Spirited Soaps was born when Ailsa Hayes wanted to create a soap using natural ingredients along with the islands natural produce. As an applied chemist, Ailsa knew that to make transparent soap using the cold process, she needed alcohol. So, she raided her husband’s whisky cupboard and poured in a good glug of his Bruichladdich! Being on the ‘whisky isle’, this sparked the idea of creating soaps using spirits from different island distilleries. The business went from kitchen table to shed to shop, and is now a much-loved Islay shop on Bowmore’s main street.
Spirited Soaps is now run by Gemma MacLean, who still makes the soaps by hand to Ailsa’s original recipes.
All our soaps are handmade in small batches at our wee shop in Bowmore on Islay.
We use the cold process, which is a traditional, old-fashioned method of making soap. It takes about a week from start to finish and uses low, stable temperatures.
All our soaps start life from the same base, which we cook up in our big soap pot. It’s a bit like baking a cake – with all the ingredients measured and added at the right time.
We then decant the soap into big trays and add the whisky, gin or rum we’re using. We also add essential oils and other ingredients to capture the character and aroma of the spirit.
Once the soaps are set, they’re left to dry so that the excess alcohol can evaporate.
Then they’re ready to be chopped, labelled and put out in the shop.
Because our soap is transparent, it is gentle on your skin and naturally moisturising.
All our products are made using plant and vegetable oils, such as soothing cocoa butter and coconut oil. We don’t use palm oil. We keep everything as natural as possible and refrain from chemicals, colours or preservatives. We use essential oils to scent our products gently.
Our products are vegetarian-friendly but not all vegan-friendly (our hand, face and body creams and lip balms contain beeswax). All our ingredients are cruelty-free, meaning they are not tested on animals. Gemma is an animal lover and is the only one who gets tested on!
Our soap bars all come wrapped in printed greaseproof paper tied with raffia and a paper label – all fully recyclable. The wraps are printed with soy-based vegetable inks and are biodegradable. Our bottles are all made from recycled plastics and are also fully recyclable.
We love championing small island independents. That’s why, as well as the big whisky distilleries, you’ll find soaps from small island distilleries like Lussa Gin and Deer Island Rum.
Hi, I’m Gemma – chief soap-maker here at Spirited Soaps. I make, cut and label all our whisky soaps by hand at our wee shop in Bowmore. I’m Islay born and bred and live on Jura, so I know a thing or two about island spirit – both the alcoholic and non-alcoholic kind. When I’m not making soap, you’ll find me baking, relaxing on my gin deck, working as part of the Jura Coastguard team or walking my two New Zealand Huntaways, Ruki and Gus.
Best part of the day:
I like meeting people. It’s always lovely, whether it’s their first visit to the island or their 20th. It’s the nicest thing to see people again. I love my commute from Jura too.
Favourite soapy job:
Cutting the soap. It’s very therapeutic and satisfying. I get into such a wee routine with it. My week usually includes two days of soap-making. It’s mindless and lovely.