Short little words about a trivial thing.. Perhaps.. But you should see the goofy grin on my face when I say those words – because I love making soap!
As most soapmakers will tell you, making soap is an addiction. The hunt for the best ingredients, the planning of new designs, the quest to formulate the ultimate soap and, of course, the magic of oil being turned into soap and the feel of luxurious lather on your skin are all things that make you lust for more. Soapmaking is a fabulous creative outlet and it’s fun and difficult all in one. In soapmaking just like in winemaking there are an almost unlimited number of variables to consider and play with. As in baking, the process of soapmaking requires committment; you can’t keep your position open, you have to make a decision and run with it. Soap keeps you on your toes because it can only be told what to do to a point. Beyond that point nature takes its course and it’s for the wise savonnière to humbly respect and accept this.
Well, I can go on forever about soap in general, but today’s soap is Buttermilk Baby, a classic soap and our bestselling product. It’s a bastille soap (meaning an olive oil concentration of 75% or more), very pure and very gentle. The list of ingredients is short and serves as a reminder that it isn’t necessarily the complexity of a formulation that makes for great soap: the quality of the ingredients is far more important. The olive oil for this soap hails from Robertson on the banks of the majestic Breede River and the lavender essential oil (Lavandula abrialis) comes from Caledon. These small farming towns are both within an hours reach from where we are.
It’s a lovely soap to make, unpretentious, patient and true to itself. There is nothing to distract from its true soapy nature and the classic lavender scent is nicely soothing. The diamond pattern on top is made while the soap is still semi-fluid and stays a reminder that the hard bar we hold in our hand was once a liquid emulsion. It’s also my mojo-soap: When things don’t go according to plan, Lex Murphy kicks in or I’m feeling generally discouraged, a batch of Buttermilk Baby always helps restore my faith that what I do is good, meaningful – and fun!
And when the soap is safely in its wooden mould and left to do its saponification trick, I get to clean up and prepare for the next batch of soap. But before that it’s time for a well-deserved break – and a glass of beautiful thick, fresh leftover buttermilk.