|Strange albino sandalwood soap|
"I didn't know anyone (under 70) still used soap. It's damn hard to find in the supermarkets these days. When looking a while back for my husband's (much) older sister we spent ages till we found a tiny selection hiding on the bottom shelf..."
She went on to confirm the switch to other dispensing formats:
"Shower gel in the shower/bath, liquid soap for hands. The supermarket says there's very little demand for tablet soap, and the only person I know who uses it is my Mum (obviously 'over 70'), and, as I say, my husband's much older sister."
Then my sister-in-law chimed in to suggest where traditional soap tablets may still be found:
"I think soap has migrated from supermarkets to be the mainstay of artisanal market stalls. I bulk buy at a French fair that comes to Edinburgh twice a year. That, and stealing hotel toiletries."
|My own worryingly extensive - but culturally diverse - collection of stolen hotel soap|
But still, I cling to hard bars of soap. And so it was that the other day I had more or less finished a tablet of Morny Sandalwood (the remaining cracked sliver of which has now been relegated to the kitchen - which has become something of a donkey sanctuary for unprepossessing soap remnants).
|Unsightly soap slivers on the kitchen windowsill|
How very strange! My recollection was that sandalwood soap was always coloured - anything from a yellowy cream through to a deeper orange shade - but this was the first time I had ever encountered a pure white sandalwood bar. I figured that the perfume might well have evaporated over the years - and my reading of soap making forums tends to confirm this - but was suprised to see such an albino-looking appearance. But it seems that colour too may fade with time, and in fairness I had kept it for an awfully long time.
|Geo F Trumper sandalwood soap - pale, but within acceptable pantone parameters|
|The reassuringly apricot tone of Morny sandalwood soap|
"Ummm....come to think of it, it may have been a light colour....I seem to recall a light yellow...but that may have been the colouring."
Indeed so, but it is the colour itself I am after, however contrived.
Next up, I rang the Customer Service department for Roger & Gallet, which turns out to be part of the Vichy group. After an incredibly long wait, the lady who answered said she had no personal experience of the soap, and no images to hand of a bar in either its wrapped or - more importantly - unwrapped state. On her recommendation, I proceeded to call five Roger & Gallet stockists dotted around the country - in what I hoped would be fairly upmarket locations - hoping to skew the chances that I might stumble upon a pharmacy assistant who incorporated this rather high end brand into her own skincare regime. This proved to be fairly hit and miss as a research method, as the staff in the stores tended not to be users in fact, and of course the wrapping means that the only people who could help me were those who had ever seen a bar open.
|Roger & Gallet sandalwood soap in its teasingly wrapped state|
So for what they are worth, here are the results of my small straw poll of stockists:
- One pharmacy didn't answer.
- One pharmacy took ages to answer, and a further ages again to ascertain that they stocked Roger & Gallet, even though I had found them on a stockist list, and took that as a given. I was told to call back after three to speak to someone else "who might know more".
- One pharmacy helpfully scrutinised several bars through their wrappers and pronounced the soap to be "a creamy neutral, like they all are", adding the disclaimer: "but don't take my word for it, as it was through blue paper".
- One pharmacy remembered the sandalwood soap as being "a dark white colour - you know, the way most soap tends to be these days". I take "dark white" still to be crucially different from the present "stark white"...
- The final pharmacy came up with the pithy response: "cream, I assume", again based on peering through the wrapper on a "without prejudice" basis.
Additional titbits to share from my inquiries are the fact that one pharmacy said I should take a look on Ebay for images(!) - yes, and why don't I just buy it there while I am at it...? Another warned me off using my albino bar altogether. Hey, you are speaking to the woman who reheats non-reheatable foodstuffs with impunity days after they were first cooked! Colourless, odourless soap holds no terrors for me....
So there we have it. On balance, I think this bar has simply faded from its original off-white-to-yellow colour, and the scent has disappeared altogether. In one final burst of googling, I chanced upon this image of a vintage bar of Roger & Gallet sandalwood soap. Oh my, just look how dark it is!
|Roget & Gallet Sandalwood soap from its pigment-rich heyday|
So...do you have any colour prejudice when it comes to scented products of any kind? Let me know!
Photo of blue dish of Roger & Gallet soap from ebay, photo of vintage version from precisensan.se, other photos my own