07-30-2012, 02:47 PM
  • Dave
  • Moderator Emeritus
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This is the seventh interview in a series with the artists, authors, craftsmen, and vendors who make wet shaving great. Todays interview is with Brian Krampert, the maker of Krampert’s Finest Bay Rum

Bay Rum Aftershaves are among the most polarizing scents in the shaving world. Some folks love it, and some folks just don’t care for the smell. There are several varieties and scents of Bay Rum and my interview today is with the creator of what I feel is the best Bay Rum around: Kramperts Finest Bay Rum. Most Bay Rums are a bit drying, but Brian’s Bay Rum does something that others do not, it actually moisturizes your skin as well. I’d like to thank Brian for doing the interview.

Give us a bit of 'Brian History" if you don't mind

Well, I was born and bred in NJ, went into the Army from 70-73, and spent 2 1/2 years as an Airborne Combat Engineer in West Germany and was a member of the Battalion Recon' Team. After the Army I knew I'd grow bored with school, or kill myself partying, so I went directly into industry where I commenced to get bored there instead. In a few years I worked my way into low level management. I had a year of college from the Army, and I also got a technical degree in Dental Lab; the making of appliances for the mouth: false teeth, dentures, and the like spent some time as a Police Officer in NJ and then in Maine, but I'm getting ahead of myself. The wife had some money in the bank during the Carter years and for those who remember that time we had the impossible...stagflation. She was watching her savings being eaten away with 20+% inflation. I persuaded her to buy some land to let the worth of the land inflate along with the currency. It turns out we'd been vacationing in Maine every summer, and loved the state, so the choice of where to buy was obvious. A year later (1980) we were camping on the land (approx 40 acres), and we were not more than 5 minutes down the interstate on the way back to our home. I turned to her and asked, "Does it somehow seem out of kilter that we love this state and our land and dislike where we live and are returning there just for our jobs?". We made the decision to be out of NJ in a month. Thirty days later saw us on the land we still live on, with our
camping gear, a picnic table I pre-fabbed in NJ and bolted together when we arrived, and a dining fly to cover it. To make a long story short, the move worked out, and we slowly carved a place of ours out of land in rural Maine. Over these years we went from quite rural Maine to having folks come up to our doorstep, or so it seems in comparison. Our land feeds us, heats us, and it allows me to pursue one my hobbies that I've had since I was a boy.

I spent 23 years in a paper mill as a blue collar worker. If you handle or read magazines and you're in the USA you've undoubtedly used the coated paper that they make. The majority of those years I spent working in the test lab, testing pulp fiber for quality. I always had a love affair with science since I was a child and it was a good place for me and I learned a lot when I was there. Little did I know I'd use what I learned in the lab after retirement.

At 55 I'd had enough of industry and I took the exit with an early retirement. Now when people ask me what I do, I respond, by telling them, "Anything I please.". I made myself a promise that I would never again do anything if I didn't want to do it. So far I've kept that promise to myself. If it's fun, I do it; if not, I don't. I don't easily take on anything with a responsibility attached because if I do, I know myself very well; I'm married to it and I can't just walk away.

One of my loves has always been firearms (to my city parents consternation). One of the things that having that amount of land allows is that I have a handgun range and a 100 yard rifle range on our property. Because of my lifelong love of shooting, in retirement I sent myself to classes to learn to instruct others in safety and the use of firearms. I hold Certified Instructor ratings in Home Firearm Safety, Pistol, Personal Protection in the Home, Refuse To Be a Victim, and I'm also a Range Safety Officer. In years past I'd competed in the various shooting sports so I took up the game of Action Pistol shooting in retirement. Think extreme handgun shooting; shooting from positions, reloading on the run, etc.. Great fun. There's only one way to have more fun, and that's done horizontally. In keeping with my philosophy of "It's the Indian, not the bow.", I deliberately compete with one of the cheapest out of the box Model 1911s available (AMTHardballer) and I've had great fun when folks ask me, "What the heck are you shooting!?", and I show them. A $200 gun compared to their $2000 gun. :-) The look on their face is priceless.

