While sage may evoke Thanksgiving turkey and other culinary delights, it is a fragrance sometimes overlooked in the wet shaving world. But this aromatic herb can cover some ground with its complex, dry, crisp, and smoky vibe. In this list, Eric looks at the many faces of sage.
Meißner Tremonia Shaving Cream, Salty Sea Sage: A recent mention on a prior curation, I felt this scent to be one of the most exemplary displays of sage I’ve yet to smell. A favorite of its creator, Thomas, sea salt really kicks this earthy scent off with notes of dusty sage, aromatic and warming camphor, and amyris (West Indian Sandalwood). As with most of Thomas’ scents, this takes a seemingly common scent and brings it to the next level with dry, woody complex notes that add a mysterious side to this otherwise cool and fresh aroma. Unlike other lathering shaving creams, the texture of this will be more in tune with many artisan soft shaving soaps we are familiar with; a vegetable stearic acid-based soap with macadamia nut, jojoba, babassu, and argan oils not only for high-scale slickness, but for incredible residual slickness and post shave skin moisturization.
Dr. Jon’s Essential Oil Shaving Soap, Clary Sage and Sweet Birch: Arguably one of the best artisan vegan soaps on the market today, Dr. Jon’s Version 2 shaving soap base laughs in the face of its tallow-based brethren, with notable butters and oils, as well as aloe vera to significantly combat skin irritation. Clary Sage and Sweet Birch is among several of Dr. Jon’s new “essential oil only” lineup. Clary Sage is a variety of sage with high amounts of linalool, a frant component found in high concentrations in lavender; thus, this scent opens with a light, aromatic yet dusty and deserty floral, then calms into the fresh, calming and forest-like aroma of sweet birch. Two very complex oils in themselves combine for a sum that is even greater than its parts.
Genuine Ogallala Bay Rum, Sage, and Cedar Aftershave: A well-known company in the world of wet shaving, Ogallala Bay Rum is one of the most acclaimed producers of, well, bay rum-scented products! With several iterations diverging from the common paths of bay rum accords, there is sure to be a scent to please all. Genuine Ogallala’s bay rum is typically of the sweeter, somewhat spicier variety. Unlike the slightly sweet and floral sage above, this one presents itself in a very earthy and woodsy landscape of a bark-like sage variety and dry, soily and masculine cedar. Ogallala made a bold move with these “Pacific Northwest meets West Indies” accord, but I’m glad they did. It’s rare I step into the world of Bay Rums but, for this, I will make an exception. If you’re looking for a woody take on this island favorite, look no further!
Sudsy Soapery Supercreamed Triple Butter Shaving Soap, White Sage and Lime:
Sudsy Soapery has not been given their due share of mentions in the wet shaving community. With loads of shea butter, cocoa butter, and kokum butter atop a bed of kaolin and bentonite clays within this vegan soap, you will be rewarded with one of the densest, most stable and cushioning lathers available. Because of the beyond-generous inclusion of seed butters I’ve found that, in practice, Sudsy Soapery soaps behave more identical to luxury tallow-based soaps than many others in their class; especially in their nourishing, moisturizing post shave feel. One of my favorite scents of their line also shares a welcomed chair at the table of sage aromas. With an equal parts masculine woody, yet crisp and inviting dance of aromatic, arboreous white sage and crisp lime, I find this accord to be perfect for year-round use.
Phoenix Artisan Accoutrements Shaving Set, Sangre de Drago:
A testament to the truly encompassing landscape upon which sage lays its olfactory bearings is PAA’s Sangre de Drago. In sharp contrast to many of the offerings up to this point, this is no inviting, everyday layman’s accord, but rather a dark, ominous air with notes of resinous, sappy Dragon’s Blood, sandalwood, Indonesian oud, benzoin, tonka, linaloe wood, spruce hemlock, amyris, labdanum, sage, neroli, and tobacco. As you can probably tell, this accord has no soft, sensitive bone in its barren, woody body. Strong, sappy notes fuse with the earthy complexity of oud atop smoky labdanum, while the wet foliage of hemlock serves to dampen the ashy storm of this scent. In PAA’s signature style, this vegan base is incredibly dense, yet very soft; a few swirls of a damp brush will reward you with a protective, slick, and shiny lather.
Ariana & Evans/ Grey Matter Parfums Shaving Soap, Little Fictions:
If you’re not familiar with the recent soap base of true up-and-comer Ariana & Evans, it’s time to make acquaintance. With many breaking the seal of their top-tier, I hope ye who may be stubborn (as I was before giving this a try) can make an exception. While the ingredients list is somewhat impressive - with nourishing goat’s milk and lanolin presented in generous heaps - the execution and blend of the ingredients must be what pushes this soap into Wholly Kaw’s Donkey Milk or Declaration Grooming Bison Tallow territory (in my humble opinion, that is). A glossy, dense lather gives way to a residual slickness battled by very few. On top of that, A & E have teamed up with India fragrance house Grey Matter Parfums to adorn this soap with a mysterious accord of coconut, cedar, bitter orange, bergamot, lavender, clary sage, juniper berries, white rum, white tea, lemon, amyris, musk, honeydew and ocean mist. Like a bizarre, furry creature running from an unseen evil in a dark forest only to give way to a tranquil beach, this is a whirlwind of dark, bitter and mossy accords and pleasant oceanic air.
