Stirling Soap Company: Episode 1 – Ben Franklin

The first article in a series dedicated to Stirling Soap Company is about a soap which features one of the most awkward descriptions in the whole Wet Shaving community:

This soap smells like an older gentleman’s pantaloons at the end of a hot July day in Philadelphia, drafting important documents with no air conditioner. It’s actually a very unique scent that reminded a few of my testers of a root beer float. An instant favorite.

Many customers wrote to the owners asking for clarifications, because later they added to their website:

NOTE: The description is tongue-in-cheek. It smells like a wonderful blend of Frankincense, Benzoin, Nutmeg, and Clove. It doesn’t actually smell like sweaty old man pants. As of 3 March 2015, we have been averaging about 2-3 inquiries per week as to why we would make a soap that smells like an older gentleman’s trousers…


That said, let me start with some memories… 4-5 Years Ago my fianceè (who now is my wife) bought some Stirling soaps as part of a larger bunch for my birthday. The three soaps were Executive Man (which I liked), Coniferous (which I loved) and Texas on Fire (same as Coniferous, maybe even better!). I was nicely surprised by the lather produced by these soaps, a very creamy and thick lather, which, combined with the original and, in certain cases, uncommon fragrances, made a great combo for the wet shaver enthusiast in me. Years later, I had the chance to grab some samples thanks to a friend visiting the USA, and I was able to get some of the most praised soaps like Ozark Mountain and Stirling Gentleman, among others, and, of course, Ben Franklin. For all soaps, the formula is the usual Stirling one, with Tallow, Lanoline and Shea Butter, which provides a great slickness and tons of creamy lather.

The sample is a generous one, I think it will last for at least 15-20 shaves. I personally like the round shape, which allows to keep the sample on one palm and lathering with the brush directly on the soap surface. Of course, the other common option is to pick a small piece of soap, put it in your favourite bowl and theh lather inside the bowl. Be aware that these soaps are quite thirsty, so don’t be shy when adding water!

So, what can I say about the scent? This is definitely a soap which needed some time (i.e. shaves) to be fully appreciated. I spoke about my sensations with my brother-in-shaves Aaron and we both agreed that the scent reminds of an old, English artisan’s boutique; an ancient, warm, spicy, old-world reassuring scent. A scent in which the frankincense, the benzoin and the nutmeg are clearly noticeable, with a slight hint of lime (this was suggested to me by Aaron, at first I didn’t pick it up), too.

Two fragrances came to mind when trying Ben Franlin: Sartorial by Penhaligon’s, for that old-shop feeling, and Barrister and Mann’s Beaudelaire (which is much stronger, however).

Tested with both DE and Straight razors, with both Badger and Boar brushes, the soap performed great every time.

Since I don’t have any Stirling After Shave, every time I use one of their soaps I need to find a good matching aftershave (which, I must confess, it’s a task I love 🙂 ).

For Ben Franklin, I found these to work great:

  • Extròcosmesi FràRinik
  • Krampert’s Finest Bay Rum – Acadian Spice
  • Captain’s Choice Bay Rum

Overall, Ben Franklin has become a new favourite of mine, thanks to its unusual but really pleasant scent and its awesome performance. I wouldn’t define the scent as a crowd-pleaser, though. IMHO it’s a scent for those who like to sit back, relax and let their minds wander, thinking about past times.

Links:

Ben Franklin Shaving Soap

Krampert’s Finest

Extrò Cosmesi

 

 

SOTD 7th December 2018 & Man Of Siam Thai Ginger Zest Soap Review

Hi – you know how it is when you travel, especially as I do a lot, and find yourself in a shaving wilderness – scouring the pharmacies and stores in the vain hope that you might, just might, find something other than Wilkinson Sword or those terrible Japanese and Korean brands of shave gel? Well I found myself in Thailand and as I do I started my quest for shave products – local stores – nada. Pharmacies – nada. Not even a pack of razor blades only the same old dull disposables. So – back to the hotel and onto Google – the usual searches for soap, razors and so on. I googled “Shaving Soap Thailand” and about 5th from the top a result catches my eye: Man Of Siam – I quickly go to the site and note that they have shaving soap made in THAILAND – wow!! I am here for another 4 days so I quickly email the site and get a response from Jack, the site owner (strange name Thai bloke eh?…Actually, the He is a She named Nittaya…) that they have stocked out on the Thai Ginger Zest but they do have the other soap Cadwgawn . I quickly do a deal with Nittaya to buy both soaps and have them shipped to my home in Hong Kong once they are BOTH back in stock. . So – it was with baited breath that I received them this week. Safely packed and shipped all the way from Thailand. I wanted to try them both but opted for the first one I noticed, the Thai Ginger Zest. My other shave line up was:

