12-26-2012, 05:17 AM
#1
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Last August, just before beginning 4 months of a pledge to buy no shaving products (sans one exemption item), I stockpiled enough such that were the shavepocalypse to come, I would have just enough to get me through the darkest, zombie filled days. Phil had just started carrying the Czech and Speake and, on a whim, I ordered the Oxford and Cambridge in the black bowl. I really had no expectations or preconceptions about the soap, but I knew I wanted that black bowl. (Side note: Phil mistakenly sent a blond bowl. When told of the error, he said "keep it" and I had the black one in two days. This is why when I buy something new, I prefer to see if Phil carries it first. He's the LL Bean of online shaving vendors.)

First of all, for those who care about the aesthetics, the bowl is wonderful. It's elegant in both appearance and feel. It's got a solid heft to it compared to the vintage wooden bowls that I own and the black lends a classy albeit ironic NYC cooler than you flair to my shave den. It sits nicely in the hand while loading the brush, though the finish is exceptionally smooth and therefore slippery...when wet. That would be my only knock on it, but I don't think I'd trade the look of the smooth finish for a better grip. Nope. Wouldn't do it.

The scent of the soap I have a hard time describing, but will try. MdC defines lavender for me and this is nothing like that. Using MdC's scent as a foil, the C&S is warmer and much, much more restrained and woodsy/mossy rather than floral. In my nose's eye, it smells like what someone wearing a dark grey pinstripe with a deep red tie and a bowler hat would wear on their way to a meeting in London's financial district. Elegant in a traditional way.

Does that help?

The short version is that I love the scent. Really love it. The other day I used the soap and no aftershave or balm afterwards and was surprised that I could continue to smell it faintly on my skin for a couple of hours afterward. A very pleasant discovery. Am now struggling with the desire to buy the Aftershave the price of which makes me gasp, but which I'm not sure I can do without.

As for performance, I remember my first time using it I wasn't terribly impressed. Not disappointed, just didn't notice anything different the first few times from the other premium soaps I use. Because of the scent, however, it remained in my rotation. (For comparison, the other soaps in the rotation are Calani, MdC,vintage Yardley, DR Harris (now retired and moved on),Klar Seifen, Proraso Red,Knize 10, Klar Kabinett. Also had some guest appearances from RR and Strop Shoppe and Cade)

Then one day I was able to put my finger on something different about the C&S. It was after watching an excellent video that VT_Hokie did on lathering soap. The lather I get from the C&S, always seemed to be slicker, shinier, wetter than the lather I got from my other soaps all other factors held constant. For the last week, I've been using the C&S every day to see if this realization held up under closer observation. I think it did.

When first generating lather with the C&S, one always gets that initial burst of very frothy lather which is useless. After about 30 seconds, however, it thickens quite nicely though I continue to load for about another 30 seconds. The lather that results always seems a little thinner, but denser and wetter than lather from any of my other soaps. It appears as if I can add more water, which I do between passes, without losing much soap and thereby gain a bit more slide. Again, the overall impression is one of more wetness, slickness and glide.

Keep in mind I'm far from an expert on this and nothing I've done so far can be considered scientific. In my opinion, however, the C&S is certainly on a par with the skin care properties of MdC and the scent rivals Calani Dubai which is one of my favorites. With those soaps, however, love was nearly immediate. Like a thunderbolt. The C&S crept up on me slowly and wormed its way into my pogonotomical heart like a quiet, shy woman who knows how to cook and keeps bringing you biscuits and pie. Next thing you know, you're full, napping and married.

The C&S, over a 4 month trial period, earned a permanent spot in my rotation. I've always thought that my desert island soap would be MdC, but now I'm not so sure anymore. I would probably pack the MdC, but sneak a small travel puck of the C&S into my pocket when nobody was looking.

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 12-26-2012, 05:38 AM
#2
  • EHV
  • Senior Member
  • Milford,PA
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Very nice review and much appreciated! Oake, Madison Ave. has nothing on you.

I've hesitated on the C&S soaps due to the high price but if they perform this well, I'm glad to take the leap.
The soaps in your rotation equal most of my favorites.

I've tried the O&C EdT and found it quite nice. Interestingly, I usually wear cologne/EdT almost every day and never get any comments or compliments. The day that I sample the O&C, I had several compliments.
If the soap is similar, that's surely an added plus. I do love biscuits and pie. Wink

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 12-26-2012, 06:38 AM
#3
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(12-26-2012, 05:38 AM)EHV Wrote: Very nice review and much appreciated! Oake, Madison Ave. has nothing on you.

I've hesitated on the C&S soaps due to the high price but if they perform this well, I'm glad to take the leap.
The soaps in your rotation equal most of my favorites.

I've tried the O&C EdT and found it quite nice. Interestingly, I usually wear cologne/EdT almost every day and never get any comments or compliments. The day that I sample the O&C, I had several compliments.
If the soap is similar, that's surely an added plus. I do love biscuits and pie. Wink
Eric,
Part of the reason I wrote the review is that I don't see many reviews of C&S. No one needs to hear what I think of MdC, Calani, Yardley etc. Others have described those much better than I ever could, but in the absence of information, some is better than none.

