This week we’re at the Hever Castle Craft Fair (September 10th - 13th) and it got us thinking about the art of making soap. After all, we spend our days expertly crafting our Soap Bars by hand in a way that hasn’t changed for centuries. It’s a tactile process that involves the senses and is much more personal than anything that is mass-produced by the big names in the industry.
Since our soaps are free of parabens and preservatives, we only make a limited quantity of each variety at a time. Everything is prepped in our sterile soap room the day before production, with the naturally-sourced oils and butters that make up the base of our soap warmed gently overnight to ensure they are in a liquid state ready to be used the next morning.
These raw ingredients are added to an alkaline solution and popped into a manually-controlled mixer. This trusty machine, which we have been using for years, performs a sort of alchemy on the oils, butters and alkaline concoction, transforming it into a thick and cloudy substance that is beginning to resemble your favourite Heyland & Whittle soap.
The added extras
It’s at this point in the process that we add the fragrances, natural colourings and textured ingredients that give each soap variety its own identity. Our signature scents come from tempting essential oils, while the distinctive colours are the work of madder root, turmeric, walnut leaves and other evocative gifts from nature.
There’s decadent goat’s milk in our Queen of the Nile Soap Bar; poppy seeds and oats to gently exfoliate your skin in the Oatmeal & Poppy Hand & Body Cleansing Bar; and antiseptic ingredients like witch hazel in our Tea Tree Handmade Soap. Each bar, while offering its own special characteristics, is gentle and comforting on the skin.
Cured for up to six weeks
This viscous, beautifully scented and colourful substance is now ready to be poured into the wooden soap trays where it slowly solidifies over the course of a few days. A subtle reaction between the ingredients produces a small amount of heat, almost cooking the soap without any extra warmth added.
Just like fine wines, the best soaps are given time to develop their flavours and mature into sumptuous products you’ll treasure. This happens after they are removed from the trays and carefully stacked in a dry room, where any residual moisture slowly evaporates over six weeks to leave a solid and long-lasting soap bar.
Cut and wrapped by hand
After such care and attention, we would not leave anything to chance, so we cut and weigh each brick and bar ourselves. Then they are carefully placed into their individual boxes, wrapped in paper or added to the Gift Sets, Care Packages and Hampers to be sold to our discerning customers.
Any precious offcuts go back into the soap trays where they are encased in olive oil soap to become our famous Rainbow Soap Bars. These gems are our way to say thank you to the NHS, which receives ten per cent of the profits from every sale.
A little extra for Hever Castle
To add an extra flourish for the Hever Castle Craft Fair, we’ve rolled some of our handmade soaps in something a little special. Lavender, St John’s wort and marigold petals have been pressed into selected soaps before they’re entirely dry to give an extra layer of natural beauty to our handcrafted products.