In retirement I have so much to do. Things that I did before, but I wonder now how I ever had time, and in fact, I didn't. I just did enough to keep my hand "in it". I enjoy vegetable gardening, dogs, we now have poultry, Buff Orpington chickens and guinea fowl. I enjoy photography, I'm a DIYer, and I built a 2 story 24' x 32' shop where I do light metal working, welding, woodworking, and anything else that I think would be fun to tackle. Shop projects fill in the cold winter months and it's my "Fortress of Solitude"; anyone who is married knows what I mean. I like to cook, and I love BBQ, and just to draw the distinction, I also like grilling. And that's Brian in a nutshell.

What is your ideal Wet Shaving Setup?

I dislike this question every time "the best of" comes up. That's because I feel so inadequate because I really don't have one "best of", except in a general sense. I'll try to give you a feel for that. I can use pretty much anything and get a decent shave and grow to like pretty much anything. With a few exceptions; Colgate Mug Soap and mild razors. I use Boar brushes and there has been just one that I didn't like and reknotted, but lots of folks before me didn't like that specific brush either- I was the 7th or 8th possessor of that specific brush. I have a few Badgers that vary in both size and hair grades, and I like them all. Some I never thought I would like before first trying them and judging only on looks. If you had asked me this best shave setup question 2 weeks ago I would have said that the brush must have backbone. After using an Omega 599 silvertip with incredibly little backbone I can no longer make that claim. I just accept the brush for what it is and work within its limits. Except of course, for that one problem brush; it was clearly just wrong. Soaps and creams... I've had problems with just one so far, and I flushed it down the hopper. Turns out I may have been using it incorrectly (Colgate mug soap) but I'll never know. All the rest of my soaps and creams I like and use. I'm a tinkerer and the Lab Tech' that is in me is continually coming out, so part of my ideal setup is finding off the wall items to use for shaving.
It's part of that fun thing that I promised myself. My latest resounding success has been finding an ordinary glycerine bar soap from the supermarket that's really quite good as a shaving soap. When I write in the SOTD "mentholated glycerine soap" or "Bay Rum glycerine soap" it's that soap that I'm using that I modified for myself.

But you want to know about my ideal setup. We know it isn't a specific soap or brush that does it for me. There are just too many that are outstanding, and I love the art of shaving far too much to settle down there. I really like aggressive razors. For me that's the key to a really fine shave setup for the day. I love the extremely close shave they provide and the exfoliation. The mildest I use (milder razors are stored away) is the Gillette Old and a Gillette New LC. I especially like the Slim and Fatboy, and
they never come off of setting 9 except to exercise the mechanism, and the Muhle R41. That's it for DE razors in my rotation. I have quite a few SE razors, and I love them because some of them are quite aggressive. All of my favorites certainly are.

I have a handful of blades that I've found in my testing over the past 1 1/2 years that I really like. My favorite DE blades that I've purchased are Gillette 7 O'Clock Yellow Sharpedge, Med Preps, and in SE, GEM SS PTFE coated blades.

OK, so my ideal shave setup consists of an aggressive razor, either DE or SE, any brush, but a fantastic thick, creamy lather that is very cushiony, slick and protective. Brian SharpSpine and I call it an Ultralather. I take my time and make it right, close isn't good enough. Lather is a very underrated part of the shave IMO. Again, there's that fun enjoyable thing showing up. I love the act of face lathering and producing an ultralather. The razor for my ideal setup is more than midway toward the aggressive side of the scale, and holds one of my best, sharp yet smooth, blades. I always nail a 2 1/3 pass BBS when these factors align, and it does pretty much everyday. My ideal setup changes almost every day though. It's very rare that any one specific
ingredient of my ideal setup is used on a consecutive day. Of course I finish the shave with an after shave that I designed for myself. That's on part of my shave setup that is more or less constant.

Speaking of Single Edge Razors, what are your favorites?

You have no idea how glad I am that you didn't ask which was my one favorite. You probably are too after the shave set-up question.

Right now my favorites are the GEM OCMM and the GEM 1912 patent family, of those,
specifically the Jr and the 24 model of the 1912. They shave so similarly that I can't discern a difference between them. Between them the 24 is far better looking and if I had to pick a favorite child that would be the one from the 1912 patent.

