Product Review: Bath House Spanish Fig & Nutmeg Shave Soap

We all do it.  All of us find a soap, or a cream, or a car, or whatever that grabs our interest from the first moment and then we proceed to build up that thing in our minds until it is so amazing, so spectacular that it could not possibly live up to our expectations.  I’m more guilty of this than anyone I know.  I’ll find a review for a really good soap, or pen, or giraffe biscuit on line and I’ll do what I usually do, research it to death.  I’ll find out so much about the product that I could be called upon to act as an expert witness in a court case, and then I will, of course, buy the product only to find that the super duper giraffe biscuit may be pretty great at feeding your giraffe, but it’s still just a biscuit.  We all do it, but I’m more guilty of it than most.

Every once in a while I will find something that catches my eye and I will resist the urge to obsess over it.  Sadly, what usually ends up happening is that, in spite of my best intentions, this thing sticks with me and nags at my subconscious until I’m left a drooling fool with only one thing on my mind (rosebuuud…).  This was the case with Bath House Spanish Fig & Nutmeg shave soap.

I initially encountered Bath House on Connaught Shaving’s web site.  I was intrigued by the look, the interesting ingredients list, and the odd brand name.  Everything about it made me want to try it out, but at the time I had just encountered several creams and soaps that left my nose cringing with horror, so I was reluctant to try something new and unknown.  Months passed by and every now and then I would place this soap in my electronic shopping cart only to remove it later.  Eventually I broke down and decided to buy a bowl of the stuff, but by then no one in the UK seemed to have it in stock any more and everyone who had some in the USA wanted $10-$20 MORE than they were charging for it in the UK.  The refills were readily available, but the wooden bowl with the soap seemed to have disappeared.  I don’t know if the soap was discontinued or if the demand required to stock the soap just wasn’t there, but for whatever reason, it appeared as if my window of opportunity in regards to this soap had closed.

Fast forward to yesterday.  I was posting a B/S/T thread to see if I could eliminate some things from my “need to try” list.  For some reason I decided to throw the Bath House soap on almost as an afterthought.  I figured that if someone had a partially used bowl of the stuff that I might get lucky and be able to snag it for a decent price.  Luckily for me a fine member of The Shave Nook shaving forum, Oscar (A.K.A. ojinsa), just happened to have an unused bowl of the soap, just happened to see my post, and just happened to live a short distance away.  After a little logistical finagling we met up and I ended up with a nice, new wooden bowl of Bath House Spanish Fig & Nutmeg soap.

Let me just pause right here and say that Oscar is a great guy.  He’s easy to deal with and has some great insights into life, the universe, and everything.  If you ever get the chance to have any interaction with this bastion of traditional wet shaving goodness, then I highly recommend it.

So, now that I had the soap all that was left to do was to try it out.  This soap is, in a word, Spectacular.  The scent is amazing, it lathers easily, and it’s extremely slick.  It was everything that I was hoping for and more.  When I started on my preshave routine I noticed that I was still a little tender from yesterday’s shave, so to test this soap out I grabbed my ultra soft EMJ synthetic brush, some Shave Secret, and my cocobolo Schick G Type (with a Personna blade on its second shave).  I did a three pass wtg/atg/xtg shave followed by a cold water rinse and some SAL Alum.  The results were a DFS with zero nicks and zero irritation…and a new soap for my shelf-o-goodness.  The Bath House smells earthy and spicy, but mild and unobtrusive at the same time.  The scent lingers pleasantly for a while, but stays in the background where it belongs.  The lather is typical of a veggie based soap in that it is a bit thinner than many tallow soaps, but it is also super slick and provides plenty of protection.  Afterward my skin felt as if I hadn’t done anything to it.  The soap isn’t as moisturizing as PdP, but it also isn’t harsh or drying.  I wasn’t ultra soft, but I also wasn’t dried out.  In the end, even with slightly tender skin, I managed to have a very pleasant shave with an unfortunately overlooked product.  Bath House Spanish Fig & Nutmeg is an excellent soap and I would recommend that everyone stay as far away from it as possible…so that I can snatch up and hoard every puck still in stock.

