02-19-2018, 06:51 AM
#1
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I've been a "lurker" on TSN for some time, actively using the BST, but not posting as much on the forums here as other sites.  I've been doing extensive soap reviews on a couple other online forums, and thought I'd try and get to know this community by reaching out and posting them here.  Hopefully some folks in this community will find them useful.  As the title states, there are a lot of soap reviews involved, so it may take me some time to post them all in the thread.  Feel free to comment, agree or disagree with my assessments.  I'm always interested to hear what others' experiences are!  Here's the background:

This all started with a massive soap "pass around" on another forum which gave me the opportunity to pick from and shave with over 100 soap samples.  In addition, I own a bunch of soaps and decided to include them in the comparisons as well.  Along the way, a few friends and forum members have sent samples to get my assessments, so the whole thing has kind of snowballed.

A word about my reviews... They are not intended to give an analytical blow by blow of every element of each soap. I've tried many soaps, and own more tubs than I could use in several years right now, so my goal here will be to find the soaps I like most and compare them to the ones I own and enjoy in order to see if there are a few I love enough to add to my already somewhat excessive inventory.
As such, the two factors I'm seeking in a soap are:
1. I love the smell. -- For me, there are many good soaps that can provide a comfortable BBS shave given good technique. Therefore for me to consider a soap I have to love how it smells before I consider its performance. Because of my allergies, which can make it tougher than usual to smell things at times, I also want the scent strength to be high. YMMV.
2. It has to have "comeback sauce" - in other words, when I finish my shave, I want to think "Wow, I want to shave with that again soon". Several performance factors play into that, but if they all don't work together to create a great shaving experience then it won't get any love in my den. Onward and upward...

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 02-19-2018, 06:53 AM
#2
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SPOILER ALERT... Since the list of soaps and reviews keeps growing, I've put an up to date summary sheet here for easy reference.  Feel free to check back on it for the most updated results.  Having said that, if you haven't read the reviews yet, I'd encourage you to skip it and come back later, so you don't spoil the fun.

RUNNING SOAP REVIEW SUMMARY
I've tried to rank the soaps in order of "enjoyment" which is kind of a nebulous term that combines performance, scent, and the overall experience of using the soap for me, for whatever reason. YMMV.

KEEPERS - These are soaps that are actually in my den, and deserve to be there for the foreseeable future. I’m not claiming that these are definitively the “best” soaps (YMMV), but they are the ones I like the best, and are graded accordingly.  Following this is the list of soaps not in my den. You will note many of these are rated as highly (and some higher) than the soaps in my den, so don't discount them either...

Grade A+ (Truly Outstanding)
Wholly Kaw - This soap may actually be flawless. Rich luxurious lather (that won’t break down no matter how much water you throw at it) provides superior cushion with plenty of slickness. From a performance standpoint, it honestly lacks nothing. Well crafted scents that are reminiscent of French perfume/cologne, which may narrow its appeal a bit to some.
Grooming Department - This soap is neck and neck with Wholly Kaw for me. Great lather, great overall performance, unique scents, and moisturizing properties. It is virtually flawless. Several bases exist (duck fat, tallow, tallow and duck fat, sheep, vegan), and though I think the tallow is the cream of the crop (I typically prefer tallow soaps by a wide margin) I honestly think even the vegan is better than virtually every other tallow soap in my den. I'd recommend picking a scent you like and going with it. Along those lines, the scents are more varied and with less "perfume/cologne" vibe going on than Wholly Kaw, so this is a "best of the best" soap that might appeal to more folks.

Grade A (Excellent)
Barrister and Mann - Rich, dense lather, good protection, and extremely unique, complex scents make this soap an absolute first string pick. Each scent is very different. Warning: scents can be "hit and miss" and some can be very polarizing.
Stirling - Fantastic slickness sets this soap apart from almost every other soap in my den. Combine this with really good good lather, good protection, better than average scent strength and tons of scent choices (cologne, fruity, herbal, etc), and you’ve got my “go to” soap that I measure all other soaps by. Scents are often more straightforward than complex. Generous (1 oz.) inexpensive samples also make trying new scents easy, making this the "best bang for the buck" soap out there in my opinion.
Tallow And Steel - Another "first string" soap that performs similarly to the others in the category. Looking forward to sampling several scents in the future to give a more thorough review.
L&L (Declaration) Grooming - Shaving head to head with B&M, it’s hard to tell these two apart. I’d say this is a tad less “risky” in terms of scents, and MAYBE a tad more moisturizing. Definitely another first string performer.
Lisa's Natural Herbal Creations - Maybe this soap gets overlooked because it's a long name. Whatever the reason, great lather and great scent put this up there with the best of them for me. This one was a surprise "dark horse".