  • Rigarazor 8/8 near wedge
  • Van Yulay Black Bowl
  • T-400 brush with the old faithful 24mm silver tip head
  • Proraso preshave cream

Prepped with the proraso and bloomed the soap a little – it is quite a hard soap definitely not a cream. Maybe what they are calling a ‘croap’. Prep over, razor stropped and I am ready. I swirl the brush in the soap for about 40 seconds to load the tips then get down to lathering up. Wow – the lather is easy to make (soft water in my place but Nittaya tells me that hard water is okay too). Within 30-40 seconds I have a nice bowl full of delicious lather. I lather up and its a winner – the fragrance is not overpowering, nice ginger zing with a citrus grapefruit background note. First pass is WTG and is so close that I decide to do a second ATG and then a third ATG. I am sat here with a nice fragrance doing this review. All in all the soap is a winner and I can’t wait to try out the Cadwgawn.

Asia, where I live, is a nightmare for wet shavers who like quality products an we have to rely on Amazon and eBay or those trip to the US or UK where we can buy stuff from real shops! Man Of Siam is a welcome oasis in the desert and I will be back!! Follow the link and see for yourself Nittaya’s range of quality shaving gear from Muhle and others as well as these superb Thai made, all natural ingredient, soaps.

 

LINK: Man Of Siam

 

SOTD 26th November 2018 – Mystery Soap, TWO brushes and a found copper bowl!! – Oh and an iKon x3 Slant bar

Today I made a mistake. I packed two brushes for travel. My trusty Alpha T-400 with a white horse knot and also my Jayaruh #215 with a boar knot harvested from an Omega – I forget which one…

I prepared the shave with 3P cream. I want to stress this cream is a whizz-bang pre-shave and also a miracle cream that can be used for shaving, preparing, aftershave and all-sorts – even sunburn and mosquito bites!! Here is how it is described:

The 3P Pre-shave is rather like prep but more of a thinner cream rather than a whipped cream like Prep. 3P also can be used for cooling sunburn, treating mosquito bites as an aftershave balm and – well according to the packaging it is a miracle cream!! – I get a menthol kick, nice and cooling sensation with a whiff o ammonia. it is nice. Here is a description of it….

Get your 3P HERE

(3P Prepara – Preserva – Protegge)

Fresh scent of camphor and peppermint oil.

3P Cream makes your hair smooth and supple.
The shave will thus be avoided for the benefit of shaving and skin irritation.
Provides smoother shaving and prevents irritation.
Can also be used instead of foam and shaving cream.
Suitable for all skin types
Experiences to 3P:

If you have ever had the pleasure of enjoying a traditional wet razor by an Italian champion Barber, you will surely know the importance of pre and post creams.
The shaving preparation always starts with a few hot towels, combined with a pre and post cream.

The three most popular are Proraso Pre and Post Cream, Prep Pre and Post Cream, or 3P Pre and Post Cream.

Although all three are similar in principle, of course everyone has its fan community.
3P refreshes a bit more with the camphor and peppermint oil as opposed to the others.
3P effectively prepares the face for a smooth and sexy shave.
3P is also an excellent aftershave balsam; Simply massage a little on the finger and into the still moist face.
3P provides protection, moisture and helps to treat small cuts.

Thanks to the small and resistant plastic tub, you can also take 3P with you in the hand luggage when traveling or in the gym.
TIP:
Many Italian men use 3P as a stand-alone shaving cream, especially with strong or those with heavy and sensitive beard hair. 3P is also a shaving foam, a true all-rounder

So, back to my story – two brushes – so I decided to use them both AND to make use of an item I found in my hotel room, – a beautiful hammered copper bowl. You might say what use a bowl that is 1. Not meant for lather inadvertent 2. Is not your own. It might harbor germs and all sorts right? Well no – copper is a natural anti-bacterial. That is why it is often used for drinking vessels. So I DID was the bowl and then lathered up with both brushes.