Product Ratings (1-10, 1 being the absolute lowest and 10 being the absolute best):

Scent Quality: 9
Scent Strength: 6
Lather Quality: 8
Slickness: 8
Skin Care: 7
Overall: 8

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Product Links:
http://www.bullgooseshaving.net/bahospfigand.html
http://www.bullgooseshaving.net/bahospfigand1.html

http://www.connaughtshaving.com/bhm9.html

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My Life With The SE Kult

This is day two of the great single edge safety razor experiment.  I have discovered a few tid-bits and tips in regards to properly using SE razors which should make for a better experience.  I’m also moving on to the next SE razor in my arsenal, the Gem Micromatic Clog Pruf with the same Gem stainless steel blade that I used yesterday. I’ll also be trying out the TSD Lemons and Figs lanolin soap with my EMJ synthetic brush. I’m a little hesitant about this soap because the few TSD soaps that I have used in the past have not worked well for me, but none of them have been of the lanolin variety. The Lemons and Figs feels completely different from the the other TSD soaps I have tried and it smells great, so I have high hopes.

For this shave, because my skin is still a little tender from yesterday I only did a two pass with the grain/against the grain shave followed by a cold water rinse and some SAL Alum.

This shave was an improvement over yesterday, but it was still not quite where I need it to be quality wise.As my technique improves I hope to be able to pull of shaves with SE razors as effortlessly as I do with DE razors.  As of right now using an SE takes me almost as long as using a disposable blade straight razor and results in irritation and some slight frustration.

Even after loading my brush up fairly heavily, the TSD Lemons and Figs soap lathered up a bit thin, but it did the job and smelled nice through out the shave. I will experiment with it and see if I can’t get it to come out properly in the future.

I made sure to keep the Clog Pruf’s head flat against my skin, rather than using the guard as a land mark, and kept a closer eye on my angle, but I still got some moderate irritation and a small nick. My technique with SE razors still needs work, but I’m improving and I look forward to mastering these beasts.  I would not quite call this a damn fine shave, but it’s close.

Pre: Hot shower and warm water splash
Razor: Gem Micromatic Clog Pruf
Blade: Gem stainless steel
Brush: Every Man Jack synthetic
Soap: The Shave Den Lemons and Figs lanolin
Post: Cold water rinse and SAL Alum

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An Easy Shave On A Gloomy Day

The day started off bright and sunny and a blazing 102°F, but it quickly turned grey and gloomy.  The clouds rolled in and the rain began.  Unfortunately this did little to kill off the heat, so while I sat in the A/C and waited for my daughter to return from her grandmother’s house I began rooting through my shaving gear and looking for something to brighten my day.  I eventually decided to go with some good old, time tested gear.  Sometimes it’s just nice to pull out gear that does its job without all of the extra flash.

For my soap I’m using my Van Den Hagen Deluxe/Glycerin blend.  I melted a puck of each and mixed them together in a Kingsley dark wood bowl.  It’s good, slick soap that works well and looks nice.

The razor is my spifftastic pre-war Gillette fat handle Tech.  The fat handle has some nice heft and feels good in my hand.  The pre-war Tech head is slightly more aggressive than the newer Tech, but its design makes it incredibly forgiving and easy to use.  I’m pairing a Super Iridium Extra Stainless blade with it.  The balde is smooth and efficient and works well in my Tech.

The brush for today is the Every Man Jack synthetic.  This brush only works well for face lathering, but it has a nice easy to hold handle and a tall loft that feels super soft.

Two and a half passes to perfection.  All it took was a with the grain/against the grain and a little clean up on my neck.  I finished up with a cold water rinse and some T.N. Dickinson Witch Hazel.  Baby butt smooth skin with zero nicks and zero irritation.  The Tech is so easy to use that I could shave with my eyes closed, the VDH blend works great every time, the EMJ brush is perfect for face lathering, and the SI blade is smooth and efficient.  It was an excellent weekend shave.