Grade A- (Great)
Saponificio Varesino - This hard soap has a mild, clean, upscale and sophisticated cologne scent and is a good all around performer. I think other soaps graded similarly perform equally well for less money, but this hard puck will outlast them, evening thing out. This soap doesn’t outperform quite like the A+ or A ranked soaps, but the A- are really top notch soaps that I’m very happy to have in my den.
Sudsy Soapery - A soft soap which provides an irritation free shave and great moisturizing. Although some of the scents don't line up with my tastes or the gaps in my den, I’ve found the Lavendar & Peppermint and the Delor De Treget collaboration with Chatillon Lux to be really nice additions to my den.
Chiseled Face - Nice creamy lather (midway in between dense and slick), good overall performance, and very unique, creative scents (Santa Paula and Ghost Town Barber are favorites). Also, my skin is smooth and soft after using this soap, providing a nice post shave experience.
Wet Shaving Products (formula T) - A good all around performer with unique scents (Mahogany, Black Amber & Vanille, and Blackbeard are favorites.) I prefer the performance of the Formula T (tallow) base, and would bump the Rustic (vegan) down a grade, but it’s still a solid choice. Apparently, the formula is an MdC knockoff with similar performance but different scents.
Jeeves of Hudson Street - Another artisan that combines really solid performance with well crafted scents. Their barbershop is an especially rich scent and their bay rum is quite non traditional (to me, in a good way).
Crowne and Crane - This artisan falls in the same sweet spot for me as WSP and Jeeves. Like WSP, I prefer the tallow, but their vegan Tobacco & Amber scent is great and definitely den-worthy.
Soapy Science - This is a soap that resulted from a girl named Hannah's 8th grade science fair project. She now has her own soap brand and uses 10% of her profits to fund charities. I don't know how she did in the science fair, but the end result is that this soap holds its own alongside some really well respected soaps in this category. 
Cella - Really? Cella? Yes, Cella. While there may be better, fancier, more gourmand soaps out there, this formula and scent has gone unchanged for over 100 years for a reason. It performs way better than its price would indicate delivering rich, thick lather and excellent performance. A solid choice for anyone's den.

Grade B (Very Good)
I Coloniali - Mango - Great scent, but unobtanium and expensive. The lather is very slick but not very dense or creamy. Despite my first shave with this soap being quite underwhelming, I found a puck and enjoy shaving with it. Would I shell out $30 again for another puck? Probably not, but I’ll definitely enjoy shaving with this one while I have it.
[b]CRSW (oliva) [/b]- I own two soaps from Cold River Soap Works (Citrus Paradisi and Jeff’s Soap). They are excellent performers, and I enjoy them both. I've tried some of their new Glide base (their premium line), but it just doesn’t do it for me at all. It’s more like a cream than a soap, and didn’t really outshine the other formulas for me. (FYI I’m the minority view on this one.) Anyway, this soap is still a very solid keeper.
K-Shave Worx - I wasn't familiar with this soap, but another shave enthusiast PIF'd it to me for evaluation. It's a vegan soap that sells for $10 shipped online. How good can it be, right? WRONG! I've only got the one scent (Hump Day) but it's strong, citrusy and unique, and it lathered up better than most soaps in my Den. Really good overall performance 
TOBS (cream) - Unbeatable, creamy, foolproof lather and so many fantastic scents (Jerymn St, Peppermint, Grapefruit, Mr Taylor, the list goes on and on...). My first "real" shaving cream continues to deliver for me in pure enjoyment of use.
The Shave Den - A solid performer with good lather good cushion and decent slickness. Lacks a bit of residual slickness, but is on par with a number of good artisan soaps. The barbershop scent is unique and outstanding.
Catie's Bubbles - Really unique scents. Given the right one (Waterlyptus is an all time favorite), the performance of this vegan soap is solid enough to be a keeper. Having sampled so many good artisans, though, there are better options out there if you don’t happen on a scent you love.
Shannon's Soaps - Anybody who can mix grapefruit, bay and patchouli into a unique scent I like has immediate credibility and respect in scent making as far as I'm concerned. Having said that, I was not overly impressed with the lather of this soap and find it difficult to create a rich, thick sustainable lather for me. I felt the blade a bit more than normal too. Good face feel, though. This one is currently a mixed bag for me.
Jabones by Luna - This is a soap produced by an artisan in Spain and is a bit difficult to acquire. I’d rank it in the middle of most artisan soaps in terms of performance. I happen to LOVE the toasted coconut/buttercream scent of Coco, but based on performance alone it’s probably not worth the trouble of tracking it down. If you see a scent that intrigues you on a BST, though, it might be worth giving it a shot.


Grade C+ (Better Than Average)
Pre de Provence #63 - This hard milled soap smells really great and unique. Like a French Perfume, only not too feminine, if that makes any sense. I really like the unique smell which is not like any other soap in my den, but you really need to dial in the lather to get good slickness. This soap is currently in the den, but I may eventually trade it out for something I like more.