  • Bowl: Found copper bowl
  • Brushes – as above
  • Soap – mystery soap – brought a container of soap but have no idea what I put into it!!
  • Razor – iKon x3 Slant Bar
  • Blade – Feather on shave #2

Superb DFS – 3 passes and a super-slick lather. I loved every moment of it!! The lighting was also perfect in my hotel room and I found a handy mirrored table on which to take some arty-farty shots!!!

The true November Shave – Extròcosmesi 2/11 Soap and Solid Perfume Review

(Featured Image courtesy of Alessandro Horvath, Italy)

I know, I know, this wasn’t announced and some of you may be wondering “Where are the Stirling reviews?”. You’re right, but in the meantime I spent a wonderful Sunday in Settimo Torinese, near Turin, Italy, with Donato Ciniello and many Extròcosmesi friends, and grabbed my 2/11 Soap and Solid Perfume combo (plus a limited-edition Pirates soap+as combo, which I’ll review in the next weeks). I guess I’m biased, here, since Donato is a true friend to me, and I literally love his products (with probably 1-2 exceptions, in a range of almost 30+ soaps), but as soon as I smelled the soap, I instantly knew that another masterpiece was added to my shaving den.

A bit of background here: 2/11 (sorry US people, European notation used here :P) is known as All Souls’ Day, hence the graveyard theme of the label. Moreover, the main scent note of the soap is Cypress, and we all know that cypress is, well… the graveyard tree by definition. For those who love cinema, and the spaghetti-western genre in particular, there’s another curious fact in the soap art. A grave with the name Arch Stanton (*). Does that ring a bell? 🙂

The product comes, at least in the first batch edition, in an elegant glass jar, and it can be considered like a croap, more on the hard side. It’s almost black colour is another plus, to me.

The product description reads (translated from Italian):

“First edition of the 2/11 shaving cream. enriched with neem oil, Q10, elastin, shea butter. The soft lather it produces has an intense cypress scent. This shaving cream does not contain essences; the fragrance is given by the essential oils of cypress, rosemary and lemon balm.”

Is the description spot on? Absolutely Yes. Is the product as good as it seems? Absolutely YES, YES, YES!!! Q10 and elastin had already been used in another favorite of mine, Extròcosmesi Bay Rum soap, which gave me some of the best shaves with my straight razors, leaving my face as soft as the bottom of a baby.

2-11 RM

Very easy to lather with the brush directly on the surface (even with my Simpson Duke 3, which from time to time gives me trouble), the scent literally explodes once the soap is lathered. The cypress is definitely there, as well as the lemon balm, which personally made me think of Captain’s Choice Lime AS, while the rosemary is more in the background. Slickness and cushion are great, as almost every Extrò soap, as well as the post-shave feel. It’s very difficult to find any con, with products of high level like this.

The matching Solid Perfume is, for now (AS to be expected soon), the logic pairing after the shave. The scent is very close to the soap, personally I find the lemon balm to be more present. Longevity is good, although I wish it was a bit longer. I have to be frank, I prefer the old good classic bottle of AS to this.

Overall, another winner by Donato Ciniello, who is one of the greatest Italian artisans in the Wet Shaving scene.

Price: 21€

Available at Extròcosmesi, Settimo Torinese, Italy.

Extròcosmesi Website

(*) The Good, the Bad and the Ugly by Sergio Leone, 1966.

 

 

Finding Cape Verde

SOTD with Mickey Lee Cape VerdeEarlier this year I ordered a tin of Mickey Lee Soap Works Cape Verde shaving soap. This was my first experience with a Mickey Lee shaving soap and I can tell you for sure it will not be my last.

