By Lisa Maliga
Whenever I read or hear the term ‘plain vanilla’ I cringe. How dare people accuse vanilla of the following myths: white, boring, and worst of all, plain? Vanilla is not a middle class suburbanite. The Latin name is vanilla planifolia and it’s a rich, fragrant, and tropical flowering vine with beans that undergo a ten-month long maturation process to allow the scent to emanate from those luxurious dark brown beans. Vanilla comes from such places as Tahiti, Madagascar, Costa Rica, Mexico and Indonesia.
Later I was to learn the difference between real vanilla and not-so-real. This is something for a future blog. Back then, I just wanted a real vanilla scent for my soaps. After cruising around online and reading reviews, I discovered a place where I could get a reasonably priced vanilla that would discolor my soap but the scent would be a rich, buttery vanilla that I would be tempted to eat. Well, that came close to happening a few times but it was when I realized that it was one thing to smell a scent but another thing to bite into a bar of soap because it would just foam in your mouth and take a lot of effort to get it out. Yes, childhood memories of the times I had my mouth washed out with soap for cursing had cured me of eating any soap no matter how it smelled!
Over the years, I would try nearly a dozen different types of vanillas. I would blend two or three together and get a unique variation of the theme. Some vanillas were fruitier than others. Some spicier. And of course there were the bakery type of vanillas that reminded one of their last vanilla birthday cake. I also found some ground vanilla beans at one of my suppliers and added those beautiful brown bits to my soap so it not only took on the aroma but it was a little exfoliating. That turned into my staple – a loaf soap that I sliced and called Vanilla Bean Speckles. It darkened fairly quickly as I used a blend of 3 different vanilla fragrances and the resulting aroma had a mixture of the vanilla spice with the vanilla butter with a touch of floral from the Tahitian vanilla. That café au lait colored soap hardly was plain and boring! Because vanilla is always an exciting and diverse aroma.
The recipe for this soap is in the ebook The Joy of Melt and Pour Soap Crafting