I have 2 full size lather catchers and I really like those because I simply like the looks of a lather catcher and I always have. They are among my favorites because it's just too cool to shave with razors that old and I really enjoy the connection to the past. They can be a bear to shave with though. They really require a very light touch and concentration.

For those who haven't used a SE razor, they are actually easier to use because it'll talk to you and tell you when it's working. They are loud when you have it right. Yes, I know you didn't ask that Dave. I just want other folks to enjoy shaving as much as I do.

What factored into your decision to make Bay Rum?

I decided to make bay rum because of the memory I have of the old time barber shop I went to as a child. This barber shop had high ceilings with ornate tin work on the ceiling, high cast iron radiators, lots of outdoor magazines, and other mens magazines (not the "mens magazines" of today, that is, girly magazines), and lots of old gents who watched out for the kid. That kid would be me.

I'd get lost in a magazine and in the general feel of the place and the scents and sounds. Anyone who's ever been in one of these old time barber shops knows exactly what I mean. The old gents would always let me know when it was my turn.
Well, anyway, I'd get my haircut and after that the barber would use his straight razor on me to finish up the edges. He'd shake this magical elixir out of a bottle that looked as though a genie could almost spring out of it. Then he'd slap it on my just shaved skin. I loved the scent, but it was all too fleeting and I always wished that the scent would last longer. It was remarkably soothing too.

Wind up to a little more than a year ago, 50 years later. I'm not much for artificial scent of any sort, so I'd been using witch hazel on my face after every shave and all of a sudden I remembered the barber and that fantastic smelling elixir. I felt that I had all the knowledge I needed to actually make something similar and the quest began. I have eidetic imagery of the scent in my brain and I knew the goal I wanted: to bring the scent up to date, yet keep that great old time scent, and make it soothing and moisturizing. Just for myself you understand. But that wasn't to be as it turned out.

Please take our readers through what it takes to get an Aftershave from your “Fortress of Solitude” to shavers and on to vendors

Boy, was I naive! I knew nothing about that! Still don't. I can only tell you what happened to bring mine to market. I know absolutely nothing about sales and marketing. But what little I know I can boil it down to a few words... People who believe in the product is
what brings it to market. It's that simple. Their perseverance does it. In my case it wasn't even my perseverance when I look at the history of KFBR.

I started to make the Bay Rum for myself exclusively, but I liked what I made and handed it out to friends. They liked it and made suggestions to make it better. Mostly, they just liked it. They were the first folks who bought it, and not at my urging. When they ran out I'd make up a price and supply them for as near as I could figure that it cost me to make it. OK, what I charged them was just a WAG.

After test batches, and refining the formula, and more test batches, handing it out to more people to get their opinion, eventually the samples just connected with the right people. But that's always been the story of my life. That's what happened during our move from NJ to Maine and why it was successful. I was on another forum and sending out samples; one gent I PIFed a complete starter shave kit to along with a sample of the bay rum. The next thing I knew he was contacting me to ask if I had a website, bottle label, all sorts of things. He liked the product and decided it needed to be sold, not given away for free, and he wanted to help me.

He was unemployed and he built my website for me from scratch; he wrote the code. He also designed my bottle label. I sowed the seed, but he ran with it. As I wrote, the story of my life. BTW, he's still my webmaster. He uses my site to show off his talent, so it's been a win-win for both of us. If it hadn't been for him I wouldn't have a site and the label on the bottle wouldn't exist. He has talent that I don't possess. But I was still handing out samples, some folks on this forum got them, and it was the gentle
prodding of folks here that ultimately was instrumental in my sticking to it to make it marketable. Naive! Hah! I didn't even know the meaning of the word! At one point I began selling it but hadn't figured on the BATFE. I was buying over the counter rum, paying my tax on it and I thought that was it. Heck, everything was OK with the Maine Bureau of Alcohol, but I never even considered the Feds. They get involved because of the Commerce Clause. Then I caught wind of maybe something that needed to be done on the federal level. Uh oh! I stopped interstate sales immediately and continued with retail sales within Maine.

