Of my many favourite Claus Porto soaps, the one I absolutely could not live without is Banho (€6.50 for 50g). A feast of lemon, orange, grapefruit and verbena, it is just the kind of thing I like to wake up to in my morning shower. The fact that the Portuguese company also produces moisturisers in this scent is a source of extra delight – and, in the country’s hot, hot summers – a necessity.
Just as delightful as the handcrafted soaps is their handwrapped packaging: gloriously stylish belle-époque designs, printed on glossy paper. They are drawn from the era when the brand began 130 years ago, and in the intervening period they have found their way into the bathrooms of Portugal’s rulers. Redolent of the glamour of yesteryear, the fragrances layer childhood memories with the promise of a perfect tomorrow – a tomorrow that for me can only be made more perfect by the arrival of beautifully designed Claus Porto stores in Lisbon and Porto to complement its handsome website, which ships worldwide, by the way.
British perfumer par excellence Lyn Harris has recently become the Claus Porto nose and has reformulated lines such as the Deco collection, which references Portugal by drawing on the surrounding ocean (sea salt and moss), the fruits of the land (lemons and oranges) and the many woods fragrant with pine needles. The liquid soaps (€27 for 300ml) produce just the right amount of foam, while the body moisturisers (€32 for 300ml) – which come in white, elegantly designed, slightly plump pump-action bottles with recognisably Claus Porto labels – blend in well, are not greasy at all and leave a delicate fragrance on the skin. There are also candles (€60) and hand creams (€20 for 50ml).
My daughter loves the Cerina soap, which has just the right silky texture and notes of salt and cedar fused with pepper, frankincense and elemi, while the men in the family prefer Chypre. Featuring tangerine, grapefruit and orange leaves with heart notes of blackcurrant and rose and base notes of cedar wood, cardamom and amber, it is invigoratingly masculine. For my nonagenarian mother I have bought both Voga and Favorito. The former is Portugal in spring, with almond blossom, mimosa and orange blossom, the latter red berries and red roses and brimming with a timeless sweetness.
Personally I am awaiting, with some impatience, a scent that will be released later this year to mark the company’s 130th anniversary. To create the limited edition of 1,887 numbered bottles of Claus Porto Le Parfum (€160 for 95ml), Harris travelled the country from north to south, east to west, in search of ingredients, and it promises to be Portugal in a bottle.