Fragrance Oil Testing – Blossom Oils

Back in August I was contacted by Blossom Oils and asked whether I would be interested in testing some of their fragrance oils in return for feedback. I didn’t need to think about it for long – I don’t often get the opportunity to experiment and play with fragrances these days. There are a few reasons for this.  Firstly, I have a core range of fragrances which I have to keep in stock for my wholesale customers – it would be way too confusing and time consuming to keep switching out fragrances. Secondly, fragrance oils are expensive, and especially so when buying in small quantities to trial.  I bulk-buy my fragrance oils for the core range to keep costs to a minimum.  Thirdly, there’s always a risk involved in trying a new fragrance oil – it might accelerate trace (soap on a stick anyone?), it might discolour, and there’s always the chance that you just might not like the smell. Years ago I bought a dupe of Lush’s Karma fragrance and OMG it was vile. Horrible. I can still remember it. I really wish I couldn’t….

Anyway, I digress.  I happily accepted their kind offer, and received eight, EIGHT!!! samples of fragrance oils in the post very soon after:

Blossom Oils FO

Blossom Oils FO

Oooh the joys of new fragrances to sniff.  Anyone else an inveterate sniffer?  I can’t help myself.  Shampoos, perfumes, and of course, fragrance oils. I was in scenty heaven. Here’s what I was sent, in alphabetical order:

  1. Amaretto Nog
  2. Dove
  3. FBomb  (Similar to Flower Bomb perfume)
  4. Lavender
  5. Opulence (Similar to Decadence perfume)
  6. Sea Breeze & Mint (Similar to a men’s shower gel)
  7. Warm Mulberry
  8. Wild Berries

I had cheekily asked whether one of the samples could be FBomb as Flower Bomb is one of my favourite perfumes, and I also suggested that they include a Christmas fragrance or two.  Unfortunately their Christmas fragrances weren’t yet available, but they did send the Amaretto and Mulberry as options that could be considered ‘wintery’.

So. First thoughts, sniffing from the bottle:

  1. The Amaretto was LOVELY, but then I do like a little glass of Amaretto over ice at Christmas.  Almondy and sweet, I really liked it.
  2. Dove.  I’ll be honest, I thought this was a strange one to have included in the eight. I can’t bear Dove ‘so-called soap’. (It’s not soap, it’s a beauty bar, because they’re not allowed to call it soap. Rant over).  So anyway, the last thing I would choose to put into my soap is something that would make it smell like Dove. But in the interests of fairness and honesty, I’ll treat it like any other FO, and it DOES smell like Dove.
  3. FBomb.  This definitely reminded me of the perfume straight out of the bottle. So far so good.
  4. Lavender.  I usually use lavender essential oil for my lavender soap, and I found this fragrance to be slightly more ‘powdery’ and slightly sweeter than the EO.
  5. Opulence.  This smells really  good out of the bottle. I’m not familiar with the original perfume, but this was lovely, a nice blend of floral and spice.
  6. Sea Breeze and Mint. Again, I’m not familiar with the inspiration for this one, but it’s a nice unisex fragrance, and the mint definitely came through without taking over.
  7. Warm Mulberry  Definitely warm, definitely fruity, a real winter scent.
  8. Wild Berries. Another fruity fragrance, but ‘clearer’ than the previous one, juicy, sweet and berry-like.

Every single one was good out of the bottle. Even the Dove, which I would never choose to use, did in all fairness, smell of Dove.

So I made some soap.  I made a single batch of my regular recipe, with full water, because I wanted all the fragrances to be tested under exactly the same conditions, so it made sense to make all the testers out of the same base batch.

I added my chosen colourant to eight different containers, brought my batter just to emulsification, and then split it between the eight containers:

Soapmaking in Progress

Soapmaking in Progress

I gave them all a quick stir manually, then added 3% fragrance oil to the first jug.  I gave it a thorough stir, made sure it was traced, then poured it into the mould. I did exactly the same with the other seven fragrances.

Testers In the mould

Testers In the mould

The testers are the ones with letters above them, just in case I forgot which was which. Ignore the bottom four on the right hand side, they’re leftovers…

The Sea Breeze & Mint (blue one above) caused some acceleration, but not too much, and the Lavender (lavender one above) caused slight acceleration. That surprised me somewhat as, although florals are known to cause acceleration, if anything I find that Lavender essential oil inhibits trace. But it really was only slight acceleration.  None of the other FO’s caused noticeable acceleration, which was pretty impressive.