SOAPS THAT DIDN’T MAKE MY DEN - There are some excellent soaps on this list.  For one reason or another, they didn't end up in my den, but many are ranked higher than some in my den that I just happen to like. I have graded them as above. (YMMV)

Grade A+ (Truly Outstanding)
Panna Crema Nuavia - This, in my opinion, is a top tier soap with outstanding performance and great scents. My favorite is Blu (kind of a spicy Italian Cookie Vibe) followed by Verde (a bit more aquatic vibe). Having said that, it's $60, comes in a fancy crock, and does not offer refill pucks. Since both Wholly Kaw and Grooming Department can be had for one third the price, come in a myriad of fantastic, complex scents, and have performance on par (and arguably better) than this soap, it's an honorable mention for me.

Grade A (Excellent)
Eufros - This soap whips up easily into a nice thick lather, which provides great slickness and cushion and a good overall performance along the lines of the other soaps I grade an A like Declaration Grooming. Having said that, the scent Dama De Noche was rather "meh", leaving this soap lacking in "comeback sauce" for me, so despite being an outstanding performer, it ultimately won't end up in the den.
Boellis - A relatively expensive Italian soap that is excellent overall. Think Cella but a grade better. A more refined scent with great lather and great performance.
Antica Barbieria Colla - Another expensive, but excellent Italian soap. To me, almost identical to Boellis, but less cherry note to the almond scent, a tad lighter scent, and a bit more expensive.
Sudsy Soapery - An outstanding overall soap which provides an irritation free shave and great moisturizing and outperforms some of my "keepers". Unfortunately, the scents don't line up with my tastes or the gaps in my den.

Grade A- (Great)
Van Yulay - I've only shaved with one scent of this soap, so I really don't have a sense of what they are all about, but performance is great. I'll have to try some more over time to really determine where this one stands overall, but so far, I'd assess it as a very solid all around performer with a pleasant scent.

Midnight and Two - Nice scents (I prefer a little stronger), good lather (I prefer a little thicker), good slickness, great face feel and moisturizing properties.
Reef Point - Solid overall performance. "Clean cologne" scent profiles that are unique and different. (Submariner is a favorite.) Some are hit and miss.
Panna Crema Pure2O - From a performance standpoint, this is a really good soap on par with my A rated soaps. Disappointingly, however, this soap doesn’t excite me nearly as much as those other soaps that do “wow” me with some element (slickness, scent, lather, etc.)
Mike's Natural - A good performer which I'd be tempted to add to then den, if it were not for an "off" scent in the base, which is very distracting to me. Some scents of the soap overpower this, and some don't but I can detect it throughout the line. (Orange Cedarwood and Black Pepper, and Lime are favorites, strong scents, & relatively unaffected).
Mickey Lee - This soap makes a good lather, but doesn't have quite as much slickness as my favorites. The Kraken is a great scent, that to me is definitely worth trying for yourself.
Santa Maria Novella - From purely a performance standpoint, this very soft "croap" deserves to be ranked higher. It's as good as they come, providing rich, creamy lather, along with great cushion, slickness. Where this soap falls down for me is on scent (almost indiscernible to my nose). If you're a purist for performance it might be worth $70. For me, it doesn't deliver enough "comeback sauce".
Oleo Soapworks - This is a tough one for me, because this is a duckfat soap with great performance and really strong, enjoyable scents. (Not too complex but still pleasant to my nose.) I really like it a lot. Why is this tough? Well, so far, three scents of this soap I've tried have all irritated my skin (the only soap in this thread that has). No idea what's causing the irritation, but I can't use it. Bummer.