As for the price, no doubt that it's steep. 53 bucks for the puck and bowl and 38 for the puck alone. The large metaphysical question "Is it worth it?", I can't answer, because it seems a foolish question. On the one hand, it's 3 times as much as a tube of Proraso cream and over 40x a puck of Williams bought off Amazon. Can any soap be 40x better than another? Only if the cheaper soap has 0 utility (any number times 0 equals 0, right?) On the other hand. A puck of C&S would probably last me about 150 shaves, conservatively, and that's a quarter a shave. Would you pay 25 cents extra at a barber for him to use a soap you liked over one you were blase about? I would. To me, it's an incredibly cheap luxury and the C&S is one of the most luxurious.

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 12-26-2012, 07:42 AM
#4
  • oscar11
  • Senior Member
  • North Dakota
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Mark, I would agree with you, the C&S Oxford and Cambridge has an intoxicating scent and is a superb shaving soap. I have most of the soaps you mentioned and would have to say C&S doesn't take a backseat to any.

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 12-26-2012, 09:34 AM
#5
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Fantastic review of the O&C. I've had this soap in rotation for several months now, and despite the price, couldn't ever imagine now being without it. The performance goes without saying as any soap coming from Valobra is unlikely to disappoint. I much prefer this scent over the likes of MdC, subtle yet very distinctive. It does come at a price-I bought the soap in the grey aluminium dish, but it's a one off, will last, and puts the finishing touches to undoubtedly, one of the finest shaving soaps around.

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 12-26-2012, 10:35 AM
#6
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(12-26-2012, 09:34 AM)Optometrist Wrote: Fantastic review of the O&C. I've had this soap in rotation for several months now, and despite the price, couldn't ever imagine now being without it. The performance goes without saying as any soap coming from Valobra is unlikely to disappoint. I much prefer this scent over the likes of MdC, subtle yet very distinctive. It does come at a price-I bought the soap in the grey aluminium dish, but it's a one off, will last, and puts the finishing touches to undoubtedly, one of the finest shaving soaps around.

A friend who also has the aluminum travel case says that this container is the only guarantee that there will be soap after a nuclear attack. That doesn't mean, he continues, that it survives the malfeasance of a pissed off baggage handler.

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 12-27-2012, 06:03 PM
#7
  • Teiste
  • Moderator Emeritus
  • Salt Lake City,UT
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This is truly a great shaving soap.Valobre truly makes excepcional tallow based shaving soaps , and this also contains a better scent than the Art of Shaving ones.Actually , being so close in price (the AoS is 30 bucks for the refill , and the C&S is 36) , I will go for the C&S with no doubt on my mind , due to the better , more complex , scent.
I wrote about this soap here.

As I said , well done Valobra , very well done !

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 12-27-2012, 06:23 PM
#8
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I like this soap a lot, much more than their No. 88.

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 12-27-2012, 07:48 PM
#9
  • ben74
  • Administrator
  • Perth, Australia
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I really enjoyed reading this review. I recently ordered the no. 88 from Phil and now I'm thinking I should have order the O & C too...

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 12-27-2012, 07:49 PM
#10
  • ben74
  • Administrator
  • Perth, Australia
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(12-27-2012, 06:23 PM)churchilllafemme Wrote: I like this soap a lot, much more than their No. 88.

What don't you like about the No. 88... ?

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 12-27-2012, 08:11 PM
#11
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(12-27-2012, 07:48 PM)ben74 Wrote: I really enjoyed reading this review. I recently ordered the no. 88 from Phil and now I'm thinking I should have order the O & C too...

I also bought the 88 in the travel size, but haven't even tried them yet. Well, I shouldn't say "them" as only one is left. PIF'ed the other two. Am curious what others think about the difference in scent.

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 12-27-2012, 08:12 PM
#12
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(12-27-2012, 07:49 PM)ben74 Wrote:
(12-27-2012, 06:23 PM)churchilllafemme Wrote: I like this soap a lot, much more than their No. 88.

What don't you like about the No. 88... ?

I don't actively dislike the No. 88. But its online sales description says: "No.88 has a fresh, woody top note of reviving and uplifting bergamot, the richness and warmth of geranium, rose otto, cassie and exotic frangipani. Combined with dry base notes of vetiver and sandalwood, this modern classic has a full-bodied, sophisticated sensuality." However, what little scent it had when I first got it in its black bowl rapidly disappeared, and now all it smells like to me is clay - slightly. It still lathers beautifully and has great skin care properties, but it has hardly any scent at all.

The Oxford & Cambridge, on the other hand, is described: "Oxford & Cambridge, a traditional lavender fragrance, is a fresh and invigorating scent evocative of the English countryside, varsity matches and the great British sporting tradition. It contains a blend of English and French lavender, topped with herbaceous peppermint and rosemary essential oils with bergamot on a base of warm oak moss." And to me it has a nice subtle and complex scent, not overly lavender, which lasts throughout a shave.

