It’s been twelve years since I originally wrote this in 2010 and I have a few more things to say about the different scents! I’ve learned more about their history, and I’ve had my own different experiences with them. I hope you learn something new here, too!
Overview of the Castile Soap Line
Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Soaps came from a family formulation that was launched by my grandfather’s grandfather in 1858 in Laupheim, Germany. My grandfather was Emanuel Bronner, and his grandpa was Emanuel Heilbronner (the Heil was dropped in order to distance from the “Heil Hitler” association of World War II.) After his apprenticeship, Emanuel Heilbronner passed his examination to become a master soapmaker (literally in German “soap boiler”) and received authorization from King Wilhelm I to begin making soap. Five generations later, we are still making soap.
The base of the Pure-Castile Soap is a blend of olive, coconut, palm or palm kernel, hemp, and jojoba oils. The Castile Liquid is made with palm kernel oil and the Castile Bar with palm oil. For more on our use of palm oil, read my deep dive “Making Ethical Palm Oil a Reality.” For more on differences between the Liquid and Bar Pure-Castile Soaps, read my comparison “Liquid vs. Bar.”
All of the Castile Soaps have the same soap base, with the only difference being the essential oils that are added. But what a difference the essential oils make! The exception is the Baby Unscented Castile, which not only has no essential oils, but also a different ratio of oils in the liquid, as I explain below.
Those of you who have been with us for a while may remember when the Rose and Citrus were the newbies. You may even remember the paper labels, which were great until they got wet!
If you haven’t come across the full range of scents, check out the Store Locator over on the Dr. Bronner’s site (select Filter and select scent or size), or you can readily find them on many online retailers as well as our own webstore. An easy way to try the range is to pick up a set of the 2 oz. bottles or the bars. These also make a great gift set. For the Liquid Soap scents I use the most, I keep a gallon on hand to refill my 8 oz. bottles, which is a great way to reduce plastic usage.
So here’s all the scents, in their order of debut, as well as where you’ll find them in my house and what I use them for.
These are my preferences only! I know I’m in the vast minority with my Peppermint Castile opinion since it’s our number one selling product by far! Feel free to share your preferences and what you use them for.
If someone only knows one Dr. Bronner’s Castile scent, it’s usually the Peppermint. This is the original scent my grandfather began selling in 1955, though he had been making it and giving it out for free for a while before then. The zest! The tingle! It’s been described as a snowman hug, a York peppermint patty in your underwear, the lovechild of an apothecary and a magician. Still the company’s best seller by far—the Peppermint wakes you up and cools you down. Peppermint was Dr. Bronner’s personal favorite, as well as that of my parents, Trudy and Jim Bronner (Dr. Bronner’s youngest child).
- Label Color: Royal Blue
- Debut year: 1955
- Scent in one word: Refresh!
- Scent personality: Cooling, tingling, and refreshing. A knock-your-socks-off powerful minty burst.
- Where I use it most: Peppermint is my go-to scent at the end of a hot day—after a workout or the beach or working in the garden. A shower with the Peppermint makes me feel like I’ve molted!
Two decades later, along came the Almond. This is my all-time favorite for personal care. The Almond is mellow and soothing, like a cup of tea in a comfy chair. The perfect way to ease into or out of the day. The Almond is ultimate companion soap: It blends well with everything. Citrus & Almond, Peppermint & Almond, Rose & Almond. It’s a friend to all. Maybe it’s my favorite because I aspire to the same thing.
- Label Color: Emerald Green
- Debut year: 1975
- Scent in one word: Comfort!
- Scent personality: Warm and cozy like marzipan or amaretto. Wraps you in a protective and buffering blanket against the world’s agitations.
- Where I use it most: Every day in the shower, head to toe, for my hair, my face, my body.
The Eucalyptus and the Lavender debuted the same year, but could hardly be more different. Though lesser known in the Dr. Bronner’s lineup, the Eucalyptus has fierce devotees. This is the favorite of my brother Mike Bronner (President of Dr. Bronner’s). When my brothers and I were growing up, my dad mixed Eucalyptus with Peppermint for what he called the Euco-Peppo Bear Wash to bathe our dogs.
- Label Color: Brown
- Debut year: 1978
- Scent in one word: Invigorate!
- Scent personality: Adventurous and woodsy, capturing the wild freshness of a forest.
