Olive & Oud is a small but very satisfying line of handmade, botanically fragranced soaps. I tend to be very particular about soap — its texture, its scent, its appearance — and very few brands inspire me to repurchase their wares. However, I tried and enjoyed two bars from Olive & Oud so much that I'll be going back for more.
These soaps are made using the cold process method; they are crafted from a base of olive oil, organic and sustainably grown palm oil, coconut oil, shea butter, cocoa butter and castor oil. They're lather-y yet moisturizing, they're cleverly tinted with natural pigments, and they have sophisticated, subtly blended fragrances.
Bonfire in the Snow soap (above left), which is off-white with a stripe of indigo and charcoal, combines cool and warm sensations in its ingredients: cedar, peppermint, eucalyptus, rosemary, cade (smoked juniper), cypress, basil, nutmeg and pepper. Reading that list, I thought Bonfire in the Snow's scent might be too masculine for my taste, but it turned out to be a just-right balance of minty-menthol notes with quiet woods and a very light hint of spice. I liked using it on a chilly morning, but it would probably also feel refreshing in the summer, thanks to its natural peppermint oil.
Emerge (above right) is a new addition to Olive & Oud's product line-up. It was inspired by an end-of-winter day "when the sky was gray but the bulbs were starting to come up," and it has "a scent reminiscent of tender green shoots emerging from damp soil." It contains — again, all botanical ingredients, nothing synthetic — cilantro, lemon and bergamot essential oils, patchouli, Peru balsam and mimosa absolute. It's colored with pinkish and taupe swirls of nettles and rose clay.
I'd love Emerge as a natural fragrance or a candle as well as a soap scent. It does have citrusy notes, but it's more complex than that: the cilantro oil adds its unique fruity-green character, and the balsamic and earthy notes keep everything grounded. It's a very smooth scent, and like Bonfire in the Snow, it's gender-neutral. It makes me feel happy. Both these soaps happen to feel perfect for this transitional season, but I'm sure I'll still be using them as the year rolls on.
(Oh, and as for the "oud" in the name of this line? I don't know whether any of the soaps actually contain oud — these two don't — but the Olive & Oud blog does include a post about the soap-maker's interest in the history and cultural significance of our old friend agarwood.)
Bonfire in the Snow and Emerge soaps are available for $6.25 (per 5-ounce bar) at the Olive & Oud shop on Etsy.