Grade B (Very Good)
Le Pere Lucien - This soap lathers with less water than any soap I’ve ever used. Slickness, performance and post shave is good, but the scents are just OK to me.
Storybook Soapworks - This one almost made me pull the trigger. Unique Scents and good overall performance, but nothing to unseat my favorites at this point. One to keep an eye on if they come out with more soaps and scents for sure.
Soap Commander - Performance rivaling many of my keepers, and scents that are unique and pleasant, but didn't come out and grab me like some others do.
Sapone Di Paolo - This is a particularly good vegan soap, that, for me, holds up well against some good tallow soaps. Scent strengths and uniqueness is not up there with my favorites, but it performs admirably and is worth buying if you find one up your alley. This company is upgrading their formula (to include a tallow offering) and rebranding to the name "Eleven". It's one to watch.
Tiki - Solid performance with some really unique scents. The Fougere is fresh and bright, as is the Set Sail fragrance. My favorite is the Spice Island, a unique spicy mango scent.
Big Easy Soaps - Availability can be an issue here, as the artisan runs an Etsy shop that goes in and out of stock, but the soap provides very solid performance. The Café Orleans scent, though, is something special transporting you to Cafe Du Monde with chicory coffee and beignets. If it's re-released I will buy it.
Turtleship - Good performance with simple, subtle scents (say that 10 times fast). I wish they were a bit stronger and more complex. 
Martin De Candre - A very good overall performer, but nothing jumps out as being "over and above" for me (especially at $70 per puck), and the scents I've tried don't excite me much.
Castle Forbes - Probably one of the best of not arguably the best cream out there as long as you like one of their few (but straightforward) scents.
Dr. Jon's - Another very good soap with good overall performance; again, nothing jumps out at me. The Hydra scent has a solid following. Aphrodite is also a nice citrus scent.
Viking - I find the Ragnar and Iceland scents to be standouts. Good performance, but nothing, beyond the scent, really separates them as exceptional. Having said that, Ragnar is my favorite spin off of Creed Aventus so far. I ended up mixing it with Stirling Executive Man to up its performance a bit.
Black Ship Grooming - Better than average performance, providing good slickness and protection. I haven't gotten to try most of the scents, but the Fougere didn't stand out as a keeper for me.
Wheat State - Not knowing much about this artisan I didn't expect much. The name is lackluster, the barbershop scent was mild. Upon lathering up, however, this soap produced really nice slickness and good cushion. Not one of my top soaps, but definitely better than average and worthy of consideration.
Obsessive Soap Perfectionist - A good artisan soap produced “across the pond”. Really solid performance, but nothing stands out above the crowd enough for me to buy it.
Long Rifle - Good overall performance contribute to buzz about this soap, but it’s not as slick as my favorites. The scents are unique, but don’t really line up with my tastes.
Mitchells Wool Fat - This is a controversial rating, as this is an iconic soap that is purported to perform well, but scent plays a big part in the experience for me, so a lightly scented or unscented soap isn't going to make the den unless its performance absolutely blows my other soaps out of the water. It didn't.
Wet Shave Obsession - Zaro - A good (but discontinued) soap that produces thick lather and good overall performance, but a bit drying post shave feel. The "fougere" scent actually smells like caramel to me, which, ironically, was what I liked most.
Dapper Dragon - A solid performer that hangs in there with others in this category.

Grade C+ (Better Than Average)
[b]Fine [/b]- Clean cologne scents that I enjoy. Good performance, but the soap doesn't stand out like my favorites do. Platinum and L’Orange Noir are really fantastic scents that still tempt me to buy them anyway.
Soap Smooth - This soap has really nice scents and better than average performance. Unfortunately, most vegan soaps don't perform as well for me as tallow soaps, and this one is no exception. However, if you are a big vegan soap fan, I'd recommend Soap Smooth.
Tabac -Another iconic soap, but I just can't get past what my wife refers to as the "old man smell". Others call it "grandma's purse" scent. Either way, it's not making the den. On pure performance, this soap is probably a B. On smell it’s an F. I gave it an overall C+ to keep people from flaming me.
Arko - I'd put this one in the same category as Tabac. Really good performance with a scent that doesn't excite me so much. If there was an award for best performance for the least money, Arko would do a "mike drop" at the awards ceremony. Just don't expect a spa-like experience from the shave, more like a "dishwashing soap" scent that gets the job done.
Body Shop Maca Root (cream) - This cream whips up easily into a rich, thick lather and provides for a good shave. Slickness and cushion are average, and lack residual slickness or a unique scent has convinced me to give this cream away in search of more good stuff. It's a good product, just not a standout for me.
Phoenix Artisan Accoutrements - PAA is one of those soaps that performs just fine, but nothing really stands out above the pack to me. I'd put them on par with Razorock, but with a myriad of scents that I think have bases covered. Like Razorock, I find the scent strength to be a bit weak and numerous scents are copies from other manufacturers' that I find to be a bit less complex and enticing than the originals. If you don't lean towards stronger scents, though, they are a great one-stop-shop.
Razorock - Overall, these soaps lather quickly & easily, but I find performance to be average, and scent strength to be below average. The scents also skew a bit towards a "European Cologne" vibe that don't tend to do it for me. Because different soaps marketed under the Razorock brand name are made by different private label manufacturers, your mileage may vary on a soap by soap basis.
Ginger's Garden - An average soap which lacks a bit in slickness and cushion for me. The scents I've tried are pleasant, but relatively mild.
Mystic Water - This soap has many fans, but for me, I find the lather is not dense enough and the soap lacks cushion. I think I'm the minority view on this one, so many will probably disagree with me, but I’m just not a big fan of this soap.
Wild West Shaving Co. - Not a standout for me, and I felt like protection might have been lacking a bit. It's cheap enough that maybe it's worth a flyer if a scent intrigues you, but it won't end up in my den because the puck was way too small to use for loading a brush making the original package unusable, and I didn't vibe with the scents.

