10-29-2016, 07:33 AM
#1
  • nikos.a
  • Senior Member
  • Athens, Greece
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(in alphabetical order)


This is not another "top 5" or a "who is the best" thread. It's more of a preference thread. We all know that there are great artisan makers in both continents, no doubt on that.


On another thread a few days ago, I expressed my preference for French artisan soaps. It's a fact that there are makers in France that produce some of the best soaps available. Their scents are simple, nothing too fancy like some others, yet elegant and pleasant. I'm referring to Le Pere Lucien and Savon de Volcans products. I have a number of their soaps and I am very satisfied, not only with their scents, but especially with their performance. I prefer simplicity to complexity. Another fact is that you can use them exclusively for a long time without getting bored of them. For someone with a small number of soaps this is something.

In addition, I could never use soaps with overpowering complex scents straight for days. I also think that some artisans, Americans mostly, have gone too far. Their scents are so complex that you can never know what to expect from their soaps and that's a reason why many gentlemen prefer to buy samples first. The descriptions on their sites are not always accurate. I stopped buying that kind of soaps a long time ago. I am surprised by the fact that so many American artisans have launched their business last year, the long term feasibility of their venture is a thing that should aware them I guess, but that's a different discussion. As far as I know, European legislation includes a set of strict rules for cosmetics products and that's maybe the main reason why the European market has not been overflown by artisan makers.


Do you have a preference?

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 10-29-2016, 07:55 AM
#2
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My two favourite artisan soaps have been offering fairly simple and lovely scents for over five years, now, with one having a much larger selection and also a few more complex aromas and readily available samples: Mystic Water & Mike's.  Shy

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 10-29-2016, 09:03 AM
#3
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Honestly, yes. Fantastic soaps being made on both sides of the pond, but I lean more towards North American soaps as they tend to be a better value (cost less).

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 10-29-2016, 09:08 AM
#4
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I agree wholeheartedly with the OP. CRSW being the exception, most US-made soap scents are over the top and some are just down right awful. Quality is generally WAY below what I've acquired from Europe. 

People tend to tout the "value proposition" of US-made soaps. I tend to think of it as "you get what you pay for." 

Very glad to see this thread here...

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 10-29-2016, 09:09 AM
#5
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(10-29-2016, 09:03 AM)david1201 Wrote: Honestly, yes. Fantastic soaps being made on both sides of the pond, but I lean more towards North American soaps as they tend to be a better value (cost less).

This is my view, also. If I were still living in Europe, I would be buying soaps, from there, as they would be less expensive.

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 10-29-2016, 09:12 AM
#6
  • Agravic
  • Super Moderator
  • Pennsylvania, USA
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(10-29-2016, 09:08 AM)nervosa1901 Wrote: I agree wholeheartedly with the OP. CRSW being the exception, most US-made soap scents are over the top and some are just down right awful. Quality is generally WAY below what I've acquired from Europe. 

People tend to tout the "value proposition" of US-made soaps. I tend to think of it as "you get what you pay for." 

Very glad to see this thread here...

Agreed, 100%.

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 10-29-2016, 09:15 AM
#7
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Like everything else, there are good and bad in all grouping that we form. We each have our opinions as to what makes a soap good or bad. I could tell you mine, but after my next shave, it could change.  Smile

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 10-29-2016, 09:25 AM
#8
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I'll add one more thing... Some of the names that soap makers come up with here for their products borders on the absurd... Nothing to do with quality, but it has dissuaded me from trying certain products I otherwise MIGHT have given a shot...

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 10-29-2016, 09:29 AM
#9
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I noticed this when paring my soaps and creams down significantly.  I was left with mostly European products.

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 10-29-2016, 09:30 AM
#10
  • Agravic
  • Super Moderator
  • Pennsylvania, USA
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(10-29-2016, 09:25 AM)nervosa1901 Wrote: I'll add one more thing... Some of the names that soap makers come up with here for their products borders on the absurd... Nothing to do with quality, but it has dissuaded me from trying certain products I otherwise MIGHT have given a shot...

While I appreciate and encourage new and distinct products, I am truly disappointed with the the plethora of 'me too' products, labeled and presented in a nonsensical manner.
I've been around for awhile; I say, stick with brands that are trusted and valued by legitimate people.

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 10-29-2016, 09:33 AM
#11
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I might fit the description of a person with not so big range of products. I now own 20 odd different soaps/creams acquired in last 7-8 months of research,picked after reading the reviews on the nook primarily. Small humble collection.

I am using B&M, MW on the American side and I coloniali, Jabonman, ABC, MWF, Castle Forbes(on the cream side) from EUROPE and find all these products good in performance and quality.

