S.O.A.P. Panel Fragrances: Fragrance #3

Woo! The snow dance worked. Despite a really cold and somewhat snowy winter, we haven’t managed to have snow days. It keeps snowing on the weekend around here! Anyway, we have one today, so I indulged in a little soap experimentation last night. I tried out the third S.O.A.P. Panel fragrance.

Fragrance #3You might recall that fragrance #3 is a bit floral. In the bottle, it smells like jasmine or honeysuckle to me. It’s quite strong, but I like the scent quite a lot. It’s a very pretty, feminine floral, and it is perfect for spring.

As I did with fragrances #1 and #2, I used a recipe of 45% olive oil, 25% coconut oil, 25% sustainable palm oil, and 5% castor oil. I used the full amount of fragrance I had—24 grams. My recipe calls for a 6% fragrance usage rate, which would be 25-26 grams, so I used just the tiniest bit less than my recipe calls for. I also used full water.

Soap BatterAs before, I mixed my lye and oils at about 100 degrees to a light trace. Then I added the fragrance. The soap immediately turned a yellowish shade.

Soap with Fragrance AddedAs is typical with florals, this fragrance accelerated a bit. It was completely workable, even with some additional stick blending. However, by the time I poured it into the mold, it was thick enough to swirl the tops.

Soap #3This batch is considerably thicker with about the same amount of “fussing” as the other two, so yes, this fragrance accelerates a bit. Provided a soapmaker soaps cool and stirs, rather than stick blends, it should still allow for swirls and other designs. Some recipes with butters contribute to a thicker trace as well, so it might be a good idea to use more soft oils with this fragrance.

I noticed when I checked on it after 30 minutes to spray some isopropyl alcohol on it that it was already set up firmly. In fact, when I accidentally tugged the side of the mold, it came away from the soap easily. Usually, after only 30 minutes, the soap is not quite that hard. I went to sleep and didn’t check on it after about an hour, but it appears to have gelled just fine, and it doesn’t appear to have become too hot (no glycerine rivers).

Cut SoapI unmolded and cut it the next day (maybe about 14 hours after I made it). The soap is discolored a bit—sort of a yellowish shade. It’s completely workable, however, and I think it would do well with colorants. After saponification, the honeysuckle note comes through quite strongly, so my best guess is that this is a honeysuckle fragrance. Honeysuckle is my favorite smell in the world, so I would know it anywhere. It’s quite strong. It came through gelling quite well. I will check on it over the course of its cure to see how it holds up. Depending on how it performs over time, it might even be possible to use less of the fragrance with good results. Florals tend to give me a bit of a headache if they’re too strong, and right after cutting this one, I felt a bit of a headache wave, but it will most likely mellow a bit as it cures. Strong fragrances can sometimes be overwhelming when the soap is first cut, but as the water evaporates, they mellow out nicely.

Fragrance #3 would work well with white, butter yellow, and gold (if you’re looking to match the honeysuckle colors), but even colors like pastel shades of pink, blue, purple, and green would go well with the scent.

I really like this one. For a floral, it is well-behaved. It doesn’t discolor very much. It’s nice and strong and holds up well in cold process. Two thumbs up, Bramble Berry! I loved this one.

S.O.A.P. Panel Fragrances: Fragrance #2

I absolutely love this fragrance. It smells really juicy. It could be apple, but it smells more like pear to me, though there is a refreshing bite to it as well. It could be a Granny Smith Apple scent. It smells awesome! I am a big fan of fruity scents in general, and this particular scent might be my favorite of the eight.

Out of the bottle, it’s a clear, light color. Though this bottle had 29 grams, and my recipe calls for 25-26 grams of fragrance, I went ahead and used it all rather than leave three grams, mainly because I’m not sure what to do with just three grams of fragrance.

Fragrance #2As I did with the first fragrance, I used a recipe with 45% olive oil, 25% coconut oil, 25% sustainable palm oil, and 5% castor oil. I used full water (38%) and a lye discount of 6%. I combined the lye mixture and oils at approximately 100 degrees. I blended the oils and lye to a very light trace. I used no additives or colorants.