Rock Rose Apothecary - this soap is getting some buzz on the forums, so I'm probably the minority view on this one, but I get an off scent in the base (tallow I think) that really spoils things for me.  Many people apparently can't/don't smell this, so it may not affect you at all.  Aside from this, it's a pretty good overall performer, although it is a very soft soap which can do that "stringy thing" when loading.  Not a big deal, but just not my thing.
The Soap Exchange - This is an artisan soap out of Texas with interesting scents. Performance is decent, but I can't get over an off scent in the base which spoils the experience for me. Like some scents, it's not discernable to everyone, but it's very noticeable to me. If you're one of those folks who doesn't tend to detect those things, it's worth a try.

Grade C (Average)
La Toja - An Iconic shave stick that is convenient for travel, but really doesn’t stand out to me.
Palmolive - Same idea as La Toja, but with a bit more pedigree. Nothing wrong with either; nothing stands out to me, though.
Speick (cream) - Yeah, I know it comes from some remote part of a mountain in Austria where vestal virgins hand harvest the secret plant, travel the route used by the Von Trapps in the Sound of Music, bring it back to the Motherland and distill it into shaving goodness. While it does have the unique smell of the Speick plant, and the lore is worthy of a Grimm's fairy tale, when you strip it all down the German drugstore cream lacks any superior slickness or cushion, and is still just average.
Proraso (cream) - When I started wet shaving, I thought this stuff was the greatest thing since sliced bread; so much better than canned goo! It's still a favorite of many, but I don't find it a standout in performance, lacking as much slickness and protection as I've become accustomed to with some other soaps. It'll eventually leave the den with a PIF.
Pacific Shave Co. (cream) - This cream provides a good shave at a great price. A bit drying, but overall, if you're into bang for the buck, I'd put this one in the same category as Proraso cream.
Cremo (cream) - If you are looking for no muss, no fuss, experience with solid shaving results Cremo fits the bill. Personally, though, I don't find the shave particularly exciting or enjoyable. Slickness is great, cushion is OK, scents are mild and lackluster to me. The Bud Light of shaving creams. It gets the job done, but doesn't provide anything I really want to savor.
Nancy Boy (cream) - A refreshing, mildly cooling cream with good, but not stellar performance. Lacks a bit in cushion and residual slickness to me, but still provides a good overall shaving experience.

Grade D (Less Than Average)
Dirty Deeds - This soap smells great, and gave me a great shave. Having said that, it lathers about like a bath soap with big bubbles that dissipate quickly. So quickly, in fact, that I couldn't see the lather on my face for most of my shave.
Williams (modern) - It lathers for some, and not for others. It smells like soap. You can get a 3 pack for about $6 delivered. Performs slightly better than a bar of bath soap for me. Apparently the original Williams was better.

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 02-19-2018, 06:55 AM
#3
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First shave: Midnight and Two - Citrus Island

I'm a sucker for citrus scents and this is a nice one. Lathering up with a badger brush revealed this to be a thirsty soap. It created a lather about half way between the thickness of B&M and the slickness of Stirling (two of my core soaps). Good cushion, but I found residual slickness to be lacking until I added more water on my last pass, and the slickness suddenly showed up. I will probably shave with another M&2 soap in this box to dial it in a bit better next time. At this point I'd say this is a very good soap and on par with some of my favorites. Having said that, Stirling makes some fantastic citrus scents (Orange Chill and Pharoah's Dreamsicle among them) that are awfully hard to beat.

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 02-19-2018, 06:57 AM
#4
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Two Rule Breakers Force Me to Screw Up and Cheat

Got your attention now, right? OK, here's the story - I had made it a rule not to sample discontinued soaps, and only to use/review soaps from makers I already own (saving those for when the boxes were in transit), but today an unexpected rule breaker showed up in my review lineup... I Coloniali Mango. Since the opportunity to pay $60 for a puck of this soap came my way yesterday I decided to try and understand what kind of soap would make anyone crazy enough to do such a thing. Knowing the high cost of the soap, and the small size of the sample, I decided to bet that a hard soap like this needed very little product to whip up a good lather, so I gathered up the shavings from the bottom of the container and pressed them into my lathering bowl, figuring I'd leave the sample intact for others. Long story short, I botched the lather. I decided to make the best of it and add some more shavings off the sample, but at that point it was too late. Tried to salvage a face lather using what I had, but it was a crappy enough first pass that I decided to abandon I Coloniali Mango for another soap...


spoiler - Since writing this post, I purchased a puck of I Coloniali, and do enjoy shaving with it.  It's not among my top tier, but does have a unique smell and really good slickness.

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 02-19-2018, 06:58 AM
#5
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OK, my botched lather sent me back to a familiar soap. (I know, I'm cheating a bit here by reviewing a brand I am already very familiar with... but whatever.)

Anyway, I didn't expect to like Cheshire's scent at all (tea scented???), but it was intriguing enough after getting a whiff of the sample that I went all in on the experience. (For those of you not familiar with Barrister & Mann, their scents are unique, complex and very hit and miss.) Every one of them, though, whips up easily into a rich, thick lather which has made me a fan. Compared to yesterday's shave with Midnight and Two, the soap may have been a little less moisturizing, but the great scent and awesome lather gave me a little better "experience" and better than average results. It may end up on the "buy" list.