They were unmoulded after 36 hours, and this photo was taken a couple of weeks later:

Unmoulded soaps

Unmoulded soaps

It was around this time that I realised that I’d made a mistake by using colourants as it’s much harder to tell what discolouration is going on if the soap is already coloured. Regardless, it seems to me that only one of the fragrances caused any discolouration at all, and that was the Amaretto Nog.  To be fair, the fragrance description  is “A creamy blend of almond and vanilla”  and any fragrance containing vanilla is guaranteed to cause discolouration, so it was only to be expected.

So the big question. How do they smell after a few weeks cure time? Here’s my thoughts:

  1. Amaretto Nog. This smells lovely, but it no longer smells, to me at least, of amaretto.  The almond aspect seems to have faded but it’s still a warm fragrance with vanilla notes and I would definitely use it again.
  2. Dove. This smells exactly how I remember Dove smelling!  A strong, fresh soapy smell which will please any Dove lover.
  3. FBomb. This still reminds me of the designer fragrance on which it’s based.  It’s not identical (which would be pretty impossible anyway) but similar enough to be recognisable I think. I’m looking forward to using my tester in the shower! Interestingly this was my husband’s favourite (in blind testing)
  4. Lavender. Oddly this no longer smells of lavender at all to me. It’s a floraly fragrance, less powdery than it was out of the bottle, but definitely not lavender. I asked a couple of other people what they thought it smelled like, and nobody got lavender.
  5. Opulence.  I’m not familiar with the perfume on which this is based, but I did like this one. It’s quite a complex fruity/floral fragrance with notes of something more spicy too.
  6. Sea Breeze and Mint.  This is a more masculine fragrance, with definite sea-side / ozone-y overtones. I don’t get much mint, but I’m not familiar with the original shower gel so perhaps it’s exactly how it should be. To me it smells a bit synthetic – not one of my favourites.
  7. Warm Mulberry.  I was surprised to discover that this is probably my favourite of the lot.  It’s not one I would have necessarily chosen from the description (fruits with vanilla) but it’s delicious. It is fruity, but it has a warmth and a depth to it which is hard to describe.  I used a fairly dark colour for this one, so didn’t notice any discolouration, but it might discolour in a white/light coloured bar.
  8. Wild Berries.  Last, but definitely not least, comes Wild Berries. This was my husband’s second favourite after FBomb, and I really like it too. It’s a juicy, fruity uncomplicated fragrance, and would make a really nice smelling bar of soap.

Out of the eight there are at least four that I would definitely consider buying when I need a new fragrance for my range, and another two that I like but probably wouldn’t get round to purchasing.  There were only two that I wasn’t particularly keen on, which I think is a pretty good percentage given that everyone’s tastes are different and it was the luck of the draw what I received.

I’d like to say thank you to Blossom Oils for giving me the opportunity to sample some of their fragrances. I would definitely recommend them to anyone looking to try some new and different fragrance oils. Their website is easy to navigate, and provides you with all of the technical data required (MSDS, IFRA certs and allergen declarations) if you sell your products. Oh, and they’re suitable for candles / wax melts too!

Check out the Blossom Oils website and find them on Facebook and Instagram too

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Happy Easter!!

Happy Easter everyone, I hope you’re having a fabulous weekend. I didn’t post last week as I didn’t get round to making ANY soap at all (gasp!), but I’ll be back to the usual routine tonight / tomorrow with a weekly update…

In the meantime I just wanted to let you know about a giveaway I’m holding over on Twitter to celebrate the launch of this new three large bomb set. Just follow me and RT the competition post to be in with a chance of winning – easy peasy!

Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Vicki

A New Stockist – Siop Ogwen (Blogtober 27)

I’m so excited to be able to share today that I have a brand new Stockist – Siop Ogwen in Bethesda, Snowdonia.  I delivered a selection of bars and gifts sets there this morning, and by the time I’d got home they’d already shared a pic on social media:

Soap!

Soap!

They started out as a book shop (my other passion):

Books, glorious books

Books, glorious books

but they’re diversified their range and now have some lovely, locally made gifts like this jewellery:

Jewellery by Ann Catrin Evans

Jewellery by Ann Catrin Evans

and these utterly glorious Welsh lady prints and bags by Twinkle & Gloom:

Twinkle & Gloom prints & bags

Twinkle & Gloom prints & bags

I’m honoured to have been asked to supply this lovely shop, so if you’re not near enough to be able to pop in and check it out (33 High St, Bethesda), then please take a look at their website or social media:  Twitter, IG and Facebook.

