Published on March 21, 2020

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Photography by Cody Guilfoyle

We live in a golden age of expensive smells: Aesop hand sanitizer, Byredo candles, Diptyque…car diffusers. Finding a scent that feels luxurious at a price that seems like you’re getting away with something is rare—but limiting your search to one particular medium can make that task easier. Unlike a candle, whose aroma lasts only as long as the wick burns, or reed diffusers, which take up valuable surface space in an apartment, bar soap is both attractive and functional—perfect for all that handwashing you’re doing right about now. I’ve tried a few options, but none is as consistently delightful, easy to find, and inexpensive as Bee & Flower Sandalwood Soap

Unwrapping a bar is an oddly sensory experience. First, the packaging: Tan paper traced with a flower pattern is overlaid with a narrowly folded sheet of ingredients, which is secured with a black belly band that bears the brand name. Two stickers, one metallic gold and shaped like a wax seal, the other circular and nondescript, top it. The bar seems well traveled, worldly even, and the vintage-inspired design isn’t just a marketing tool—the soap has been produced in Shanghai since the 1920s.

Once unpeeled, your eyes scan the soap’s squared-off edges and neatly engraved lettering and border. Then the warm, bark-like aroma hits you: It’s earthy but clean, like a palm-size stone smoothed out by a river—a bit like cult scent Santal 33 from Le Labo, minus the spicy, campfire flavor. When you add water and twirl the bar between your palms, the scent stays with you just long enough to be appreciated. Like a good houseguest, it doesn’t overstay its welcome. 

I don’t have a guest bathroom, but if I did, I’d certainly add a fresh bar of Bee & Flower to my welcome kit. For the moment, I keep one at the two sinks I do have, in my bathroom and kitchen. When you’re spending all your time at home, it’s the little things that make a difference—especially when they make your sudsing feel special.

See more stories like this:
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