Blended SoapThen I added the fragrance. I forgot to take a picture of the soap batter in the bowl after I combined the fragrance, but there was absolutely no change in color. The fragrance did not accelerate. If anything, it seemed to reverse trace a little bit. I wound up blending the soap a little bit more to thicken it before pouring it in the mold, and the fragrance didn’t misbehave at all. It was very easy to work with.

I poured the soap into the mold. As you can see, the soap batter is the same natural shade it would have been without any fragrance.

Soap in Mold

I gelled the soap and unmolded it. As you can see, there is absolutely no discoloration.

Cut SoapIn fact, I realized that it discolored even less than scent #1. I didn’t think #1 discolored, but after seeing it next to #2, you can tell it does discolor the tiniest bit.

Scent #1 and Scent #2Fragrance #1 is on the right, and #2 is on the left. Fragrance #2 remains a beautiful creamy beige—very nearly white.

After gelling the soap, I noticed that the fragrance is not quite as strong as I’d like, and I will be interested to see how it does after a cure. I think one way to get around the problem of a light scent is not to gel the soap and to use more fragrance. However, for the purposes of testing, I think it’s important to see how the fragrance holds up to gelling. I do wish the scent were stronger after gelling it, but it is by no means completely dissipated.

Two thumbs way up! I love, love, love this scent. I want to find out what it is and buy it immediately. If you like fruity, juicy type scents, you will want to add this to your spring and summer line for sure. It’s an excellent summery scent, and I can see it working well with shades of green, white, yellow. My mouth is honestly watering just sniffing it. Bramble Berry, you MUST sell this one!

UPDATE: Several hours after I posted this review of the fragrance, I am struggling to detect any scent in the bars at all. I think perhaps this fragrance, while it smells wonderful, just doesn’t hold up well in cold process. It might be wonderful for hot process or lotions. It makes me sad because I absolutely loved it.

S.O.A.P. Panel Fragrances: Fragrance #1

Fragrance Oil #1Initially, I thought I detected fruit in this fragrance, and then I smelled a sort of piney, fir-type scent with hints of floral. I wonder if this is a juniper berry scent. I tried smelling some gin to see if I detected juniper in the fragrance, but I’m just not sure. I have smelled a juniper scent used in a well-known bath and body store, and I thought it stank horribly, but this is very pleasant. So, I’m just not sure what it is.

As you can see, it is a dark yellow out of the bottle. I had planned to use the fragrance at 6%, which would have been 25-26 grams in my recipe, but there was only 22 grams in the bottle, so the usage rate is slightly less than I planned, but not by a lot. It is still probably on the stronger end of the typical usage rate.

The recipe I used is 45% olive oil, 25% coconut oil, 25% sustainable palm oil, and 5% castor oil. I used full water (38%) and a lye discount of 6%. I combined the lye mixture and oils at approximately 100 degrees. I blended the oils and lye to a light trace. I used no additives or colorants.

Base Oils and LyeWhen I added the fragrance oil, it turned a buttery yellow, but initial discoloration was quite minimal, despite the dark orange tone of the fragrance. Here is a picture of the soap with the fragrance blended in.

Soap with FragranceThere was no acceleration or ricing at all. The fragrance behaved very well, even with additional mixing with the stick blender.

Soap in MoldI poured the soap at a light trace. I let it set up overnight, and then I unmolded it. I have never used this mold before, so one lesson I learned is that it’s not quite ready to unmold the next day! The corners of my soap were a little torn. I don’t think the fragrance had anything to do with it. I think it’s the nature of the mold not to allow much air in, so the soap was still somewhat soft, even after gelling.

Soap I cut the soap. As you can see, there is absolutely no discoloration. The soap is the same neutral color as when I don’t use a fragrance at all. I was sure, when I saw how dark the fragrance oil was, that it would discolor yellow. I will monitor how it changes over the course of the next week, but at least initially, this fragrance oil performs beautifully. It is very easy to work with and soaps well.