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 02-19-2018, 07:04 AM
#6
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The next soap up in the Box - Martin De Candre. I had shaved with this from a sample early in my wet shaving tenure and found it a bit "meh", but since I know a lot of guys rave about this soap, I figured I'd give it a try again now with some experience under my belt.

Well, it was better than "meh", but honestly nothing that really stood out over and above any of the soaps I enjoy most in my den. If I'd been given it in a blind sampling, it wouldn't make the top of the list. Is it a good soap? Absolutely. Just not a standout for me.

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 02-19-2018, 07:16 AM
#7
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Since my first experience with Midnight and Two was really only half a shave, I decided to give it a full run this morning with The Cabin scent. My experience with the full shave was similar to the partial shave. This is a good soap. I'd say this scent performed well in all areas, slickness, cushion, scent, etc. As in my first pass, the attempt to get thicker lather held back any residual slickness, so I wet my whole face and the brush and face lathered for the second and third pass. The lather needs more water than you think in order to get residual slickness, but thinning out the lather definitely gets it there. The only thing this soap didn't have for me is comeback sauce. If it were in my den it would make the rotation for sure, but right now I'm looking for upgrades, and I didn't find anything here that blew me away enough to part with $25 for another soap. I'm going to create a category called honorable mention that this one will go in. There are several soaps I already own that are honorable mentions; I'll use and enjoy them while I've got them but they don't have enough "comeback sauce" for me to go back for a second tub (in the theoretical world where I actually finish a tub of something). If this had been one of my early SAD acquisition soaps, it definitely would have been a keeper.

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 02-19-2018, 07:23 AM
#8
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Note - the next few reviews in this post were written in September 2017 with Hurricane Irma bearing down on South Florida, thus the strange reference to hurricanes in February 2018...


Well instead of sitting here wondering if hurricane Irma is going to hit us, I've decided to occupy my mind elsewhere and do a soap review of Mike's Natural. I did a sniff-a-thon with the scents in the box, and found that I preferred scent of Orange Cedar and Black Pepper as well as the Lime and the Vetiver. I will say that most of the Mike's soaps have an underlying smell in the base that I've smelled in other soaps (for example PAA, TSE, Dapper Dragon). It's not objectionable, and many people apparently are nose-blind to it (my wife included), but it is very noticeable to my nose. It comes off like a strong waxy/nutty fragrance that must be overpowered by a strong scent for me to enjoy the soap. Because of the strength of fragrance, I did not notice it in the Orange Cedar and Black Pepper.

Regardless, the performance of the soap (as with almost all the soaps I've picked so far) was better than average. Lather, cushion, and slickness were all good. The shave felt pretty comfortable, but the AS I put on burned more than normal, so I'm not sure what to do with that. Either way, it's hard to complain about a comfortable BBS shave by any stretch. I'm gonna put this one as my top "didn't make the cut" soap so far, but if I had this in my den, I wouldn't be looking to get rid of it by any means. Another very solid soap choice.

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 02-19-2018, 07:27 AM
#9
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OK, today was the first wildcard in the box that I tried. I have no knowledge or experience with the soap. It's Wet Shave Obsession - Zaro. It is supposed to be a Fougere scent, but the main (and only) note I smell is caramel. I don't know if it's an old sample, or something weird going on, but since I really love the scent of caramel, I figured I'd give it a go. Again, a solid soap. It whipped up into a very creamy lather that performed well in all aspects. Not my closest shave ever, but certainly nothing to complain about. My only mild complaint here, is my face definitely felt dry at the end, so the soap appears to be less moisturizing than the others I've used so far. Also the smell is nothing close to what is advertised. Also, this soap maker apparently has dropped off the map, so the soap is unobtanium. Between that and the dryness and the smell that doesn't match the description, I'll probably rank this the lowest of the soaps I've tried, but at this point we're really splitting hairs. So much so, in fact, that because of how much I liked the smell, I'd be very tempted to buy a tub of this one if one became available. The fact that I'd be willing to buy the lowest ranked soap should give you an indication of how good these soaps have been so far. In fact, there really hasn't been a bad soap in the bunch. 

Because of the storm, I'm going to try and get this box out today to avoid transit issues during the storm. In the meantime, I'll be shaving with and reviewing my own soaps that are also in the box for comparison. Bonus reviews baby!

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 02-19-2018, 07:31 AM
#10
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Sitting here on the green mile in South Florida I sent away box #1 ahead of the Hurricane. In the meantime, I'll be shaving with my own soaps which match brands in the box. Today was my first shave with B&M Leviathon, which I just got. It's not as strong as I imagined it would be, but I really enjoy this darker scent. It's really a blend of scents, but I the coffee is definitely discernible to me, with leather and a mild sandalwood scent intermingling in there. I gotta say, as much as I consider B&M a keeper in my den, it's mostly because of the unique scents and great lather. Would I say it dramatically outshines any of the other soaps I've reviewed so far? No. To this point, I've had the good fortune of trying and reviewing really good soaps.