On the scent profile too, I can't rate one better and ignore the other. Both sides are fiercely armed up to teeth in what goes on their products. Am referring to B&M, I Coloniali, Jabonman here.

I have to try few more artisans from both of these corners though. Csrw, Mikes, Pannacrema are on the list.

You may be right on the price of the products (US products being priced lower) but when it comes to shipping charges I find European artisans to have scored better points. They are honestly value for money. In my case I have emptied many a carts after seeing the shipping costs, which were bombs from USA.

I enjoy using all the products with the same passion and vigour. No bias. Rate and use on merit...



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 10-29-2016, 10:08 AM
#12
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I generally prefer European products, there are 2 or 3 American craftsmen and one Canadian that I lovely.

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 10-29-2016, 10:30 AM
#13
  • chazt
  • Senior Member
  • Bayside, NY
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Yes Nick, many scents can be overpowering. I started with big name brands such as Proraso and Mitchell's, and found them to be reasonable in terms of strength of scent, but I also had no frame of reference to compare them with. Then I started buying B&M soaps, probably 8 different flavors, plus unscented. Will's scents were definitely an acquired taste. Now, after a few years of experimenting I've narrowed it down to just a handful of scents that are pleasing to me, and also to my wife who has developed a negative sensitivity to most of my soap scents. As a result, 90% of the time I use only unscented soaps these days.

Performance-wise I least prefer the LPL probably because my skin seems to like tallow based products. Otoh it's in my rotation, and I've used it for the last two weeks now. A little seems to go a long way - it lasts a really long time, imo. Truthfully, I don't detect much difference in performance between the softer unscented tallow soaps such as B&M, Stroppe Shop, Shannon's and Mystic Water. They all seem to lather equally, and have very similar post-shave feel (just my opinion, ymmv). With respect to the harder unscented soaps I use and enjoy (a lot) Valobra and AoS which are basically the same as far as I know. I find these soaps quite pleasurable to use.

I get all the scent I need (and my bride's nose can tolerate) from my P-Red pre-post balm, and the occasional use of an alcohol based aftershave such as Proraso, Pinaud and Aqua-Velva. They're classics for a reason and the scents are quite tolerable when used in moderation. In terms of soaps per se, it's hard to use them in moderation when you're talking about loading them sufficiently to create enough lather for 2-3 passes. The scents are built in and as such it's not possible to regulate the strength of the scent.

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 10-29-2016, 10:32 AM
#14
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I feel some American artisans have it going on. There are a few that I use regularly with great results.

But....

I feel most American popular brands are wayyyyy overhyped and less than mediocre.

Unfortunately these artisans like to keep them self in the public eye and new guys get sucked into the hype.

Terrible scents and so so soaps. A lot of people think that if it lathers easily it's good. Not the case at all in my opinion.

I use more European soaps than anything.

But my chosen American artisans are here to stay!

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 10-29-2016, 10:39 AM
#15
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(10-29-2016, 09:09 AM)celestino Wrote:
(10-29-2016, 09:03 AM)david1201 Wrote: Honestly, yes. Fantastic soaps being made on both sides of the pond, but I lean more towards North American soaps as they tend to be a better value (cost less).

This is my view, also. If I were still living in Europe, I would be buying soaps, from there, as they would be less expensive.

I'm looking forward to testing my Mike's Natural, that is about to cross the pond just now.
Will probably try my first Mystic Waters later in February probably (I think I'm getting a couple or 8 pots for my birthday  Wink )
 

Celestino, I'm curious - when did you make the move to Canada, and did you move from Portugal ?

Was it work related or because you met your wife/partner in Canada ?

Sorry for going OT in this great thread  Thumbup

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 10-29-2016, 11:11 AM
#16
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Great thread, Nikos  Thumbup

I own a number of Europen and US made artisan soaps, and if I was asked this question in 2014, I would have said I vastly prefer European artisan made soaps.

Now It's more even.

I have 3 US artisan soap makers, that I really like: CRSW, Caties Bubbles and B&M; 
then I have 1 other artisan maker from Canada, that I like for their fair prices and they still perform quite well for me: RazoRock

Scent wise, CRSW and Caties Bubbles have really wonderful classic scents, and their performance are fantastic.

B&M is what I would call the niche house of shaving soap scents. I agree, that their scents can be over the top, for some, but I also must admit, that I really like B&M for that fact, that you really get a special take on scents in their shaving soaps. 

RazoRock makes very affordable shaving soaps, some with clone/copycat scents, but I still respect the brand, even though I at times have been provoked over how they made clone after clone of other popular scents. Performance wise RazoRock is not my favourite, but they perform quite well.

I do fee European shaving soaps are a bit more conservative in their scent profile, some would call that boring other would call it classic scents, that never goes out of style.