Thanks for reading, back tomorrow!

Vicki

 

 

10 (Yes 10!) Reasons my Soap is Better than Commercial Soap

Ever since I started making soap, I’ve been asked why?  Why do I bother making soap when it can be bought so cheaply in the supermarket?  Clearly, first and foremost I love doing it. You know what they say – ‘Find a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life’. There’s much more to it than that though.  Traditionally crafted, handmade soap like mine is superior to commercially made soap in so SO many ways.

*Please note, the reasons listed below apply specifically to MY soaps – they may apply to many other handmade soaps, but I can’t speak for the ingredients in anyone else’s handmade products

  1. It is vegan- (and therefore by definition, vegetarian-) friendly.  I use no animal fats or derivatives, not even beeswax (which can be used in soap to give a harder bar).  According to Vegan.com  most commercial soaps contain some degree of animal fat derivatives (look for sodium tallowate or sodium lardate on the ingredients list)
  2. I never use palm oil.  Palm oil is a popular ingredient in both commercial and handmade soap (for good reason – it’s cheap, and makes great soap) However it is also extremely contentious, as palm oil production stands accused of the destruction of the South American rainforest, and of human rights violations due to the forced relocation of indigenous peoples.  There are, of course, two sides to every story, and some soapmakers who do use palm oil have been able to source sustainable, ethically produced palm oil.  There is also an argument that cutting out the use of palm oil completely could cause economic harm to those people who are employed within the palm oil industry. As I’ve never used it, this isn’t a concern for me.  Palm oil will appear as sodium palmate on the ingredients list of a bar of soap should you wish to avoid it.
  3. My soap is never, ever tested on animals, just (very!) willing humans.
  4. Glycerin. GLYCERIN!  Yep, I’m shouting. This is important.  Glycerin is a byproduct of the soapmaking process, and is fantastic stuff. It’s a humectant, which means that it draws moisture from the air and helps lock it into your skin. It’s not technically a moisturiser, but it has moisturising properties. Commercial soapmakers almost always extract the glycerin during the production process for use elsewhere (eg lotions or nitroglycerin production). Glycerin is found naturally within every bar of traditional handmade soap and is one reason that people with sensitive skin CAN use handmade soap but can’t use commercial soap
  5. Traditional, handmade soap is…. soap.  Obvious right?  Well yes, except that some commercially produced soap isn’t soap at all. It’s detergent.  Take a look at the packaging on a Dove Beauty Bar.  You won’t find the word ‘soap’ on the label because actually, it can’t legally be called soap. It’s a combination of various ingredients put together to create a detergent that closely resembles soap in appearance.  Clearly all those ingredients have been approved for use on the skin so it’s not necessarily inherently bad, but many of those ingredients can cause skin irritation.
  6. My soap does not contain parabens, sls/sles, phthalates.  As above, these ingredients have been approved for use in skincare products, but they can cause skin irritation (and worse) to those with skin sensitivities, and many people will avoid them at all costs.
  7. My soaps do not contain triclosan or any other antibacterial compounds.  The use of triclosan in soap has been banned in the US, but is still permissible in the UK/EU.  It was claimed in the US that antibacterial soaps were no more effective than regular soap and water and they could even play a part in increasing antibiotic resistance.
  8. For many of the reasons listed above, my soaps are FAR gentler on your skin than commercially produced soap.  If you are one of those people whose skin is sensitive to commercially made soap and you ‘can’t’ or ‘never’ use bar soap, please contact me via The Soap Mine FB page for a sample (UK only) – you may well find that you can use it without any of the problems that commercial soap can cause.
  9. Your skin WILL notice the difference.  Do you need to use a moisturiser after washing your hands with commercial bar or liquid soap?  You probably won’t after using my soap.  The generous amount of cocoa butter and shea butter in each and every bar, along with all that lovely glycerin, will ensure that your hands feel clean, soft and moisturised after every use.
  10. My soap is made by hand, in small batches, with an awful lot of care and attention to detail. Yes, you will pay more for it than you would a bar of commercially made soap, but you know what? You absolutely get what you pay for.

