Tabula Rasa Olibanum: Tabula Rasa is a Germany-based artisanal soap and fragrance house. Erik, the master of the merchandise, is known for his very esoteric approach to scents, and olibanum is no exception. Olibanum - better known as frankincense - has a very smoky, woody, oriental aroma that, itself, is a complex fragrant experience. As with all Tabula Rasa soaps, the base includes a proprietary set of ingredients formulated under the name “Stimu-tex”, which yields a lather that is very stable, remains hydrated, and tops the charts with skin nourishing properties. Most find that an aftershave is very unnecessary with this cream/soap.
Chiseled Face Groomatorium Midnight Stag: Chiseled Face Groomatorium creates a very unique range of olfactions, many of which garner very nostalgic feelings to anyone who has the pleasure of using them. In comes “Midnight Stag”. A potent blend of Russian leather, motor oil, gasoline, Hoppes #9, oakmoss, birch tar, smoke, cedar, bergamot, and vanilla may bring back memories of when you had to change your tire in the middle of a hot desert as diesel trucks whizzed by (or is that just me?).
Barrister & Mann Shaving Soap, Lavanille: To those familiar, it’s no secret that Barrister & Mann is on this list. They are masters of the fragrance craft, concocting (arguably) the most bizarre, eclectic, abstruse scent blends in all of wet shaving. Lavanille is just one fine example. One sample of De Laire’s Mousse de Saxe is all it took to recreate this scent from the late 19th century into one of the finest soap bases available. Lavender, leather notes, vanilla (vanillin), cedar, and the sweet synthetic musk known as Exaltolide transform this gourmand profile into a deep reflection of a lost perfume.
West Coast Shaving Soap, Campfire: As we started developing our line of products, it was important to us that we create great products with great scents, and all at a great price. One scent from our original line of clay-infused shaving soaps that we had quite a bit of fun with was the “Campfire” scent. Quite the literal title, the soap smells exactly of this and nothing else - the smell of smoothly burning oak on the beach or at your camp hideout. Unexpectedly, this one become our best seller of this line of soaps!
L. A. Shaving Soap Co., Bespoke #1: L.A. Shaving Soap Company was one of the first artisan soap companies on the set, and their performance alone lands them on my top 10 list. John’s vegan formula allowing for fast loading and easily lathering is always coupled with essential oils for a natural profile, no matter how obscure. Bespoke #1 rests on a potent vetiver base, upheld by 35 million year old Himalayan amber, frankincense, sweet myrrh, pepper, clove, cedar, bergamot, patchouli, vanilla, anise, and labdanum. If you treat your morning shave as a ritual, look no further than a soap that smells of the antiquated goods and trades of our ancestors.
PAA Red Planet: Phoenix Artisan Accoutrements creates a wonderfully slick and protective vegan soap base, behaving almost as a tallow-based soap. Red Planet features a sandalwood, patchouli, frankincense, myrrh, rose, cedar, musk and amber profile. I find that the musk and rose combine beautifully to turn this would-be spicy, ancient scent into an elegant, complex masterpiece.
Mickey Lee Soapworks Unforgiven: Guns drawn and spurs clanging, the showdown of two swashbuckling cowboys is what comes to mind with this limited edition shaving soap. Warm rosewood joins with smokey, ashy birch tar rounded out by amber, patchouli, sandalwood, and notes of caramel for a truly daring start to your day. Coupled with an extremely comfortable and slick soap base, I could find no finer shave for the adventurous gentleman.
Tabac Shaving Soap: One of the original, finest “you love it or you hate it” soap scents, the Tabac soap line has been adorning faces and vanities for over six decades. With scent notes of lemon, neroli, black pepper, bergamot, petitgrain, lavender, chamomile, geranium, oakwood, sandalwood, vetiver, musk, and ambergris, it’s a profile whose components are found in many fragrance blends. However, something about the proportions of these fragrances yields a peppery, floral, sweet green tobacco that some find atrocious, while still others find a thing of complex beauty.
Pre de Provence No. 63: An artisan of the French countryside, Pre de Provence produces incredible, yet not overtly complex scents. Their No. 63 is an incredibly masculine blend of peppery, citrus top notes on a bed of cedarwood, plum, violet leaf, leather, and tobacco. The plum is the outlier in this profile, and gives this woody, animalic fragrance a molasses-like, smooth sweetness. Available in a brushless shaving cream, aftershave balm, body soap/wash, shampoo, and body lotion.
Catie’s Bubbles Shaving Soap, Irish Coffee: Chris of Catie’s Bubbles was also among the first few artisans on the scene, making a vegan shaving soap so easy to use, wet shavers of all levels of experience could experience and incredible shave. Irish Coffee is just that: an iteration of the famous beverage blend of coffee, sugar, cream, and Irish whiskey. While I usually hesitate to use this in the context of scent, this is truly a “creamy”, smooth coffee scent that is a gentle, yet brisk way to start your day.
Chatillon Lux Aftershave, Unconditional Surrender: Chatillon Lux aftershaves are not for the faint-of-heart. Powerful blends of a multitude of fragrance and essential oils, Shawn makes each aftershave a story and masterpiece in its own right. Unconditional Surrender is a nod to Ulysses S. Grant’s confidence in battle, with notes of amber, tonka bean, amberis, cedarwood, agarwood, vetiver, cigar tobacco, black tea, jasmine, and geranium. With a honey-like sweetness upfront, this scent molds into a much darker, more masculine aroma throughout the day. With skin comforting oils and a fine balance of cool menthol and warming alcohol, Chatillon Lux aftershaves are my personal favorite way to end every shave.
Imaginary Authors A City On Fire Eau de Parfum: As far as obscure scents go, this one might take the cake. Josh is a master of storytelling through the art of fragrance, and A City On Fire is quite the story indeed. A potent, ferocious blend of flaming, ashy cade oil, musty spikenard, spicy cardamom, clearwood, dark berries, sweet and musky labdanum, and “burnt match”. This is one rollercoaster of a scent meant for one rollercoaster of an outing, as ashy cade cools down to a musky, dry wood adorned with the scent of blackberries and raspberries.