If Savon des Volcans didn't come in these childish looking small containers, and their soap were easily removeable from the containers, they would still be in my collection, because they perform excellent and their scents are great.

My preferred artisan soap brands from Europe are: Nuavia, MDC, SDM, Klar Seifen (is this an artisan ?), Wickham 1912, Haslinger, Saponificio Varesino, LPL and my overall favourite artisan Tabula Rasa.
I also love Castle Forbes, and since they produce their 3 creams on their own facility, it could be called an artisan product too. Castle Forbes is top notch.
Another one is Esbjerg, don't know where this is made, but it's made under license by Esbjerg, a small vendor from Europe, so I think esbjerg also is an artisan made cream - but not sure. What I knopw for sure is that Esbjerg creams performance is excellent.

The we have the Norwegian Fitjar and Brutalt Bra - I never quite liked the tiny flimsy tins Brutalt Bra came in and it was a gooey soaps, so not easy to tranfer it to another container.
Fitjar I tried 3 cream from in 2012, and they did not impress me at all. They should be back now, and I will test them later this year to see if their soap and cream have improved in performance.

The we have the new aritsan, that did not do his home work properly - Kerry at Phoenix & Beau.

I'm still impressed with the performance of his soaps, and have yet to smell the amonia in any of the 9 soaps I have owned from him.
But the problem with correct curing process will hang over his head for the next years, and it will be a uphill climb to get back on the right track for him - but I still think his scents are very nice and quite advanced and as said lover the performance of his soaps, which is almost Tabula Rasa like on my skin.

Don't know if Antica Barbieria Colla is an artisan product, but their soap and especially their cream is FANTASTIC, if you can accept the italian almod/marzipan scent.

Baume.Be from Belgium is arguably among the best shaving creams I have ever used, up there with Xpec, Acqua di Parma and Castle Forbes. But what a weird fresh veggie scent it has.

Finally we have Mitchell Wool Fat - a classic, and still made at his home facility. I would still call it artisan made. Not my favourite, because it takes extra work to use, but when you get the lather correct, it provides you with a wonderfull shaving experience.

OSP from the UK I still have yet to test, but have heard only good things about this artisan brand.

So I have more European brands in my collection, than North American made brands, but performance wise and scent wise, I think they are equal in my opinion.

I might give the nod to Europe, but it's only by 60/40 in Europes favour.

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 10-29-2016, 12:09 PM
#17
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My education is in Economics and I absolutely love watching the dance between artisan USA, Italy, France, etc.  its fun to watch the effects of exchange rates and shipping costs on pricing.  It's also interesting to watch my own tastes change over time.  I'm fascinated watching other members determination of preferences.  Examples in this thread are Celestinos choice of basically one soap and Claus' decision to own ALL top shelf soaps from every maker.  Pretty cool stuff.  As for USA soapers over doing it?  I say shoot no!  Some days I want a scent free Valobra and the next I might want Sterling Texas on Fire (pretty weird) And every day I want an artisan to have the ability to give business a go, sink or swim.

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 10-29-2016, 01:00 PM
#18
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(10-29-2016, 10:39 AM)CHSeifert Wrote: Celestino, I'm curious - when did you make the move to Canada, and did you move from Portugal ?
Was it work related or because you met your wife/partner in Canada ?
Sorry for going OT in this great thread  Thumbup

My parents, my brother and I immigrated to Canada in 1971 when I was four, but I lived in Paris for 11 months in 1990 and have been back to Portugal, many, many times throughout my life, enough for me to feel extremely comfortable in Portugal/Europe whenever I go back.   Biggrin

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 10-29-2016, 01:47 PM
#19
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(10-29-2016, 01:00 PM)celestino Wrote:
(10-29-2016, 10:39 AM)CHSeifert Wrote: Celestino, I'm curious - when did you make the move to Canada, and did you move from Portugal ?
Was it work related or because you met your wife/partner in Canada ?
Sorry for going OT in this great thread  Thumbup

My parents, my brother and I immigrated to Canada in 1971 when I was four, but I lived in Paris for 11 months in 1990 and have been back to Portugal, many, many times throughout my life, enough for me to feel extremely comfortable in Portugal/Europe whenever I go back.   Biggrin

Thanks, my friend.

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 10-29-2016, 01:53 PM
#20
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I'm another who will agree with the OP. When I often read or hear comments that a soap's scent is weak (e.g. Only a 5 out of 10!) or comments hyping up another over-engineered seasonal, I'm not surprised by some of the trends with newer American artisans.

These are businesses, and many feel pressure to respond to customer demand/feedback. The European artisans seem a bit more insulated from this. If someone said to me that my tastes are boring, that's fine. I'm just glad there are some companies that are making what I consider to be subtle, sophisticated scents.


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