This must be the first time we've reviewed a soap-on-a-rope here at Now Smell This. I've always thought of soap-on-a-rope (basically just a bar of soap with a nylon hang-cord attached) as the sort of 1970s-era item that was (is?) only purchased as a slightly depressing, last-resort Father's Day gift or a holiday present for a male grade-school teacher. Affordable and practical, but sort of silly. You know.
Senteurs d'Orients' Hammam Soap on a Rope is an altogether different sort of object, and you would never confuse it with a last-minute purchase from the drugstore or the Avon catalogue. These soaps are hand-crafted by local artisans in Lebanon. They're circular and oversized, hand-molded with elegant, filigree-like patterns of leaves and floral motifs. They're packaged in decorative, hand-folded boxes, and (most importantly) their scents were developed by the "master perfumers of Grasse."
I've been using Hammam Soap in Orange Blossom, which Senteurs d'Orient describes as an uplifting Mediterranean scent with "soft sensuality." (The other options are Jasmine of Arabia, Amber, Rose of Damascus and Tuberose.) It's an orange blossom aroma that's natural-smelling and surprisingly intense, with greenish and woody facets that creating a slightly raspy bitterness beneath lightly honeyed, slightly indolic white petals. For a fragrance "pairing," I'd use this soap before applying Houbigant Orangers en Fleurs or Au Pays de La Fleur d'Oranger Neroli Blanc Eau de Cologne. Incidentally, it produces a fine, generous lather and its fragrance really blooms in the steamy air of a hot shower.
In case your eye is about to wander down a few lines to check the price of this product, I'll warn you: it's ridiculously expensive. Then again, if you think of Hammam Soap as more than a soap, you may be able to argue yourself into a purchase. It so lushly scented that it can be used to perfume a drawer or a closet; you could even just let it hang on a hook in the bathroom for a while and enjoy its fragrance before actually using it. After all, Diptyque's ceramic-and-wax "Scented Ovals" cost even more. And, naturally, this soap would be an excellent gift for someone who appreciates small luxuries.
It's also worth mentioning that Senteurs d'Orient has established a partnership with the United Nations Development Program to support women’s education in Lebanon. 10% of sales go to this program, which provides choice and improvement in local women's lives.
Senteurs d'Orient Hammam Soap on a Rope sells for $38 via the Senteurs d'Orient website.