I called BATFE and got in touch with a recording that sent me a bunch of forms. I did my best to fill them out, and got help from the University of Maine, but they would need to be filled out every quarter or some such "if I wanted my alcohol tax back". That was the key. I didn't. I didn't want to bother with forms, I didn't know if I had even had all of the forms, and I wanted no part of it. I was willing to let them keep the tax to just leave me alone. But there was no one to ask if I could do that. I suppose I could have hired a lawyer to find out for me. But try getting answers from the ATF. There is no way short of going there. They are in Cincinnati (? Well somewhere in the midwest) and I'm in Maine. I wasn't going there just for that.

I decided life would be easier without any federal involvement at all. (My old paratrooper training;if you can't go over the hill, go through the hill, if you can't go through the hill, then go around the hill, but get it done.) Heck, I only wanted to make bay rum, I didn't want any of those other complications. I almost gave up and somewhere in the Parlor, here on TSN, is the thread about that. Here's where the gents of this forum gave a push. I think you may have been one of them Dave. I persevered and reformulated (more batches, more testing) to make it without rum. I'd given my word and I needed to get it done.

I probably should be on Facebook, but I really just want to make Bay Rum, and it's just too much of a complication to be bothered with Facebook. I'm not the best business person, but I think I may have already indicated that.

When I figure out what it takes to actually bring the product to market I'll let you know. Right now I'm happy shipping a few bottles through the website and letting Phil actually market it for me. I'd like to eventually see all sales go through BullGoose.

Phil stocking the Bay Rum is another case of having the right person in the right place at the right time. One of the samples I sent out struck the right person as being the right product for him and he decided Phil needed to be told about it. That gent is a member of TSN by the way. So one thing led to another and Phil stocks it. It was Brian "SharpSpine" who told Phil about it.

That's why at the beginning of this I wrote, "People who believe in the product is what brings it to market." . At least in my case that's true. I just wanted to make Bay Rum for myself, but it was like a snowball rolling downhill picking up speed and mass. Other folks were the movers on this. They brought it to market... Basically serendipity brought it to market. This is my way of thanking those folks responsible and my way of giving them credit.

I suppose I could work harder for more sales, but I'm retired, pleasantly so. The other thing it takes to bring an after shave to market is cash. I use another small business that I started a few years ago to finance the bay rum. I sell ceramic
fiber gasket to the folks who use ceramic BBQ cookers/grills. The small proceeds from that enterprise I've plowed into the development of the bay rum and it foots the bill for buying raw materials and the sending of samples. BTW, if you want to make money, you never want to get into a business where you sell something once and that's it for life. There is no repeat business to the gasket business- the product is that good- sell one and that's it. Mr. Gillette knew what he was doing by getting into a "repeat business". But I really don't do that for the money, so I'm notcomplaining. It's just a fact. Some day I'll need to figure out what I've spent and let the IRS know. Right now I just spend it.
It's the cost of bringing it to market.

What’s up next for Krampert’s Finest?

I'm considering making the Shave Enhancer available. It's on the Kramperts Finest site, but until I figured out how to solve the production bottlenecks I just couldn't release it. Well, technically it was for sale at one time. It's basically pure KFBR scent, and it took too much base scent out of production for me to actually sell any in the past. When it was for sale I priced it so high as to insure I never sold any. Now I can open up sales of it again. I did consider soap making at one point, but the Shave Enhancer was my answer to not really wanting to make soap. But Shave Enhancer is one of those things that I make for myself at this point. Until I get enough inquiries it really isn't worth buying bottles, etc. and placing it on the shelf.

I also have a menthol AS in the works. I can make it on a small very limited experimental scale now. But the problem is making it and keeping the same quality for many batches. That requires that I buy large industrial quantities of the ingredients, and that takes money. If I buy small quantities there could be too much fluctuation between batches, and I don't want to be known for spotty quality. I want folks to know that the product they buy a year from now will be the same or better and I won't compromise that. Every bottle has my name on it and when you think about it that's really all we have in life that's really ours- our name. Heck, the products I use in my daily shave comes from the same shelf that orders get filled from, so I have a vested interest in maintaining quality, or making something better. But enough of that.

I've had requests for a ladies moisturizer. That will be easier to formulate; it's just a matter of having the time to do it. I'm thinking something along the lines of YlangYlang scent but with maybe a few other items thrown in to enhance the performance of the moisturizer. I love doing that and folks not even knowing what happens in the background...one enhancement doing double or triple duty to make the product better.

