Pré de Provence – Cashmere Woods

“Kashmir Words”

I picked up this soap, attracted to its deep, clay-like, red-brown color, and I'm always a fan of the Pré de Provence soap—I can't figure out if they're becoming more ubiquitous or more scarce as time goes on—I guess that's part of the inscrutability of the French. I've never known Pré de Provence to have a website at all (maybe it was exclusive to the French Internet?), but now I see one!— and there are about 37 varieties of bar soap pictured—is that too many?—or should they just go for it? I'm seeing for the first time: White Gardenia, Ocean Air, and Angel's Trumpet. I want to try those! With this one, even more than the color, the name intrigued me: “Cashmere Woods”—what? I'd never heard of that place, or that term, or those two words used together. It turns out that “Cashmere Wood” is a general fragrance—usually a woodsy, earthy scent with sandalwood, amber, musk, vanilla, etc. (according to the briefest search)—and I'm not sure if this French soap company adds an “s” to wood to make it stand out, or imply a place, or because they just don't give a fuck (about English—they're French!)

I like the idea that it's a mythical place, like maybe in The Lord of the Rings or the English Countryside, or the South of France, or a wee faerie place in The Song Remains the Same (1976). Searching a little further, I see that there is an air freshener called “Cashmere Woods” and it has a little circled “R” next to it—so what's that mean? It's made by Glade, the air freshener company—I was shocked they still exist—I thought they went out of business after the Fifties. I looked at their website (which made me want to drink gasoline) and it said “Cashmere Woods smells like coziness.” I'm guessing the Glade version smells like that stuff they sprinkled on vomit in grade school, but it seems they want to make the name their own. If this is the thing that leads to a war between the USA and France, can I suggest that we limit battle to swords, daggers, and battle axes?

Anyway, I loved this soap immediately—sometimes you're in the mood for one of these earthy, manly smelling soaps. The first thing that comes to mind is a guy in a huge, baggy sweater, that is if he doesn't smell like BO and a wet dog. Maybe a fictional version of a guy in a hole-ridden sweater, plaid shirt, and work boots who can fix anything, and also happens to be interested in poetry, which he recites while fixing things—rather than carrying on with some racist or woman-hating bullshit. If he smokes, it's those French cigarettes, held between the third and fourth finger with the hand held upright at the mouth, as in an expression of wonder or terror. And the “outdoors” is more of a concept, one for the pages of a longish novel, and the flesh and blood version is—not necessary reviled and feared—but kept at a respectful distance. And maybe there is some “making love”—either on the horizon, or in a rosy past we all agree was both better and worse, but for the most part non-traumatic.

Soap Review No. 56