Pre: Hot shower and warm water splash
Razor: Gillette pre-war fat handle Tech
Blade: Super Iridium Extra Stainless
Brush: Every Man Jack synthetic
Soap: Van Den Hagen Deluxe/Glycerin blend
Post: Cold water rinse and T.N. Dickinson Witch Hazel

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Product Links:

Every Man Jack Synthetic Brush:

http://www.drugstore.com/every-man-jack-shave-brush/qxp411981?catid=288501

 

Van Der Hagen Deluxe Soap:

http://www.drugstore.com/van-der-hagen-deluxe-shave-soap/qxp155184?catid=183790

Van Der Hagen Glycerin Soap:

http://www.drugstore.com/van-der-hagen-glycerin-shave-soap/qxp155183?catid=183790

Kingsley Dark Wood Bowl:

http://www.drugstore.com/kingsley-for-men-wood-shave-soap-bowl-with-lid/qxp75462?catid=183790

 

 

First Impressions And SOTD (05 August 2013)

There are some initial impressions which tend to stick, even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.  In the world of traditional wet shaving many newbies ask the inevitable question: “Which blades work best?”  The answer is just as inevitable as the question, “Your Milage May Very.  Everyone is different, you’ll just have to try them out for yourself.”  In spite of the view that no two people will agree on the suitability of any blades, folks tend to be more open about which blades they dislike.  Even as they are denied a list of possible usable blades, newbies are often barraged with lists of unusable blades.  The problem with this is that folks tend to keep those bad first impressions of so-called unusable blades with them and then regurgitate those views to other newbies.  Many blades eventually receive bad reputations, whether they are deserved or not, based solely on hearsay.  One of the blades that is often listed as totally unusable is the Merkur Super double edge blade.

The Merkur Super double edge blade is often compared to a piece of sharpened tin can.  In fact, the Merkur Super is often held up as one of the worst DE blades ever made.  Due in large part to its poor reputation and high price (a ten pack of Merkur Supers will usually run between $7 and $10) most people do not even bother to try these blades unless they receive them for free.  Many of these free Merkur blades are usually in the form of a sample Merkur blade, which is included with new Merkur razors.  This is an unfortunate situation because the sample blade is often poorly packed and can become banged up before it is ever even used, giving the user a bad example of how a Merkur blade performs.  And so it is that Merkur blades, rightly or wrongly, receive nearly universal disdain.

I myself held the unfounded view that Merkur Super blades were not even worth the effort to try, but I am a naturally curious person and was not content to accept this view without at least trying them out once.  This morning I decided to bite the bullet and try out a Merkur Super blade.  I’ve had two Merkur blades sitting in my sample tin for a while now, but I kept putting off using them and coming up with various reasons for this procrastination.  The reality is that I didn’t want to waste a shave on a blade that I believed would perform poorly.  The possibility that Merkur Super blades would live up to their infamy has kept me away, but there are a few nearly universally hated blades out there that I actually like, so I knew that Merkurs could do well for me as well.

To give these blades the best possible chance I broke out my Gillette black handle Super Speed razor, C.O. Bigelow shave cream, and my uber soft Every Man Jack synthetic brush.  At the last minute (and after taking the picture) I decided to make it a superlather of Van Der Hagen Deluxe soap and C.O. Bigelow cream.  Using my EMJ brush and superlather combo I created mountains of thick, creamy lather and did a three pass with the grain/against the grain/across the grain shave followed by a simple cold water rinse.  I could almost hear the the Psycho shower scene “squeal” as I began my shave, but that ominous feeling quickly went away.  As it turns out, I managed a Baby Butt Smooth shave with zero irritation and zero nicks.  My skin was left ultra soft and smooth, even without any post shave treatment. 

I’ve managed to get blades that I hate to perform by using perfect prep and ultra slick lather, but this is not what went on with the Merkur Super blade.  It was an effortless shave thanks to excellent lather, but it was also a nearly perfect shave thanks to the Gillette black handle Super Speed razor and the Merkur Super blade…it was a case of everything working perfectly together rather than one product compensating for another. I know it’s just one shave with a single example of this often reviled blade, but if it continues to perform, then I will have to count myself among the dozen or so folks who have actually tried and like Merkur Super DE blades.

