or even just rinsing your hands - is not only a cleansing act, but an olfactory experience, immersing the skin in a complex scent and connecting to lavender's heritage as a purifying herb.

Each bar of soap looks beautiful - hand-sliced, it looks like a chunk of fine old cheddar and is beautiful to handle. The soap is made from olive, palm, coconut and castor oils - a firm bar with plentiful lather, and is non-drying to the skin. 

Soap Bars

Open Source Soap creates custom soaps from vegetable oils in the cold-process method, scenting them only with pure botanical essences and in fascinating scent combinations. The owner, chemical engineer and soapmaker Schuyler (pronounced "Skyler") Corry, prides himself on disclosing each custom formulas for each batch with the customer, and on the website you will also find some of the house blends and soap recipe that you can try and make yourself (or not...). I personally prefer to leave the process to the expert, and I've handed the task of creating my scented soaps to Open Source Soap. We created Vetiver Racinettes together and plan to make a few more soaps in 2013. 

Vetiver Racinettes Soap V.01

Vetiver Racinettes has arrived back from S.C. - my student and soap maker down in Oregon. And the timing couldn't be better for the Artisan Fragrance Salon in Los Angeles!

We had some challenges with this experimental batch as we tried a few ingredients that are not normally used in soap, so we will have to make another test batch this fall. However, it only affected the look of the soap, and not it's other important attributes: V.01 still performs wonderfully and smells incredibly true to the scent that inspired it.

This cold processed soap has amazing lather - in fact, enough to challenge most shaving creams, and can be easily use as such. It is also quite moisturizing, with castor oil added to the mix for that purpose.

The soap is scented with refreshing, invigorating and quirky notes of vetiver, cardamom, espresso and kaffir lime leaf. I'm especially grateful for this clean scent in my shower while staying in over-heated Los Angeles (highs of 32c/89F today). Makes for a very fresh start for the day and a much-needed cleansing experience in the evening. The scent lingers on the skin after the shower and even garnered some unsolicited comments from my lovely hostess Persephenie!

Steep Ravine Soap

Steep Ravine Soap was inspired by the same trail I hiked last Thursday with Hall Newbegin on one of his Wildflower Hikes.

The soap is redolent of citrusy Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga douglasii), with its crisp evergreen freshness accompanied by Redwood (Sequioa semprevirens) and California's Bay Laurel (Umbellularia californiac) - a warm, spicy evergreen tree that is 100 times more potent than the Mediterranean variety. A little whiff of that will bring you back to reality with a piercing nasal pain that's worse than horseradish!!!
I'm not kidding!
You got to stay away from it when you smell it, and than you can enjoy it's spicy, warm qualities which have more depth than the regular bay you're familiar with from cooking, but still bears a resemblance to it.

The soap is the usual high quality cold-processed bright green bar that contains the resins and infusions from the plants themselves, not just their essential oils. The saponified oils of palm, coconut, jojoba and olive oil produce a high-lather soap that's good enough to use in shaving, and with a strong scent that's perfect wake-up-call in a morning shower and a relaxing way to end the day if that's when you prefer to bathe. They can also make a great hand soap, and you can be sure that plenty of bacteria will be washed away with all the essential oils that are packed in this soap.

The beautiful packaging (designed in house, by the way) is made of craft paper, and has an etched impression of the trail's rocks, creek and redwoods, and includes an authentic background story and blending notes, that make a good read as well:
Scent notes include redwood, bay leaf, oakmoss and sea mist. And that's what you will enjoy if you hike up (and down...) Steep Ravine. I love the descriptions on each Juniper Ridge product. They are real and evoke true memories from hikes in the wilderness - in this case, a winter hike, picking mushrooms and staying at a cabin on a rainy night. After being there myself this summer, and smelling these plants in their natural habitat, I can enjoy bathing with Steep Ravine soap even more.

Lavender Season!

Lavender Season, originally uploaded by Ayala Moriel.

It's lavender season again!
I got back from the Farmer's Market with 3 bunches of fresh lavender flowers (I love baking with fresh lavender buds...). And I also picked up a bar of handmade goat's milk and lavender soap from Royal Herbs.

The lavender growers are from Bowen Island and you can tell they are at the market before even seeing them - the whole block has a gentle scent of lavender wafting about it...

Royal Herbs makes the most incredible vetiver soap imaginable - it smells great and I find it very moisturizing. Luke, the owner, told me that the lavender soap is actually the most moisturizing of all their soaps so I thought I'll give it a try this time. I tried it once, and although it smells very nicely of lavender and with a hint of goaty earthiness about it, I'm extremely partial to the vetiver still. I will have to give it a few more tries but the vetiver was instant love, while this one is just ok. The bar smells great though, and would make a nice linen freshener while using up other soaps. They also make a lemongrass soap, and a honey and almond soap. But knowing my personal taste and how much I enjoy the tranquil woodsy earthiness of vetiver, I think none will be a worthy contestant of the vetiver and French clay soap. I will keep you posted though.

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