Each hop I was given by Hook Norton Brewery was distilled and the hydrosol assessed for scent, along with each of the beers and malts.
The malts are grain of oats or barley that have been steeped, germinated, and dried and used for brewing. I was given a selection by Hook Norton to experiment with and was surprised how delicious they tasted so I added them to my bread for a seeded and malt wonderloaf!
Then the fun really started; I experimented with a wide range of essential oils to bring out the fleeting top note scent of the hops and to balance the more obvious base scent of the beers.
I needed to blend a perfume accord – a selection of scents and oils – to produce a rounded and layered scent to add to the Soaps, Balms and Shaving Soap
For a scent to work it needs layers of aromas starting with the Top notes or light scents that are short-lived, lasting for maybe a matter of minutes, shaping the primary fragrance burst but also smoothly transitioning into the heart of the fragrance.
The Middle notes bring the heart of the scent alive, making up the core perfume as it sits on the skin. They last longer than the top notes and have a strong sway on the base notes.
The Base notes determine how long a scent will last, and provide a background on which the heart notes can be appreciated. They are the final notes that appear once the top notes are completely evaporated. The base notes mingle with the heart notes to create the full body of the fragrance, but are typically associated with the dry-down period, when the scent has been on the skin for a while.
The job of the base notes is to provide the lasting impression. These often rich notes linger on the skin for hours after the top notes have dissipated.
I played with Citrus blends using lemon, grapefruit, limes, vetiver and myrtles; Woody blends of cinnamon, labdanum, bergamot, pine, rosemary and cypress; Oriental blends of smoky birch tar, vanilla and palmarosa and finally sandalwood, patchouli, tonka, lavender and mint.
I wanted a scent that had the top note to compliment the hops hydrosol, a heart note to hold to the skin after washing and a base note to bring everything together into a cacophony of scent.
I was mindful that I did not want to craft a soap that smelt of stale beer, but one that used the best of the beer making process to enhance the skin and calm the soul with a natural and lingering soft scent.
Each scent accord teased the senses until I settled on 10 experimental soap blends. Using 6 Hook Norton testers plus 41 external comments (including a selection of delightful rugby players) we decided on the two soaps to move into production.
The Bramling Cross hydrosol had the cleanest naturally occurring citrus base note; floral, citrus and warming so I added Lemon Grass, fresh Cyprus Lemon oil, Clary Sage with a touch of May Chang – the scents blended together to produce a richly layered, deep and rounded citrus scent plus finely ground hops for texture. The Bramling cross hop is used in the Hooky Beer, so we had our name – Hooky Hop Soap.
The second soap is made with Bramling Cross hydrosol, finely chopped traditional Fuggles hops and Oats for added texture and exfoliation along with Lavender, Peppermint and Rosemary oils. This soap is richer in scent, with top notes of lavender and the citrus of the hops, heart note of rosemary and a shot of mint to bring it all together.
Late Copper hopping is the key to the hop characteristic found in Hook Norton Beers and this process allows the bitterness to be extracted from the hops; with the Copper Soap it is the same slow process of blending the oils with the soap mix by hand stirring to produce a hard, naturally scented soap.
I use the traditional boxed cold-process method to make twenty-five bars of Hook Norton soap at a go. I do not use colourants, additives or preservatives (parabens), genetically modified (GM) ingredients – neither do I test our soaps on animals.
None of our soaps contain synthetic surfactants (foaming ingredients) such as sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS). Like the Hook Norton beer, the choicest ingredients are used to produce best quality simple soap