- Where I use it most: This soap lures me outdoors and I love taking it camping. I still wash my dogs with it, like my dad. It is my backup facial soap, after the Tea Tree, when my skin is imbalanced.
Refined but passionate, our Lavender is no flimsy floral flash, but is lush and spiced, rich with cultivation. If there’s any scent which has been misrepresented most by synthetic copycats, it is lavender. This is no lightweight, but penetrates deep. The Lavender was the favorite of my Uncle Ralph Bronner (Dr. Bronner’s oldest son.)
- Label Color: Lavender
- Debut Year: 1978
- Scent in one word: Calm
- Scent personality: Rich yet relaxing, calming while passionate, actively soothing.
- Where I use it most: Guest bathroom for foaming hand soap, bedding, gifts to new parents.
My grandfather received a request from the maternity ward at the UCLA Medical Center for a version of the Castile Soap that would be ideal for newborns’ delicate skin. The result was the Baby Unscented Castile with no essential oils and, in the liquid, double the amount of olive oil in the ratio blend. Olive oil is especially nourishing and mild to our skin. The label was originally light pink but later changed to light blue.
- Label Color: Light Blue
- Debut Year: 1979
- Scent in one word: Soothe
- Scent personality: Mild and gentle, the lack of essential oils means that all you will smell is some of the naturally occurring olive oil. And since you can add your own essential oils, this is the scent of endless potential!
- Where I use it most: When I want to customize a scent with my own essential oils for personal or body care. For my garden spray for pests since it doesn’t flavor the herbs and vegetables. In gifts to new babies or to those with skin sensitivities.
Early in his tenure leading the company, my brother David Bronner (now CEO—Cosmic Engagement Officer) developed the Tea Tree Castile. Research was pouring in about this native Australian plant’s success in the treatment of acne, fungal infections, and general antimicrobial action. This soap accompanied me on my journey out of adult-onset acne. While all of the Castile Soaps do a superb job removing makeup and leaving skin clean and residue-free, the Tea Tree is my favorite for this. When combined with the Eucalyptus, it is a compellingly clean scent for anyone who thinks that green cleaners lack that convincing aromatic punch of conventional cleaners.
- Label color: Bright Orange
- Debut year: 1998
- Scent in one word: Restore!
- Scent personality: Woodsy and herbal, with notes of pine, this is a therapeutic and cleansing scent.
- Where I use it most: For nightly face washing and nightguard washing; For housecleaning, in my GIY All-Purpose Spray and anytime I feel the house needs an extra antimicrobial punch.
Mike brought in these last two scents, the Rose and the Citrus. The Rose with its rich blend of floral essential oils brings to mind an abundant summer garden, exuberant in blooms. Sweet and plush, the Rose Castile is welcoming and one I often keep in my guest bathroom. Although the essential oils are the same in both the liquid and the bar, I find that they communicate differently. The Rose Bar is my favorite of the bars, and in the middle of winter, when I’m craving a reminder of spring vibrance, I will unwrap a bar of the Rose.
- Label color: Deep pink
- Debut year: 2006
- Scent in one word: Embrace!
- Scent personality: Delicate, comforting, and sweet, this is the most romantic of our scents.
- Where I use it most: In the guest bathroom. In the shower during the winter. A super thank you gift to a host or hostess.
With its blend of sweet orange, lemon, and lime essential oils, the Citrus is my overall second favorite scent after the Almond. Both for personal care and house care, I love the Citrus’ sunny brightness. It is definitely the happiest of the scents, and I was thrilled when Mike developed this blend.
- Label color: Light orange
- Debut year: 2008
- Scent in one word: Energize!
- Scent personality: Fresh, bright and cheery, with the zesty sharpness of a freshly peeled orange.
- Where I use it most: Kitchen foaming dispenser, cleaning stone kitchen counters, laundry, mopping.
Okay, okay. I said this was about my favorites, and then I went on to tell you how they each are my go-to in different situations. So I guess the takeaway is, in one way or the other, they’re all my favorites!
Now it’s your turn! What are your favorites? Have you ever blended two scents, or created your own from the Baby Unscented? When did you first come to know the soaps and how were you introduced? Do you remember the paper labels on the bottles that would dissolve in the shower? Do you remember when the Baby Unscented was pink? Which of you have been washing with Dr. Bronner’s the longest?