Soaps, it seems, are back in favour. I can’t myself imagine why anybody would prefer a body wash to a gorgeous bar of soap, but there we are – they did. These days the taste is for high-quality, triple-milled (which means they have been rolled at least three times, resulting in a finer, more even texture) and quite often old-fashioned soaps with added nutrients, shea butter and vitamins. Take Victoria Scandinavian Soap, founded in 1905 and supplier to the Swedish royal family, which arrived in the UK a couple of years ago. Besides a wonderful-sounding soap based on the egg-white face masks Swedish women used to make, others are inspired by Scandinavian forests. Tallba, in particular, dates from 1935 and is pine-based, but contains amber, mint and moss, while the spring-inspired Birch Tree is as fresh as a northern European breeze. Sets of six cost £15.
Then there’s Soapsmith, which makes all its products by hand in London using the traditional cold-processing method. Its nine soaps (£6 each) are inspired by different parts of the city (Brick Lane, Bloomsbury, Baker Street and so on; Green Park pictured top), each box imprinted with a map of the area it represents.
Lastly, German fragrance company Linari asked the country’s oldest soap manufacturer to create an über-luxurious quintuple-milled collection containing fragrances from its Eau de Parfum range with added moisturising jojoba oil, antioxidant vitamin E and palm and olive oils. Unlike other brands that home in on tradition, Linari’s soaps (£20; £34 with travel container) are sleek and contemporary, each disc shape beautifully presented in a circular box. Three of them (Notte Bianca, Acqua Santa and Vista Sul Mare, pictured bottom) are white, while four (Angelo di Fiume, Eleganza Luminosa, Fuoco Infernale and Porta del Cielo) are a rich black.