I did that with the menthol. Most folks can pick out one of those double/triple duty ingredients but don't really know why it's there. Another ingredient is also there in that double/triple role but no one has yet picked it out but it adds scent complexity and enhances the moisturizer/soothing package.

Thank you so much for doing the interview Brian and thanks for giving shavers what I consider to be not only Krampert’s Finest, but the World’s Finest Bay Rum Kramperts Finest Bay Rum can be purchased from http://www.krampertsfinest.com or from Bullgoose at http://www.bullgooseshaving.net/krfiacspbayr.html Give it a shot, I think you’ll enjoy it. This is the first of 2 Interviews this week. Coming up later in the week is Bruno from Vintage Scent. I'll also have interviews with Juan from Gifts and Care, Mark from Vulfix (he did Simpsons, now it's time to focus on Vulfix), as well as a couple of others

116 3,804
 07-30-2012, 03:19 PM
  • Johnny
  • Super Moderator
  • Wausau, Wisconsin, USA
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Another nice article Dave. Brian, thanks for the insight in to your background.

180 24,749
 07-30-2012, 03:30 PM
  • beartrap
  • Resident Цирюльник
  • Southern California
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Very interesting read. Nice to meet you Brian. Excellent interview, Dave!

88 4,233
 07-30-2012, 03:59 PM
  • mikeperry
  • Senior Member
  • St Louis via the UK
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Dave, thank you for conducting the interview Smile

Brian, I enjoyed reading what you had to say Thumbsup

23 1,872
 07-30-2012, 04:53 PM
  • bullgoose
  • The Enabler
  • Redondo Beach, California, U.S.A
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Interesting interview. Thanks for the insight.

48 19,495
 07-30-2012, 05:11 PM
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Very informative & excellent information. Thanks to both Dave & Brian for taking the time to do this. The Finest Bay Rum & Menthol of Krampert is the only AS I trust on my face anymore. It's done a lot for me & I'm just glad that my sometimes not-so-gentle prodding of Brian repeatedly by PM has allowed many others to enjoy this great product. Now what's this you say about needing a Facebook page? I can help with that!

31 8,059
 07-30-2012, 07:24 PM
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An interesting interview and a very, very nice aftershave Biggrin

3 5,464
 07-30-2012, 07:43 PM
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Excellent interview, gents.
Dave, you are conducting some great interviews, my friend.
Thank you.

89 21,190
 07-30-2012, 07:52 PM
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Outstanding interview,well done Dave

Brian's story is a great read and Krampert's Finest Bay Rum the perfect grand finale to a fine shave.

7 413
 07-30-2012, 08:51 PM
  • gijames
  • Mile High Soldier
  • TN, USA
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Thank you Brian and Dave Smile

I love that about you, Brian. Finding a way to put your life experiences in your responses.

A great read!

Oh! one other thing, KFBR AS has been in my shave rotation just about everyday well over 2 months now.

My wife commented tonight that my acne scars are much less visible since spending the extra cash on my *face stuff*

Excellent product, Brian!

9 1,684
 07-31-2012, 04:50 AM
  • ben74
  • Senior Member
  • Perth, Australia
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Great article, thanks Dave and Brian!

101 18,029
 08-01-2012, 09:23 AM
  • skeptik
  • Active Member
  • The Piedmont, VA
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Once again, you have provided us with an interesting, informative and entertaining interview, many thanks.

0 295
 08-01-2012, 09:40 AM
  • Harvey
  • Senior Member
  • North Hills CA
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Great article with an accomplished man..who know..but people who get things done are not average. Love your interest in shooting..and backyard inventing...many happy productive years and have endless fun at what you do....Wow !!!!Cool

6 2,088
 08-01-2012, 11:03 AM
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I'm looking forward to receiving my bottle of Acadian Spice Bay Rum. Sounds like an awful lot of thought went into the formulation, but it appears that you were able to come up with something even Otis Campbell could use Wink

0 283
 08-01-2012, 11:39 AM
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That is a very well done, interesting and informative interview! Thanks to Dave and Brian for that. Krampert's Finest is the best bay rum - and the best aftershave - I have ever used.

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