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!

Yummy Soap

RaspberryI have to admit I have a personal preference for two types of soap: lavender-scented and food-scented. I don’t go in for the perfumy soaps as much, though I do make them and enjoy them. My favorites—the ones I can’t stop smelling myself while they’re out on the curing racks—are the foodie ones.

Back when I regularly bought Bath and Body Works, my absolute favorite scent was Sun-Ripened Raspberry. I also love their Warm Vanilla Sugar for winter. In fact, I love most of Bath and Body Works’ foodie scents. I also liked their Velvet Tuberose and Japanese Cherry Blossom, which are floral scents, but for the most part, the kinds of scents I tend to like best are berry scents or vanilla scents.

The last issue of Saponifier had a great interview of Jo Lasky by Beth Byrne called “Creating a Scentsational Product Line.” Jo covers a great deal of ground in the interview, including what happens in the olfactory receptor neuron and the brain when we smell an aroma, the difference between fragrance oils and essential oils, the top ten list of best-selling scents for 2012 as voted by readers and her thoughts as to why those scents moved more products, fragrance trends, and advice for soap/candle/bath suppliers looking to put together an appealing scent line. If you are soapmaker, it’s worth the price of the magazine subscription to access this article alone.

For the first time since the inception of the annual survey of top ten best-selling fragrances, lavender was not number one in 2012—it was vanilla.

Vanilla Sugar Cane
My Vanilla Sugar Cane soap

I found this revelation interesting, particularly as vanilla products seem to be gaining more traction in recent years in stores like Bath and Body Works than some of their traditional scents. Sun-Ripened Raspberry used to be one of their most popular fragrances, if not the most popular of all, but it has been discontinued in stores and is now only available for purchase online. My personal opinion is that it was replaced with Black Raspberry Vanilla, which has a similar scent, but with the vanilla base, which also eventually went to “online exclusive” only. Bath and Body Works’ website reports the following are their most popular scents (they do not specify if this is in order, but it is probably not because the list is alphabetical):

  • Aruba Coconut
  • Bali Mango
  • Berry Flirt
  • Daisy Dreamgirl
  • Forever Red
  • Honey Sweetheart
  • Japanese Cherry Blossom
  • Moonlight Path
  • Rio Rumberry
  • Sweet Pea
  • Warm Vanilla Sugar

Of the scents on this list, my guess is that Berry Flirt is probably the closest to Sun-Ripened Raspberry because it is described as a blend of red berries and blond woods. However, I haven’t smelled it, so I can’t be sure it’s close at all. I am not surprised to see Japanese Cherry Blossom on the list, as it has been a good seller for a few years now. I am surprised that of the rest of the list, the only ones I’m familiar with at all are Sweet Pea and Warm Vanilla Sugar.

I am sure Bath and Body Works likes to change up their scent line so that they can stay fresh and competitive, but I have always thought they risk alienating customers when they do away with popular scents, which they seem to do regularly. I have certainly found that aspect of their business model frustrating. On the other hand, who is to say that my notion of what was popular was actually moving off their shelves? They may be discontinuing scents I like, but that others don’t seem to buy.

If you are trying to decide which scents to use, it is a good idea to do your own market research. Make products that appeal to you and watch to see how they move. Keep track of which scents are requested. My biggest mover is Lemongrass Sage. I was recently asked if I did a lavender scent, but at the time, I hadn’t used it. I now have two different lavender soaps—Provence and Lavender Spearmint. Take stock of those scents that people request, and watch what moves in bath and body stores like Bath and Body Works, Victoria’s Secret, and Lush, but ultimately, use your own common sense as a guide. I think a great deal of success in soapmaking depends on your own intuition about what kinds of oils to use, what kinds of fragrances, and what kinds of designs will work. I also think you tend to create more loyal customers than big bath and body stores, and they will seek out their favorite products over novelty.

I know of some soapmakers who eschew fragrances, but given the popularity of scent in soaps, I would recommend treading very carefully if you choose not to use a fragrance at all. The first thing people do when they see my soaps out on display is pick them up and smell them. I do the same thing when shopping for handmade soap. It definitely makes it tougher to move soap online—obviously customers can’t smell soaps in my Etsy store, but I think there are some smart techniques soapers can use to increase online sales. Celine Blacow’s videos seem to help her move products. I know watching a video about the making of the very soap I bought is a little bit exciting. As soon as I can make my work area presentable, it’s something I’d like to try. I just ordered some Lavender Song and Adam and Eve soap from Celine, and I can’t wait for it to arrive. I so enjoyed both of the “making of” videos, particularly Lavender Song, which I have watched several times now.

I also think that sometimes customers don’t know what they want until you make it. Steve Jobs famously said, “[F]or something this complicated, it’s really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.” This is true of soap, too. Customers might not think about a certain fragrance as something they’d like, but if they smell it, they like it, or if your description on your online store or video is good enough, their interest is piqued to try it.

Ultimately, I think as a soapmaker, choosing a scent I like is part of the artistry, and though I pay close attention to what my customers like, I tend to make soaps that I know I will like. However, I highly recommend reading Beth Byrne’s article, and think about designing a product line with the most popular scents.