Pre de Provence Aftershave Balm:
Before the (welcomed) battlefront of artisanal aftershave balms, Pre de Provence reigned as one of the lead competitors in a relatively small arena. Yet even now, this elegant aftershave balm still holds its own, being well thought-out from beginning to end. With eclectic, exotic botanic oils offering some of the highest skin healing properties available, you’ll be sure that this rather compact, metallic bottle will last you for several months. While this features only the note of sage, this particular variant of sage happens to include generous concentrations of geraniol, one of the main components of rose oil. This being said, the tenacious, woody sage clearly takes a familiar floral left turn in the resulting fragrance, making this a calming, inviting accord fit for every season.
Barrister & Mann Shaving Soap, Cheshire:
Even with the incoming high-quality soft shave soaps, Barrister and Mann’s “Glissant” base holds a (likely) irreplaceable spot in my den. This base features just the right amount of everything necessary to make a soap that is water-generous, intuitive, and yet truly upper-class all in one. As can be said of all other B&M creations, Will’s incredibly methodical, scientific, yet bold and relentlessly creative approach to fragrance is mind boggling. Cheshire is one of the few attempts of the “tea” accord, and boy, does this please. The cup overfloweth with the sweet, citrusy rind of bergamot, the keystone ingredient found in the infamous Earl Grey tea. Clary sage creates the tea-like floral in this scent, creating a floral, yet earthy green and rosey heart, upon which the bergamot rests. Lavender further bolsters the accord into true olfactory heaven, while the supporting patchouli note pulls the clary sage into a “black tea” foreground.
Speick After Shave Lotion:
A favorite of the young and old, novice and veteran alike, the Speick after shave lotion is a beloved addition to any bathroom counter. Found among the Austrian Alps, the Speick plant was protected for several decades, a truly unique and rare plant that has an incredibly broad and potent aroma that permeates the very air among its vegetative growth. While this carefully-harvested, floral and sweet plant is at the forefront of the infamous Speick aftershave, crisp, rosemary-like sage notes provide a shimmering woody heart while lavender and lemon peel oil give way to a refreshing, floral base. Top to bottom, there’s no doubt this scent is exquisitely natural in all its alluring glory.
Geo F Trumper Sandalwood Cologne:
With all the artisans coming to the scene, it’s easy to surround yourself with some of the most complex accords in all of the fragrance world. While I personally find eclectic olfactories appealing to my ever-changing preferences, I find many of them do not “wear” very uniformly or sophisticatedly upon my skin. In steps George F. Trumper’s legendary brand. One of the most well-known men’s grooming companies the world over, “Trumpers” products exude elegance, yet humble welcome, to the refined gentlemen. Bergamot, lemon, lavender, dry sage, jasmine, carnation, geranium, rose, vanilla, amber, and patchouli make this a definite welcome addition to any man’s collection. Somewhat sweet, creamy, woody notes take a masculine turn with sage, amber and patchouli upon the drydown for an accord best fit for that important meeting, interview, or special night out with your special someone.
Wholly Kaw Vegan Shaving Soap, King of Oud:
While Wholly Kaw’s Donkey Milk soap base has been getting all the attention as of late, I believe it’s only fair to level the field a bit with Sri’s impressive vegan-formula soap. For those familiar with his conduct, one can rest assured that his researching nature has brought him to make an equally inspiring soap for the vegan brethren. Cocoa butter, shea butter, and kokum butter give this firmer soap tremendous cushion, while hops extract gives an awe-inspiring level of skin and hair conditioning on par with the likes of lanolin. King of Oud is a sweet, yet earthy accord of citrus, rose, clary sage, aldehydes, pink pepper, angelica, rosewood, galbanum, oud, sandalwood, vetiver, patchouli and amber. This fragrance opens with a very whispy, light yet crisp floral, head resting upon the wet, woody base of oud and various woods for an extremely complex accord
Shear Revival Matte Paste, Northern Lights:
Shear Revival is, well, the Great White Shark of the pomade sea. The name of the game when it comes to the hair care regimen of the refined gentleman. While their “Crystal Lake” pomade gets much of the glory, its somewhat lustrous sheen after a day’s wear is not always the best fit for the wavy-haired. Northern Lights is Zach’s more natural take on the unorthodox water-based pomade. Kaolinite Clay and wax give this pomade immense hold and control, letting you do virtually anything you choose to do with your ‘do. However, with various botanical oils and butters, you won’t find this clay drying like many others out there. In case this weren’t convincing enough, Northern Lights is an intoxicating olfactory trio of sweet citrus, oakmoss, and sage for a crisp, yet dusky and woody, accord that is unique, yet welcoming.