There you go, 10 really good reasons why I believe my soap is better than commercially produced soaps.  Try some 😀

Luscious Lavender

Luscious Lavender

Serenity (Patchouli, orange, lemon & ylang ylang essential oils)

Serenity (Patchouli, orange, lemon & ylang ylang essential oils)

Botanica

Botanica (Lavender, lemon & lime essential oils)

 

Clarity (Lemongrass & Clary Sage)

Clarity

Blodau - freshly cut

Blodau (Flowers) – freshly cut  (lavender, ylang ylang & rosewood essential oils)

 

Well, that was June…

I can’t be the only one who’s gobsmacked that we’re halfway through the year? The days are already getting shorter and I’ve started thinking about Christmas specials – and all this before the summer holidays officially begin 😱

At the beginning of the month I posted some goals for June – here’s how I got on…

1. Research, and make some test batches of, lip balm  ✅ After a bit of research I came up with a few recipes that I wanted to try, and made up a first batch:

Lip balm freshly poured

Lip balm freshly poured

Finished Lip Balm

Finished Lip Balm

I already love this one, but I’m only keeping one for myself – the rest are going out to testers.  I still have a couple of recipes to try.

2. Finish making the summer specials  ✅ I’m considering keeping one of them – ‘Yr Wyddfa’ – all year round as I think it’ll be pretty popular, living as we do at the foot of said mountain!

3. Create a ‘Core Range’ post for bathbombs  ✅ This link is proving so handy to send out to potential stockists!

Welsh Rose Luxury Bath Bomb

Welsh Rose Luxury Bath Bomb

4. Post at least nine times here on the blog – oh so close! Still, I posted 8 times, and if I’d got my backside into gear and posted this on Friday night like I should have, I would have hit my target.

Not bad going eh? Thanks for reading 😊 back soon!

It’s my Blogaversary!

Or is it a Blogday?  Either way, I published my first couple of posts on the 28th June 2013, Woohoo!!  At that point I hadn’t made any soap since the birth of my daughter two months before, nor for a good few months before that due to day-long morning sickness and an extreme aversion to the smell of fragrance AND essential oils.  (I’d had to ask my husband to put all my supplies up in the attic as even catching an accidental whiff of any of my soaps had me heading for the bathroom – urgh..)

Fast forward and that newborn is now four years old (funny that :-D) and she’ll be joining her big brother at school full time in September.  That will mean much, MUCH more time for soaping and the business as a whole (including the blog!).  I’m also hoping that I’ll have a bit more time for myself, and of course my poor, long suffering husband who has spent more evenings than I care to mention alone on the sofa while I focused on The Soap Mine.

I have loads of ideas for new products, blog posts and growing the business generally, so please stick with me – I hope I’ll still be here in another four years time, and I hope you’ll still be reading.  Thank you all!!

Oh, here’s a little bit of soap in the mould from a couple of days ago, just because it’s pretty lol…

Bewitched in the mould

Bewitched in the mould

The Week in Soap: 9th April ’17

A day late, but better late than never eh? Anyway, this weekly update will be super-short.   The kids are off school for the Easter break, and I have even less time than usual to get all the things done…

I only managed one night of soaping in the last week – I made double batches of Boho Baby and OMH. I tried using a mica called ‘Arctic White’ instead of Titanium Dioxide for the white portion of the OMH, and I really wish I hadn’t, but hey ho, it’s good to try something different occasionally (shan’t be trying that one again though!):

Boho Baby / OMH

Boho Baby / OMH

Last week I  also managed to hastily put together a post outlining the core range of soaps.  It’s a poor substitute for a website, but at least now when I’m asked what I have it’s all listed in one place and I can just send a link.  It has however highlighted the fact that I need to do some work on product descriptions and on photography (though luckily my husband just bought a DSLR camera so that might happen soon) before I launch the website.

The second bit of news is that I made facial soap – finally! It was on the goals lists for the last two months and while I’ve been working on the recipe for quite a while, I just never got round to actually making it.  I put a lot of research into this one, and while it’s colour and fragrance free,  it’s chock full of some other amazing ingredients. I’ll post separately about it soon.

Now I’m (kind of) back on track goals wise, I should be thinking about April’s goals but you know what?  We’re already 10 days in and I’ve got 14 days of school holidays to get through – I’m cutting myself some slack and not setting goals for April.  I’ll just keep on building inventory (starting to feel a little more comfortable with the numbers on the rack now), wrapping / labelling, fulfilling orders and doing my weekly soapy presentation / monthly market.

Thanks for reading, back soon!

 

The PERFECT Yorkshire Puddings (I promise!)