First let’s talk about this interesting scent. The description mentions lavender, orange, and tangerine (among others).  So I was thinking lavender and citrus orange which are scents that I really enjoy.  But this is not the way I would describe what I actually discovered when I tried it.  Taken all together this concoction reminds me more of the Asian star anise spice.  If you’ve ever had a good Vietnamese Pho (a type of soup) in a Vietnamese restaurant, that’s kind of how it strikes me.  Chalk this up to my very novice olfactory sensor and maybe you who are more discerning would be able to relate the smell much better with the description than me. At any rate, I am not complaining in any way about the scent of this soap, I quite enjoy it.  To complement this scent I have been using Stirling’s Sandpiper AS.  Sandpiper is more of a versatile cologne for me and it seems to work well in this case.

Lather

This is a tallow based lather and I found that it is one of the more thirsty soaps. But I also found that with the right amount of water added, I was able to produce a very nice cool whip density lather without much effort at all.  In fact, I was easily able to create a sufficient amount of lather in my bowl with 2 or 3 loads of the brush.

I would rate this lather as providing a good cushion and nice post shave feel.  All in all, I really enjoy the lather and look forward to trying other scents in this line.

Economy

I would rate this soap as average in economy.  It loads and lathers up easily but seems to use a fair amount of soap in doing so.  But this is not a hard knock.  You will get very many good shaves out of the plastic tin.

Conclusion

Mickey Lee is an excellent shaving soap.  Cape Verde is a very unique scent.  You might prefer it more in summer but I am enjoying it now even in the winter as well as summer.  They do not have nearly as many scents as some of the other artisan soap makers but with a killer tallow based lather, it’s clear that Mickey Lee has a solid soap to expand upon.  But I’m definitely going to try anther one of their scents and I’ve got my sites set on The Kraken to try next!

Details

Soap Mickey Lee Soap Works, Cape Verde
Brush Semogue 2000
Razor Rockwell 6c, plate 4
Blade Supermax Super Platinum
After Shave Stirling Sandpiper

Review: Local Gent Shaving Co – Tobacco Lounge Shaving Soap

As anticipated, this soap has been waiting to be reviewed for a long time. Oh, I wish I had tried it earlier! Once the plastic film containing the soap was removed, the scent came to life, strong and manly (I left the soap to dry after my shaves and it acted as a home fragrance).

The artisan describes it as: “The Tobacco Lounge was a true creation of inspiration. Love having a nice cigar from a Spanish cedar lined humidor while relaxing in a old leather club chair? Then this soap is for you! we have created a custom blend to give you a fresh and sweet musk to create those sweet highs and smoky low notes with the feeling of being in a classic cigar lounge. Does not get more manly than that!”

The cigar and tobacco notes are there, a soft and sweet musk note is there, too. Regarding the last sentence, well, we might object that there are other soaps in the market (I think of Midnight Stag by CFG, for instance) that are definitely manlier than this.

For those who like to make comparisons, this soap reminded me of a great soap, Cognac and Cuban Cigars by Henri & Victoria. The overall scent is quite similar.

How did this soap performed, scent apart? I tried it with both my 5/8 Jaguar (my straight razor of choice) and my Muhle R89. With the Muhle I used two blades, a terrible one (a Personna, clearly a defective one, since they are usually very good) and a favorite of mine, an Astra Green. With soaps which come with no container (a slight con, here) I usually either put them in a bowl or in my left hand and perform the lathering directly on the soap surface.

In every shave the soap provided a great protection to the skin, ensuring the right amount of glide and a great post-shave. Even with the terrible blade, the soap helped me to avoid nicks and cuts.

My suggestions for an AS to pair with this soap are the following:

  • Extrò Tabacco
  • Figaro Dopobarba Splash (100ml edition)
  • A Bay Rum (St. John’s, Acadian Spice, Captain’s Choice Bay Rum and CO9T)

Overall, I must admit that I had no high expectations about this soap, but I was proved wrong. It performed very good and outperformed some other soaps I bought during my honeymoon (I won’t mention them), soaps of more praised brands. I think Local Gent Shaving Co. deserves more recognition, since it’s not a brand I’ve seen often in the various FB groups.