After saponification, the piney scent has retreated a little, and the fruity floral has come to the fore a bit more. There is a definite woody scent to it—almost a sort of fir needle scent. I have to admit I didn’t think I liked those kinds of scents, but I really like this scent. I think the fruity floral blends well, and it doesn’t wind up smelling like a Christmas tree. That said, I think it might make a nice holiday scent for soapers to add to their line. I envision that it would go well with a blue and green palette of colors, too. I don’t see it as a unisex scent. The floral makes it a feminine scent that women who typically like more unisex or masculine scents would probably like.

Two thumbs way up! This fragrance is great. I would definitely buy it.

S.O.A.P. Panel Fragrances: Initial Impressions

S.O.A.P. Panel Test FragrancesI received my S.O.A.P. Panel test fragrances from Bramble Berry on Thursday. Fragrances often smell different out of the bottle than they do once they’ve gone through saponification, but here are my initial impressions of the eight fragrances:

  1. Piney type scent. Very pleasant. A bit floral. I like the way this one smells.
  2. A sort of apple or pear scent. A little bit of a sour bite. I detect more pear, but there is a definite bite to it. Smells good.
  3. Floral, very feminine. Clean. A honeysuckle-type note. Maybe jasmine. Smells very nice.
  4. Sort of masculine. A water/fruit note. Smells clean. Smells good.
  5. A sort of neem oil note to it. A grass note. Earthy. I don’t like this one out of the bottle.
  6. Fruity and floral. Summery. Citrus note. I like this one.
  7. Pretty, feminine, floral. Very springy. Smells good.
  8. Masculine. Smells sort of like a sexy man. A fruit note.

I handed the last one to my husband Steve and said, “Smell it. I think it smells like a sexy man.”

Steve replied, “Why yes, it does smell like me.”


I will be testing each fragrance in a one-pound batch with full water and will take notes on how the fragrance behaves, particularly regarding acceleration, ricing, and discoloration. I will be using a recipe of 45% olive oil, 25% coconut oil, 25% palm oil, and 5% castor oil. I will use the fragrance at the rate of 6%, which I find is usually enough to have a nice, strong scent with a fragrance that sticks well. I will gel the soaps so I can determine whether gelling impacts the fragrances’ sticking power. Lastly, I will keep notes on how well the fragrance sticks after some time has passed.

I’m very excited to try the fragrances out!

2014 S.O.A.P. Panel and New Soaps

I’m really excited to have been chosen for the 2014 S.O.A.P. Panel by Bramble Berry. In order to qualify for selection, entrants needed to choose their favorite Bramble Berry product and discuss it in social media—Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, or a blog. I actually use all four media with New England Handmade Artisan Soaps, so the first decision I had to make was which social media outlet to use. I selected Pinterest mainly because I think it’s more open than Facebook (users do not need to “follow” you to come across your pins), and it seems to be used by more soapers than Twitter. I find fewer soapers use blogs than the other three types of social media, too. I am a dedicated blogging fan, and I do see a lot of value in blogging, but I felt perhaps Pinterest had the widest possible audience, so I selected Pinterest to share my favorite product.

I admit it was really hard to pick a product. There are so many that I love. However, what it came down to is one product that I use the most often and that I rely on Bramble Berry for: sustainable palm oil. I have blogged about sustainable palm oil before. There is some controversy surrounding the use of palm oil because of rainforest deforestation for palm plantations and concerns about the loss of habitat for orangutans. However, many palm farmers rely on the crop to eke out a living, and eschewing the use of palm oil entirely doesn’t help those farmers, either. The stance of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil is to promote the production and use of sustainable palm oil through sustainable farming practices.

If you start looking at labels, you’ll notice palm oil is in so many things you eat. I think it is pretty nearly impossible to determine whether or not all these products you consume are made with sustainable palm oil, but when you are purchasing palm oil for yourself in bulk, it’s fairly easy to do. When I made the decision not to use animal fats in my soapmaking, I was encouraged to learn that palm oil is a plant-based oil that is similar to tallow and brings some of the good features of tallow—a nice, hard bar of soap, rich and creamy lather—to vegetable oil-based bars. Unfortunately, once I decided to use palm oil, I discovered that most of the oil suppliers I use do not certify that their palm oil is sustainable. That doesn’t mean it isn’t, but to my way of thinking, if you know your palm oil is sustainable, you will mention it. Bramble Berry is one of the few suppliers I could find that certified that their palm oil is sustainable, and it’s available at a good price. That is why I selected their sustainable palm oil as a favorite product. I use it in most of my soaps.

