“We wanted people to smell and feel what Portland is like,” Taylor Ahlmark explained to us of Maak Soap Lab. Having grown up in Arizona, he and Anoria Gilbert were driven to move to Portland for its climate. “We graduated in 2009 and moved to be able to see a change and see seasons,” Taylor elaborated.
“We weren’t setting out to start a business,” Anoria told us of their initial ventures in soap-making. It was a skill she had picked up from her aunt, and was something she had simply always known how to do. Influenced by Portland’s community of makers, and the bounty of ingredients that could be sourced right in their backyard, they decided to pursue their craft more seriously.
Part of the fun for the pair has been the trial and error and the experiments. “We could be out for a walk and say, ‘Oh my God, that tree smells awesome. Let’s crush is up and see what happens,’” Taylor told us.
Their soaps, made with all-natural vegan ingredients, are now made in almost 75 individual scents. They try to keep their sourcing regional—with the exception of a few ingredients (such as eucalyptus), all are gathered by working with local farms.
Their favorite scent to work with? Port Orford. Sourced from the Oregon coastline, the Port Orford cedar is only grown in small quantities, therefore difficult to source. “Most people in the US don’t have much access to it,” Anoria explained to us, “Most of it is shipped from Japan.”
When smelled alongside a standard cedar, the Port Orford is noticeably sweeter. They blend the Port Orford in a bar with honey, making for an outdoorsy yet sweet scent—a mixture that seems to perfectly capture the Portland outdoors (we think it must be all of the rain that makes the scents come alive).
Needless to say, we think the other makers within the Beam & Anchor space are happy to have Anoria and Taylor working alongside them. The scent of whatever they’re brewing that day (on the day of our visit, it was their Rose City bar), carries throughout the workshop. Luckily, if you’re able to pick up a few bars, you can bring the fresh Portland sent with you anywhere.
Photos by Collin Hughes