Yorkshire puds. Those crispy, crunchy yet soft in the middle mopper-uppers of homemade gravy are the perfect accompaniment to a Sunday (or-any-otherday) Roast.  They’re traditionally served with roast beef, but I’d be very unpopular in our house if I dared serve ANY type of roast without Yorkshire puddings.  Luckily I have the perfect, fail-safe recipe to guarantee golden crispy loveliness each and every time:

Yorkshire Puddings

Yorkshire Puddings

When I posted a few weeks ago that I’d made some Yorkshire Puddings, Sarah of Sas-Oki Soaps challenged me to post the recipe so that she could decide for herself whether it truly is foolproof, so here it is! I hope more of you will give it a try too.

To make 12 delicious Yorkshire Puddings you’ll need:

  • 150g plain  (all purpose) flour
  • 300ml semi-skimmed milk
  • 2 medium sized eggs
  • plenty of salt & pepper
  • lard (for cooking)

Pre-heat oven to 230c / fan 210c / gas 8

Whisk the two eggs into the milk, and season the flour well with the salt and pepper.

Seasoned flour and eggs whisked into milk

Seasoned flour and eggs whisked into milk

Slowly beat the eggy milk into the flour until it’s all combined:

Milk & flour combined

Milk & flour combined

then pour it into a jug and let it sit for half an hour. (When I’ve been in a hurry I have made them without letting them sit for very long and not noticed much difference in the result, but I still  let it stand if I can):

Batter in a jug, ready to pour

Batter in a jug, ready to pour

After half an hour or so, put a generous knob of lard into each cavity of a 12 cavity muffin tin:

Muffin tin with lard

Muffin tin with lard

then place the tray into the preheated oven and let it get smoking hot. Really, REALLY hot.  Take the tray out of oven and place it on the hob, over some heat – the aim is to prevent the lard from cooling down before/while you pour the batter.

Pour the batter into each cavity of the tray, filling them about two thirds full.  If you have a little left over top up some of the cavities – it doesn’t matter if some are fuller than others.  While your pouring you should see that the fat is so hot that the batter begins sizzling and bubbling immediately:

Sizzling pudding batter

Sizzling pudding batter

Pop the tray straight into the hot oven, and cook for approx 25 minutes, or until they’re puffed up, brown and crispy. Keep an eye on their progress, they might take a little less time, they might take a little longer, but at this high temperature they could burn quite quickly if you leave them in too long.  Oh, and don’t open the over door before the cooking time is up, or they’ll collapse…

I took some snaps of my last lot every five minutes or so – apologies for the picture quality, the oven door doesn’t make for a great window!

Yorkshire Puds 1

Yorkshire Puds 1

Yorkshire Puds 2

Yorkshire Puds 2

Yorkshire Puds 3

Yorkshire Puds 3

Yorkshire Puds 4

Yorkshire Puds 4

Serve as soon as possible after taking out of the oven:

Yorkshire Puddings

Yorkshire Puddings

There – told you it was easy! There is absolutely NO excuse to buy ready made Yorkshire Puddings ever gain 😀

Castile, a quick update

I made the first batch of Castile soap back in mid January and, while convention dictates that it should cure for at least 6 months before use, the devil on my shoulder insisted that I try it out this week, a mere 10 weeks later.

I helped myself to the thickest of the end pieces, and snapped a quick photo:

Castile 10 weeks in...

Castile 10 weeks in…

It’s already a very hard bar, easily as hard as my regular bars after their full 6 week cure. This surprised me somewhat as I’d read that one of the reasons for curing for so long is because it needs longer to harden up.

Detractors of Castile soap often use the word ‘slimy’ to describe it, so I wasn’t expecting too much when I lathered up.  I ran a little warm water and started turning the bar over and over in my hands.  After a few initial biggish bubbles, the lather soon settled into a creamy lather with very small bubbles, an almost lotion type texture. I would definitely describe the feel of the bar as ‘silky’ rather than the ‘slimy’! I would have got a photo or a quick video but there were no spare hands around 😀 After rinsing and drying my hands felt soft and smooth, and I can see why Castile soap is recommended for dry or sensitive skin.

I’ve spoken to other soapmakers who say that they’re more than happy to use their Castile soap before the traditional 6 month cure is up. Others tell me that there’s a distinct difference in the texture of the lather if the soap is left for the full 6 months (or longer). I’m going to enroll an extra pair of hands to help and get a couple of photos or a video of the lather as it is now, and again in two and four months time. I should then have a better idea of the beneficial effect (or otherwise!) of the extended cure time.

If you have any thoughts about Castile soap, be they be for or against, please post below – I’d love to hear from you.