Pre: Hot shower and warm water splash
Razor: Gillette black handle Super Speed
Blade: Merkur Super
Brush: EMJ synthetic
Soap: Superlather of VDH Deluxe and C.O. Bigelow
Post: Cold water rinse

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Shave Of The Day (29 July 2013)

I felt like giving a neglected product a second chance.  It’s always good to revisit products because you never know when something will turn out to be a surprise upon second glance.  I love eShave creams, but I have found their soaps to be somewhat lacking.  They’re not bad, just not as good as the creams.  I always manage to buy their products for a fraction of the Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price, so I find them to be well worth what I pay, but I judge them based upon their actual retail price (would I buy this product at full price?), so I tend to be hard on them if they do not muster up.  I have the Linden soap currently and I love the scent, but feel ambivalent about its performance.  I found the lather to be too airy and somewhat thin the first few times that I used it, so it has been sitting on my shelf waiting for me to decide what to do with it.

I am using French soaps this week, so I figured that today would be a good day to give the Linden another go (eShave products are made in France) .  Having played with my vintage Gillettes and RiMei razors for a while now, I am also returning to my beloved disposable blade straight razors.  My Fromm still has a blade in it with maybe a shave or two, so it was the obvious choice.

I did a three pass with the grain/against the grain/across the grain shave followed by a cold water rinse and some T.N. Dickinson Witch Hazel.  A damn fine shave with no nicks (although I nearly had disaster strike when I was careless in placing the blade against my upper lip), and no irritation.  I was a bit aggressive and was certain that I would walk away with some redness, but the excellent skin care properties of the eShave soap and the astringent properties of the witch hazel saved me from myself.  The eShave Linden did really well.  I don’t know if I have the EMJ synthetic and face lathering to thank or if I just didn’t give it enough of a chance the first few times I used it, but it was a joy to use today.  I will use the Linden some more this week, and I may have to revisit the other eShave soaps if it continues to perform as well as it did today.  My skin is soft, smooth, and happy.

Pre: Hot shower and warm water splash
Razor: Fromm hair shaper
Blade: Fromm hair shaper blade
Brush: Every Man Jack Synthetic
Soap: eShave Linden
Post: Cold water rinse and T.N. Dickinson Witch Hazel

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Shave Of The Day (26 July 2013)

I was looking over some ideas for new superlathers today when I realized that I had very few unscented or lightly scented products.  Generally when I make a superlather it is a blend of two complimentary scents, but there are occasions when I want one particular scent to shine through rather than to meld with the other scent.  Looking through my stuff I decided to combine Karo Classic (a lightly scented cream) with Kell’s Original Ultra Aloe Juniper Sage soap (a heavily scented glycerin based soap).

My superlather worked extremely well and came out exactly as I hoped it would.  I did a face lather with my new Every Man Jack synthetic brush and got an amazingly creamy, thick lather with a nice juniper heavy scent.  I did a three pass wtg/atg/xtg shave followed by a cold water rinse and an application of SAL Alum.  Yet another BBS shave from my RiMei and a Croma Diamant blade.  I’m really liking all of these spiffy Tech and Tech-like razors.

Pre: Hot shower and warm water splash
Razor: RiMei
Blade: Croma Diamant
Brush: Every Man Jack synthetic
Soap: Superlather of Kell’s Original Ultra Aloe Juniper Sage and Karo Classic
Post: Cold water rinse and SAL Alum

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Product Links:

Every Man Jack Synthetic Brush:
http://www.drugstore.com/a/qxp411981?MobileOptOut=1

Karo Classic:
http://shop.bestshave.net/kapo-classic-shaving-cream-100-ml-tube-p-213.html

Kell’s Original Ultra Aloe Juniper Sage Soap:
http://kellsoriginal.com/Tin-Soaps_c4.htm;jsessionid=F51AF397AA89F0904B020885D48BC4CE.m1plqscsfapp03