Ingredients:

Water, Avocado Oil, Castor Oil, Coconut Oil, Shea Butter, Stearic Acid, Vegetable Glycerin, Potassium Hydroxide,Sodium Hydroxide, Bentonite Clay, Fragrance and Essential Oils

More reviews to come…

In the next weeks I’m going to review a bunch of Stirling Soaps (see picture) as well as the only remaining soap to try from my honeymoon wet-shaving shopping (October 2016), that is, Local Gent. Shaving Company – Tobacco Lounge. If you’re asking why did I wait 2 years to try it, well… I don’t know! 🙂 Probably the scent from the puck is not strong and inviting enough, but…who knows? Maybe I’ll be proved wrong 🙂

The Stirling bunch includes some of the most loved scents in the whole range, like Ozark Mountain and Stirling Gentleman, while Ben Franklin looks like an outsider which could be a nice surprise to me. We’ll see! 🙂

SOTD 6 November 2018 – Gillette Tech and TOBS Avocado – Van Yulay Bowl First Use

I know I am late posting this, but just did not have time to upload the photos to my Mac and so on. So here it is…

  • Lather – TOBS Avocado
  • Prep – 3P
  • Razor – Gillette Tech
  • Blade – Feather
  • Brush – Alpha T-400 batch #1
  • Knot – 26mm HMW
  • Bowl – Van Yulay Honeycomb type

I prepared properly with a nice face wash, no special soap, and then applied a nice layer of 3P whilst I soaked my brush in tepid tap water (no really cold water here – I am in Thailand on business at the moment). I slapped in about a teaspoon of the TOBS soap into the VY Bowl and started lathering. I tell you this is going to become one of my regular bowls. I have had it a while, months in fact, and had not used it once. Today was THE day. The bowl not only has the ridges to help lathering but also a repeat of the same honeycomb on the rim at the bottom so there is NO chance you can drop this bowl even with wet hands. It is a resin material too so I am sure almost unbreakable. The honeycombs inside also retain a little water so you don’t have to dip so often and all in all it was a superb bowl and I lathered up with a super thick, teeny-weeny bubbled lather and started shaving. A simple 3-pass – the usual WTG, XTG and ATG.

The Gillette tech and feather blade combo just mashed through the growth – seriously this inexpensive razor just does what it says on the tin – it is superb, just heavy enough, grippy handle – all in all a very satisfying shave. The TOBS Avocado cream soap is one of my go to soaps too – I love the fresh, green, vegetable fragrance which to me smells like cucumber and not avocados although it does have the slickness of an avocado mash.

The story behind the Tech… – I bought a set of two Bakelite shaving stick tubes from a lady in Australia – she now only sent me the tubes but also a leather case to keep them in and nestling inside a little compartment was the Gillette tech. pictured here [I emailed her and told her and she said “good luck, no charge!!” – so this razor was FREE!!!

The Pro Proraso Brush

Today was a simple, but extremely enjoyable shave. I’ve used Trufitt & Hill products many times, but not with a very awesome, and super affordable brush; the Omega Pro Pros aka, the Omega Proraso Boar 🐗 which is the brother to the #48 professional, but with more backbone, and a lower loft. This brush happens to be part of Omega’s professional lineup. The handle whilst being thermo plastic has a great hand feel which is fairly large in circumference, as well as a nice loft, and damned if this brush isn’t filled to the brim with dense natural boar hair.

I always soak any brush for 3-5 minutes for the hair to absorb as much water as possible, and the follicle to expand as much as possible; making it softer, and more likely to splay, and really pick up and whip up a substantial lather.

The dimensions are IMO very nice coming in at,

Height : 133 mm 

Loft : 65 mm 

Base : 64 mm 

Knot : 28 mm

Making the Proraso Professional fairly balanced between loft and handle, though the handle is full in hand, and that fully stuffed 28mm knot is dense, and full of backbone. After about a dozen or, so shaves you’ll notice the break in and will load the hardest French tripple milled soaps with ease.

The rest of my shave went without a hitch. I appreciate you taking a moment to look at this short review of a top notch brush, at a $10-15 price point. Keep smooth my friends.

  • Pre: hot shower with Musgo oakmoss soap
  • Prep: Proraso White
  • Soap: Truefitt & Hill Trafalgar
  • Razor: Fatip Nero
  • Blade: Bolzano (1)
  • Brush: Omega Proraso Professional
  • Aftershave: Pinaud Gents Gin
  • Lotion: Trufitt & Hill Trafalgar Balm
  • Fragrance: Burberry Brit