My first scented purchase—made when I was ten—was not perfume. Rather, it was soap, in the shape and smell of a peach. The soap cost a dime and I was loathe to use it, since this luxurious object purchased at a church bazaar would be impossible to replace. I recall the weight of the soap in my hand and the globular shape that split in half to reveal a pit. I adored the smooth texture of the soap and the delightful scent as I put the soap to my nose to smell the sweet, fruity aroma.
The enjoyment of fragrant soap has not changed for me. Finding a new soap that has rich, creamy lather and sublime fragrance is always a treat. Often, the fragrance from soap is the only one I want to wear for the day, and this is especially true when I’m suffering from olfactory fatigue. That’s when I reach for a lightly scented soap, perhaps one with a marine or fruity fragrance. I’ve always been thrilled when a favorite fragrance has a complementary soap (or shower gel) and there are occasions where the soap is the only form of a fragrance that works for me.
Soap in a dish is a perfect travelling companion, so much easier to tote around than bottles of shower gel. Soap is also home fragrance, when it is a highly scented bar. I keep Coco Mademoiselle soap in my bathrooms for its ability to waft patchouli and on my desk is a little cake of soap that smells of apples and spice.
Here are some of my favorite soaps. This is a short version; the truth is I could probably expand it by another 20. These are the soaps I return to time and time again and that I give as gifts, and ones I will always want to have on hand.
Maria Evora Carob Mineral Soap
This black soap from Spain smells not of carob bean but of the sea, with a rich white lather and gentle trace of the scent lingering on the skin. It’s a unisex scent that anyone can enjoy and I always keep a bar handy.
The namesake fragrance of the Italian luxury hotel is also available in scented soap. The scent of the soap has the same development as the perfume—citrus followed by creamy magnolia with hints of herbs, woods, and incense. A set of three makes a great gift.
Claus Porto Ilyria
The Claus Porto line from Portugal is enormous, with four different lines of soap. I once spent a couple of hours trying to smell all of them. My favorite is Ilyria, a honeysuckle soap that is the essence of a sweet spring. Honeysuckle doesn’t interest me much as a perfume note, but the soap makes me swoon. They also make a stunning tuberose soap called Voga.
Based on a traditional barbershop cologne scent, Limes smells of musky lily of the valley beneath the tart citrus opening. It’s sweet enough to be feminine, is very refreshing, and it is one I reach for often in the summer. Another unisex bar!
A heavy hitter from Sweden, Tallba Pine smells of what else but a Swedish pine forest, sweet and sappy. The fragrance is strong enough that I use it when I don’t plan on wearing any other scent. It’s clean and invigorating and not in the least like Irish Spring.
Agraria Bitter Orange
Green bitter leaves and sweet pulpy orange are mouthwateringly realistic in this soap based on the popular home fragrance line. This soap is ideal for layering and works so well with many of my perfumes. Before the wide availability of this product through the Internet, I once spent a week trying to track it down and finally located it by phone at a hair salon in California.
The famous Spanish perfume also comes in this soap, which is highly scented with the same spicy, woodsy, Oriental tones. Maja was one of my first luxury soap purchases when I was a teenager; it seemed so chic and sophisticated!
L’Occitane Cleansing & Soothing Shower Oil with Almond Oil
Technically not soap, but a must-have for smooth and silky skin with a delicate soapy/sweet scent suitable for anyone to use. Perfect for wintertime use and if you layer it with the body oil mist, there’s a delicate scent that lasts throughout the day.
Molton Brown Myrrh, Muske & Cypress Fine Liquid Hand Wash
My current favorite soap is more than just a hand wash. I use it as a shower gel. My brother uses it as a shampoo. This liquid soap has the most amazing woody cypress scent cut through with myrrh, and when paired with the lotion lasts all day.
Harrod’s Scottish Lavender
Lavender soaps are fairly ubiquitous, but my favorite has the Harrod’s name embossed on it and it arrives in a little tin (which I use for paperclips when the soap is gone). Wonderfully herbal, crisp, and slightly green, this lavender soap is a great pick-me-up for a slow morning.
What are your favorite soaps, bar or liquid? Has anyone tried the Nesti Dante line from Italy? They have a soap named “Villages and Monasteries” that I would love to hear about!
Photography by Bois de Jasmin