SAL Alum:
http://www.connaughtshaving.com/allumblock.html

Product Review: Every Man Jack Synthetic Shave Brush

A month or so ago, while looking for a nice mid-range synthetic shaving brush I happened to stumble upon the Every Man Jack Premium line of products.  The Every Man Jack Premium shave line includes a cedarwood preshave oil, a cedarwood brush/brushless shaving cream, and a synthetic shave brush.  The synthetic shave brush has a “woodgrain” handle and dyed synthetic bristles which are a step or two up from the first generation of synthetic shave brush fibres.  After doing some exhaustive research I discovered that there is virtually no information available about this brush.  Every Man Jack’s web site simply lists their advertising blurb without any technical data or reviews, and I could only find a single review of this brush on  the various shaving forums (the brush is mentioned a handful of times, but only one of those mentions is an actual review).  Normally I do not like to make purchases without at least some empirical and anecdotal data, but I like EMJ products and have already given the new cedarwood brush/brushless shaving cream a try.  After doing some digging, I managed to find a discount coupon so that I could buy the brush for an amazingly low $13.49, so I shrugged my shoulders and took a leap.

The brush comes in a basic cardboard package with the same wood grain designed as the rest of the Premium shave line packaging.  Unlike the rest of the Premium line, the brush also has a picture of its self on one side of the package.  I assume this is to help sell the brush in store, but it still seems like a superfluous sort of design.  Inside the package the brush is safely encased in plastic, without any other extras or junk.  The knot is a fairly tall loft and is dyed to look similar to a silver tip badger knot and is completely scent free.  The tips are quite soft, but the synthetic fibres have quite a bit of backbone.  The handle is a fairly plain ergonomically designed woodgrain handle with a little bit of heft to it.  I have seen a couple of comparisons of this brush to The Body Shop synthetic brush, but I absolutely disagree with this comparison.  The EMJ synthetic shave brush is taller, has a larger loft, and a much nicer handle than The Body Shop synthetic brush.  Overall the EMJ synthetic brush feels quite nice and looks pretty good, it left me with a pretty good first impression and a serious desire to see just how it would perform.

As I had already shaved when the brush arrived, I settled for a few test lathers.  At first I was quite frustrated, the brush seemed completely unable to produce any sort of lather at all from any soap or cream.  After a lot of frustration I discovered that the problem was the bowl.  For whatever reason, the EMJ synthetic brush does an excellent job of producing lather when palm or face lathering, but does not agree with bowls at all.  I don’t know if the synthetic fibres absorb product in such a way as to only work well on skin or if there is some other weird reason for this anomaly, but it’s worth noting.  The brush does have one issue that may bug some folks, the breech opens up when lathering.  Anyone who is familiar with the #6 Turkish Horsehair brush or some of the Vie-Long horsehair brushes will be familiar with this issue, but some wet shavers may find this annoying or unpleasant.  The opening is not as extreme as it is with the #6, but it is noticeable.

I used this brush for this morning’s shave and found that the brush performed pretty well.  I did a three pass with the grain/across the grain/against the grain shave using the EMJ synthetic shave brush, some Vitos Extra Super soap, my spiffy new RiMei razor, and a Croma Diamant blade on its second use.  I followed the shave with a cold water rinse and an application of SAL Alum.  I managed a baby butt smooth shave with no nicks and no irritation.  The brush felt nice, but also a little more stiff than I normally like.  The slight opening in the breech wasn’t too noticeable and actually helped me to properly lather up my chin.  It was a good shave with a good mid-range synthetic shave brush.  I enjoyed using the EMJ synthetic brush and look forward to using it again.

Product Aprox. Dimensions:
(There are no stated dimensions in any of the EMJ propaganda, so I had to take the measurements myself.  Without calipers these dimensions are approximate rather than absolute.)

Handle Height: 57mm
Loft: 57mm
Knot Diameter: 22mm

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Product Link:

Every Man Jack Synthetic Shave Brush:
http://www.drugstore.com/every-man-jack-shave-brush/qxp411981?catid=288501