I apologize to anyone thinking I sound like a commercial right about now. I just think sustainable palm oil is important, and I am really happy that Bramble Berry sells it. I am a happy customer, and I am excited to try their new mystery fragrances as part of the S.O.A.P. Panel. As a side note, I recently had an issue with a Bramble Berry order shipping quite late. They aren’t sure what happened, but they made it right with a very generous coupon for future orders. I really can’t complain about Bramble Berry, and I recommend them to everyone who asks about suppliers.

Switching gears, I made a couple of new soaps that I’m happy with and excited about. The first is an Aloe & Calendula soap scented with orange blossoms and yuzu.

Aloe & CalendulaI infused the olive oil I used in this soap with calendula petals and also used calendula petals in the soap and decorated the top as well. I think the reason the soap turned out this light, butter yellow is that the calendula infusion imparted some color to the soap. Of course, it could have been the fragrances I used, but neither one is supposed to discolor. In order to find out, I’d have to try them without a calendula-infused oil. At any rate, I’m happy with the color because it matches the scent and look of the soap. Aside from olive oil, I also used coconut oil, sustainable palm oil, sunflower oil, castor oil, kaolin clay, and tussah silk. I mixed the lye with aloe vera juice. These turned out so nice, and they smell so good!

I’m learning sometimes simple is best. Some of my favorite soaps are not incredibly complicated to make, but they are wonderful soaps. That certainly isn’t to say I don’t like soaps with more intricate and difficult designs. I have reached a stage at which there needs to be a payoff. If the design is more difficult and complicated than the trouble making it is worth, then I don’t bother. I actually feel that way about the peacock swirl, for instance. Pretty (more so when the soap is still wet, however), but not worth it for me.

Yesterday I made a soap I’ve been thinking about for some time, and at the last minute, I had to change my plans, too. This soap is a Tres Leches Soap.

Tres Leches SoapI intended to make it with goat milk, coconut milk, and cream, but once I got started, I realized I had no coconut milk. I was absolutely certain I had coconut milk! I improvised instead and used goat milk yogurt after dithering about buttermilk for a few minutes. I am not sure goat milk and goat milk yogurt are different enough to be considered two different milks, but I’m going for it. In the future, I if I make it again, I’ll definitely try coconut milk. This soap is based on tres leches cake, which is a sponge cake made with evaporated milk, condensed milk, and cream.

Aside from goat milk, goat milk yogurt, and cream, this soap also has a generous amount of olive oil, coconut oil, sustainable palm oil, cocoa butter, castor oil, and kaolin clay. I scented it with a Vanilla Lace fragrance that works perfectly with the soap’s look and concept. It really smells great! The fragrance riced on me. I’m not sure if I can blame the fragrance for acceleration, however, as the recipe does have a large amount of  cocoa butter. The bars are so smooth and hard already! I don’t think I could have waited longer to cut them, or they might have been too hard for my cutter.

It is interesting to me that the soap wound up with a sort of speckled appearance. I didn’t add any oatmeal or anything else that is known to produce that look. I can’t say whether it was the milks or the fragrance. I’ve never used goat milk and cream together before. I also haven’t used that fragrance, and I typically don’t use quite as much cocoa butter as I did in this recipe. Too many variables to determine why it turned out that way, but I absolutely love it. It has a wholesome, rustic appearance. I love happy accidents. I also love the glycerine rivers. With all the milks in this soap, it got fairly hot during gel phase, and I thought I would probably have some glycerine rivers, as I also used titanium dioxide to lighten the soap up a bit. They wound up being perfect design outlines. It actually looks quite a bit like tres leches cake.