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 02-19-2018, 07:37 AM
#11
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My next soap is Stirling. Full disclosure - I probably have more Stirling soap in my cabinet that any other soap, by far. Why? 1. It whips up a great, thick lather. 2. It can handle lots of water, and can be made crazy slick. Residual slickness is fantastic as well to the point that you could probably make another pass without re-lathering (although I wouldn't recommend it). 3. Most of the scents, although not too complex are strong and excellent. For example, this morning I shaved with Orange Chill, and the whole bathroom smelled like a fresh orange. Stirling is a keeper for me.

Seven soaps in, here's a summary so far:

Keepers For My Den
Barrister and Mann - unique, complex scents and rich, thick lather. Some scents can be polarizing.
Stirling - great lather, unbeatable slickness, and great scent strength. Scents are often not complex, but most are outstanding.

Honorable Mentions
Midnight and Two - nice scents...although they could be a bit stronger, good lather... although it could be a bit thicker, good slickness when watered down, great face feel and moisturizing properties.

Didn't Make My Cut (YMMV)
Mike's Natural - a good, solid soap choice. I pick up an off scent in the base, which is not objectionable, but very distracting to me with some scents.
Martin De Candre - a solid, well respected soap, but nothing jumps out as being really outstanding to me. Also a bit pricey.
I Coloniali Mango - great scent, but discontinued, too expensive, and I had issues with lathering properly. I'll re-assess at a later date. (The soap is currently unobtanium.)
Wet Shave Obsession - Zaro - Another solid soap choice. Good thick lather, good overall performance, but a bit drying post shave feel. The scent doesn't resemble Fougere at all to me, and smells just like caramel. Ironically, I like this smell enough to consider buying it if it were to become available at a reasonable price. (The soap is currently unobtanium.)

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 02-19-2018, 07:42 AM
#12
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Today's blinding glimpse of the obvious is that when you review a bunch of soaps, you think about the soap you are using more than you normally would. The funny thing about doing this with numerous soaps in succession is that you learn things you don't expect. For example, today I shaved with one of the soaps in my den that I fully expected to be a "given" among my "keepers". I have four tubs in my den, and it is a well respected soap that hit me as fantastic when I first used it, When shaving with it today, I'm tempted to put it in the honorable mention category. I'm going to hold off reviewing the soap until after I shave with some more soaps in the pass around, and then revisit it as I may have just had an off day.

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 02-19-2018, 08:44 AM
#13
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I'm kind of a lurker on one of the other forums you frequent, and do look at your review thread, as your reviews are thorough and well done... Plus, there are a whole lot of them!  Glad to see you in active participation over here.  Smile

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 02-19-2018, 12:48 PM
#14
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(02-19-2018, 08:44 AM)Shannon Wrote: I'm kind of a lurker on one of the other forums you frequent, and do look at your review thread, as your reviews are thorough and well done... Plus, there are a whole lot of them!  Glad to see you in active participation over here.  Smile

Thanks for the good word, Brian.  I'm pretty sure Shannon's was part of one of the early boxes of the soap pass around I participated in, but at the time, I hadn't heard of it.  Since then, I've heard good things about you guys.  Cheers!

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 02-19-2018, 12:54 PM
#15
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Today I shaved again with the mystery soap I last reviewed. It's Catie's Bubbles. I was much more careful dialing in my lather today and it did not disappoint. Rich and creamy with more than adequate slickness and cushion, and nice face feel afterward. Would I rank it better than Stirling or B&M for their unique strengths? No, but depending on the scent, it's certainly good enough to have a spot in the den. Today's selection of waterlyptus is one of my all time favorites. It's not complex at all, with straightforward delivery of what it promises: watermelon, eucalyptus, and peppermint. Last shave was Piment De La Vie, which is a scent I don't enjoy as much. It's a little more complex but doesn't make me say "I can't wait to use that one again" (i.e. comeback sauce). When the pass around box with Catie's gets here I will have to do some sniffing to find the best scents and make some trades. With the right scent Catie's is a keeper, but on performance alone I can't say that it outshines many of the soaps that didn't make the cut (admittedly all very good soaps).

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 02-19-2018, 12:57 PM
#16
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The last two days I went back to my roots. Taylor of Old Bond Street was the first non canned shaving cream I ever used. When I started DE shaving I bought a sample pack from Maggards and fell so in love with the stuff that I ended up buying 5 tubs of different scents. After SAD hit, I steered away from creams because of the massive number of soap options available with great scents and performance. After revisiting two TOBS creams over the last two days (peppermint/jermyn street), I'm reminded why I fell in love with it in the first place... the richness of the lather is absolutely unbeatable, it's foolproof to whip up and the scents are fantastic. Is it a better all around performer than several soaps that didn't make my cut? No. Having said that, I enjoy the experience of shaving with it more, so I'm putting at at the bottom of my "Keepers". I'll probably always have at least one tub of TOBS in the den.

