The Art of Saponification & the History of Saponificio Varesino

We all have a daily routine and shaving plays a role. These days it seems that faster is better and price is favoured over quality. At Blake’n Blade Shave Shop, we believe in slowing down and enjoying your morning routine with a shave that pampers you and leaves you feeling fresh and relaxed for the day ahead. We have scoured the globe to find the best products available worldwide that are not only unique, but made of lasting quality by passionate producers. Saponificio Varesino is one of these pearls with a fascinating history and superb products. 

Lake Maggiore home for Saponificio Varesino

The beautiful shores of Lake Maggiore where the history of Saponificio Varesino started in 1945

A Passion for Soap

Many of the products we sell come from companies with a long tradition, because if you can stay in business for over 70 years, you must be producing something great. Saponificio Varesino’s history dates back to 1945 in Brebbia, Italy, near the shores of Lake Maggiore. Over the years, Saponificio Varesino has perfected their craft through new processing techniques that maintain their reputation as an excellent producer of shaving soaps.

Dante Bardelli fownder of Saponificio Varesino

Dante Bardelli founder of Saponificio Varesino. Image courtesy of Saponificio Varesino.

Bardelli Dante had just returned from the War and found that there was a high demand for grooming products like soap. With no prior experience in the field, Dante learned everything he could about saponification and invested what little money he had to start Saponificio Varesino.

Since then his values and traditions have been passed down from generation to generation to ensure that the same passion and quality go into each bar of soap.  Saponificio Varesino believes in quality and tradition, and in using only the finest natural ingredients. This ensures the best final product. As Bardelli Dante says: “If you persist and insist, then you reach your goals and conquer”.

Old Traditions of Saponificio Varesino 

Saponificio Varesino still uses the old method of saponification of Marseilles, now becoming increasingly rare in soap factories. Marseille soap is a traditional hard soap that has been made from vegetable oils and produced around Marseille, France for 600 years. Traditionally, Marseille soap is made by mixing sea water, olive oil, and alkaline chemicals like soda ash and lye. This mixture is heated for several days with constant stirring. It then sits until ready and is poured into the mold. While the mixture is still soft, the bars are cut and stamped.

Experience comes from over 70 years of soap-making and attention to detail through every step of the process. Saponificio Varesino produces up to 2500 tonnes of soap per year using much the same method. The base ingredients are checked for quality and consistency. The first phase, saponification, is when the fats – mainly glycerides and fatty acids – are converted into salts. Their shaving soaps are 100% vegetal and are palm oil-free. In fact, for saponification they use only food grade vegetable oils, 50% of which are coconut.

Saponificio Varesino 70th Anniversary Shaving Soap

Saponificio Varesino 70th Anniversary Shaving Soap is one of several that is enjoyed by many shaving connoisseurs around the globe.

 Saponificio Varesino Where Products are Born

In 1948, Saponificio Varesino made its Stella Alpina laundry soap bar, a product that is still in production today. The cube-shaped bar still looks the same as it did then. As the years passed, more products like toilet soaps were made and now Saponificio Varesino produces shaving and bath soaps, as well as a skincare line. Their shaving soaps are constantly being improved, which is why you will see Beta 4.0-4.3 stamped on their products. The shaving soaps are triple-milled, meaning they are grated into fine particles and passed through a pair of closely spaced rollers until it turns into a paste.

Hope you enjoyed reading their story and please let us know what you think of their soaps and balms in comments below. You might also be interested to read how we find the best products for our shop, then head to this article Finding best-performing shaving products thru daily testing. to find out more.

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4 replies on “The Art of Saponification & the History of Saponificio Varesino

  • Michael

    Really enjoyed the read. I’m a huge fan of Saponificio Varesino shaving soaps. My favourite being Cosmo. It outperforms everything I’ve tried, and legends like Mitchell’s wool fat, Tabac, D.R. Harris just to name a few outstanding soaps (which belongs in every collection btw) don’t even come close. If I had to rate this soap I would give it a 9.0/10. Not a perfect score, but you have to leave room for improvement right?

    The Cosmo is extremely slick, easy to lather, gives great protection, doesn’t dry out at all and gives an awesome post shave feel. The only soap I can shave against the grain without any irritation.

    Recently ordered their Beta 4.3 soap. Can’t wait to try it out.

    • Marek

      Thank you, Michael, for your feedback. Always good to hear people enjoying the read.
      I can’t agree more on SV soaps being superb. And I have to mention that we haven’t yet found another triple milled hard soap that lathers up that quickly than say Cosmo or their new Felce Aromatica beta 4.3
      I’m sure you are going to love the new beta 4.3, but I will also encourage you to try some artisan soaps, you might be in for a treat 😉

      • Michael

        I’m always open to try new products, and have a few artisan soaps in my collection. First priority in a soap for me is slickness/glide. If you can name a few artisan soaps that provide more glide than SV, I’m all ears 😉

        • Marek

          Just did a side by side comparison this morning just to refresh my memory, as I did not find notes about slickness in my test notes. Le Pere Lucien feels as slick as SV, so does Wickham Soap Co a new brand we will stock from next week. Faena soaps that have tallow, also very slick. There should, however, be enough water in the lather – just a side note as many fail to add enough water to the mix. And as a result, the lather feels dry and not slick.
          There is a slight difference in post shave feel, where SV leaves your skin more moisturised.
          For the people looking for five-star post shave feel. There is one Spanish brand we found to be exquisite. PM me if interested, as we are in the middle of talks with them I don’t want to mention names here as of yet.


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