The fail-est of the failed soaps: whiskey soap

Danielle Vincent

Posted on January 08 2016


How this most heinous soap incident happened:

Whiskey soap seized

(note that I'm wearing a flannel shirt and a gold miniskirt to make this highly volatile soap... I am so dumb)

People ask us about failed soaps all the time, so I'm going to write about the most spectacularly disgusting fail to date: the time I tried to make whiskey soap with Jim Beam.

The Oppenheimer of Soaps...

... was my nickname after that day.

When we started this company, one of the first soaps we wanted to make was a soap that smelled like whiskey.

Side note: We have since succeeded at this difficult task and you can see our handmade whiskey soap here. To read more about the ridiculous antics had while making this soap, read Russ's posts about it here, and see what it's supposed to look like when it's made right, read his account here.

The natural first choice for that was, of course, whiskey.

In goat's milk soap, soapmakers replace the water content with at least a percentage of goat milk, so I figured I'd replace the water content with Jim Beam. Totally smart, right?

First, actually, let me set the stage for you to envision what's happening... I only had an hour or so to make this soap, but I was so dang excited to give it a try. See, I was picking up my best friend and her boyfriend from the airport that afternoon, and Los Angeles traffic was always a nightmare (this was back when we lived in LA). So I was in my absolute cutest outfit (hence the gold skirt) with my flannel shirt used as a smock over it.

This made for a very hurried and high stakes soapmaking experience.

Undaunted, I bought about $60 worth of whiskey and set to work mixing the lye into the whiskey. (If you're not familiar with what handmade soap is made out of, I happened to write a little bit about that in this article about our ingredients and process.)

making handmade soap with lye and whiskey

Things started going wrong immediately.

It was clear that the mixture was getting too hot... like, by A BILLION TIMES.

Lye reacts with liquid (specifically water), and when it reacts, it causes the water (or liquid) to get scalding hot (because of chemicals! isn't that amazing?!?!?). Well, somehow the whiskey and the lye reacted to get even hotter. It started bubbling the table it was so hot. And yes, I was wearing a mask, but Russ (taking the photos) was not. I mean, he was far away so it wasn't an issue, right?

Wrong. There are very few photos of this (in fact, they're both in this post already) because he had to leave. The fumes were just too much. Heck, I swear I even felt the weird tingly "your skin is burning" feeling on my face (ooh! exfoliating!).

We backed off and let the lye-whiskey cool a while (as we do even when we're making regular cold process soap without whiskey). But as I mentioned, we were kind of in a hurry, so I didn't have time for it to cool completely.

I mixed up the oils and poured the lye-whiskey mix into the oil, gently stirring as I... oh... shit... wait...

And just like that, a mushroom of solid soap started forming in the oil, crystalizing up in the center around the stick blender into a chunky, vomitous mass (I bet you're hungry now!!). It took about 30 seconds for the whole pot to be filled with a solid brick of grossness:

(It isn't supposed to look like that.)

UNDAUNTED (omg my tenacity is exhausting), I started spooning the mix into the molds:

... thereby ruining my molds (my tenacity is exhausting and expensive!).

We decided to go ahead and pretend like none of this happened, and covered the "soap" up for the night as we do with all our soaps.

The next day, nothing had changed (surprised? nah.), and we ended up throwing away the pan and the molds. Oh, and the stick blender, whose motor had fried when I was desperately trying to get the soap to smooth out a little.

After that day, we decided to only use whiskey fragrance oil.

And that's the story of the most disastrous soap we ever made.

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