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 02-19-2018, 01:09 PM
#17
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Today's contender out of my den is Chiseled Face. I have two scents - Santa Paula and Ghost Town Barber. Santa Paula smells exactly like the orange tree we had in our back yard when I was a kid. It's not really an "orange" scent per-se. It combines the smells of orange rind, orange tree bark, leaves, soil, etc. It smells exactly like I'm 10 again and climbing the orange tree in our backyard. If you didn't have that experience in childhood, I'm not sure what your reaction to the scent will be, but I love it. Ghost Town Barber is a tough one to describe. I didn't like it at first but it has really grown on me as a unique scent. Unfortunately, the name is probably as good a scent description as you are going to get from me. Today I chose Ghost Town Barber.

This is a softer soap, so my Thater silvertip loaded up quickly and easily, and made quick work of lathering. I'd say this is a lather is midway between "thick and rich" and "thin and slick". As much as I love the "thick and rich" feeling, I usually end up watering down my soaps a bit to increase slickness, and Chiseled Face hit's the mid spot just right for me. The result was a 3 pass BBS, which required no AS (I forgot to use it), but as of this writing several hours later, I don't feel the need for one. For me, Chiseled Face is a solid keeper with good performance and unique scents.

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 02-19-2018, 01:15 PM
#18
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This morning I shaved with Viking - Fro (vegan) - Ragnar. I got this sample as a "freebie" along with a brush I purchased from a member on another forum. I'm not normally much of a Cologne guy (in fact TOBS has the only cologne scents that I really have enjoyed at all until now). I have no idea how to describe the scent, but the Viking website says it is their take on Creed Aventus. It is absolutely fantastic. The performance of the soap was also quite good with one exception - it made my face feel dry when finished. This one is definitely less slick than my other Aventus clone - Stirling Executive Man, but still a pretty good soap.  On scent and scent strength, though, I prefer the Viking.  The "Fro" indicates the vegan formula for Viking, so I will probably hold off judgement on this soap until the next pass around box arrives with all the Viking soaps/scents including their tallow based soaps. I want to shave with at least another Viking product before passing judgement on this one.

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 02-19-2018, 01:20 PM
#19
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So not having had a lot of time to smell and test lather soaps, I chose Soap Commander for this morning's shave. I've consistently heard good reviews from guys I respect, so I knew it was a "must try". With limited time, I actually picked a scent "blind" from the description on the spreadsheet. It was Courage. Based on the description I was expecting a complex layered scent like a B&M soap, but the scent strength was a bit low and I didn't get much of that. Certainly a nice scent though. As for performance, I can see why this soap has many fans. It was easy to make thick, rich lather and it provided good slickness and cushion. I couldn't get it as rich as B&M or as slick as Stirling, but it easily occupies the 80% of the range in between the two, which is frankly where a good all around lather is generally made. Overall a great shave and a great product. At this point, whether it makes the second tier of my den or ends up an honorable mention is yet to be determined until I am able to sniff and test lather the other scents and find out if there are any I really love. I'll catch up my summary sheet once I get a little more info than the last two shaves.

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 02-19-2018, 01:23 PM
#20
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Thinking more about each soap and each shave has led me to a few conclusions:
1. There are a lot of good soaps out there. Although I'm making reasonably educated picks, I haven't reviewed a soap yet that I would toss if I owned it.
2. Performance, in my opinion, can actually be as YMMV as scents, and "ranking" each soap is totally dependent in what you value in a soap. For example, TOBS gives me the best rich, creamy lather imaginable but less slickness, as opposed to Stirling which gives great slickness but the lather is not quite as thick and rich as TOBS. Which do you prefer, or do you want a soap that allows you to make either kind of lather but is not a standout on either end of the spectrum? What are you shaving with? Are you using a DE and looking for an easy relaxing shave with great scent? Are you using a SR (or maybe a feather), and need more slickness? Do you like your lather thick and dense or wet and slick? Then what about face feel? I have skin that does not dry out and live in a tropical, humid climate. Unless I'm skiing in Colorado or at a conference in Arizona, I've never once thought about my skin needing to be moisturized. If I lived in either of those places, or had dry skin, I'd notice moisturizing properties a lot more and that would trump lather for me. As much as we talk about performance as being more "absolute" than scent, I think it's pretty subjective. Can we all recognize a soap that doesn't lather worth a dang, isn't slick and leaves our face feeling dry? Sure, but there are so many good soaps out there, if the soap has a decent following, chances are it isn't one of those. I guess my overall point is that reviews are great for finding out what the general feeling for a soap is, or if it has qualities you might or might not enjoy, but the only way to know if it works for you is to try it yourself. OK, now I'll get off my soap box and get back to the soap box.

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