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 12-27-2012, 08:22 PM
#13
  • Johnny
  • Super Moderator
  • Wausau, Wisconsin, USA
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I enjoyed this review. Well written.

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 12-27-2012, 11:18 PM
#14
  • ben74
  • Administrator
  • Perth, Australia
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(12-27-2012, 08:12 PM)churchilllafemme Wrote: I don't actively dislike the No. 88. But its online sales description says: "No.88 has a fresh, woody top note of reviving and uplifting bergamot, the richness and warmth of geranium, rose otto, cassie and exotic frangipani. Combined with dry base notes of vetiver and sandalwood, this modern classic has a full-bodied, sophisticated sensuality." However, what little scent it had when I first got it in its black bowl rapidly disappeared, and now all it smells like to me is clay - slightly. It still lathers beautifully and has great skin care properties, but it has hardly any scent at all.

The Oxford & Cambridge, on the other hand, is described: "Oxford & Cambridge, a traditional lavender fragrance, is a fresh and invigorating scent evocative of the English countryside, varsity matches and the great British sporting tradition. It contains a blend of English and French lavender, topped with herbaceous peppermint and rosemary essential oils with bergamot on a base of warm oak moss." And to me it has a nice subtle and complex scent, not overly lavender, which lasts throughout a shave.

I had read there was a clay scent, but reading the scent description I anticipated it would be in the background (and preferably somewhere near the horizon!) Tongue

I have Benton Clay soaps that lather admirably, but the scent of the bentonite clay does eclipse any other scent (to my disappointment).

I rejected the idea initially of purchasing the O & C because I don't appreciate a strong lavender scent, but from your description I think it's subtleness would most likely be agreeable to me.

It will be with interest that I receive my no. 88 and I'll report back with my thoughts...

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 12-28-2012, 02:20 AM
#15
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(12-27-2012, 11:18 PM)ben74 Wrote:
(12-27-2012, 08:12 PM)churchilllafemme Wrote: I don't actively dislike the No. 88. But its online sales description says: "No.88 has a fresh, woody top note of reviving and uplifting bergamot, the richness and warmth of geranium, rose otto, cassie and exotic frangipani. Combined with dry base notes of vetiver and sandalwood, this modern classic has a full-bodied, sophisticated sensuality." However, what little scent it had when I first got it in its black bowl rapidly disappeared, and now all it smells like to me is clay - slightly. It still lathers beautifully and has great skin care properties, but it has hardly any scent at all.

The Oxford & Cambridge, on the other hand, is described: "Oxford & Cambridge, a traditional lavender fragrance, is a fresh and invigorating scent evocative of the English countryside, varsity matches and the great British sporting tradition. It contains a blend of English and French lavender, topped with herbaceous peppermint and rosemary essential oils with bergamot on a base of warm oak moss." And to me it has a nice subtle and complex scent, not overly lavender, which lasts throughout a shave.

I had read there was a clay scent, but reading the scent description I anticipated it would be in the background (and preferably somewhere near the horizon!) Tongue

I have Benton Clay soaps that lather admirably, but the scent of the bentonite clay does eclipse any other scent (to my disappointment).

I rejected the idea initially of purchasing the O & C because I don't appreciate a strong lavender scent, but from your description I think it's subtleness would most likely be agreeable to me.

It will be with interest that I receive my no. 88 and I'll report back with my thoughts...

Ben
Our noses are notoriously idiosyncratic, but the lavender on O&C is really quite subtle and, compared to MdC for instance, practically not there. Heck, I can't even smell it at all.

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 12-28-2012, 06:44 PM
#16
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The only downside to O&C is the cost which means I will have to pay $0.08 cents per shave instead of $0.04 cents.

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 12-28-2012, 09:18 PM
#17
  • Songwind
  • Soap Slinger & Scuttle Pusher
  • Burnsville, MN
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Obviously the basic Valobra soaps don't have the same sorts of finely tuned complicated scents that something like C&S does. But is the performance similar?

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 12-29-2012, 10:54 AM
#18
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(12-28-2012, 09:18 PM)Songwind Wrote: Obviously the basic Valobra soaps don't have the same sorts of finely tuned complicated scents that something like C&S does. But is the performance similar?

The Valobra stick is the only tallow based soap from Valobra and its performance is similar to the O&C and AoS soaps. The Valobra soft soaps, however,- Crema di Sapone Purissima Almond and Menthol are both non tallow. Their performance is good by any standard but they fall short in the protection and after feel IMO.

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 12-29-2012, 10:45 PM
#19
  • Songwind
  • Soap Slinger & Scuttle Pusher
  • Burnsville, MN
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Thanks. Might have to try one of those sticks, then.

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 12-29-2012, 10:52 PM
#20
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It's my understanding the O&C shave soap matches the performance of the tallow Valobra.

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