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A trip to St James

Well, I had a few days in London, and a few hours spare yesterday afternoon, so what else could I do but pay my respects to those purveyors of shaving goodies around St James? I specifically wanted a bottle of Windsor AS from DR Harris, but I started at the other end of Jermyn Street and walked West.

I popped into Taylor of Old Bond Street (in Jermyn Street) first, and tried a couple of samplers - I have some Mr Talyor's and No 74 Lime aftershaves, and might have picked up something else if anything had taken my fancy. But nothing did, really. Even the much-loved Avocado shave cream that I was considering trying didn't impress - it smelled a bit like damp lettuce to me. But it was nice to see the shop. They had an interesting-looking OC razor as part of a set in the window, but I didn't see the razor on its own anywhere - and I didn't feel like asking, because one of the puffed-up pin-striped sales guys had the razor cabinet open and was extolling the virtues of some nasty cartridge thing to a potential victim.

I carried on and did most of my sampling of test bottles in Fortnum & Mason, because they had a range from a number of producers all together (I can't remember who suggested that to me, but thanks!) My eyes fell on a shelf of Penhaligon's products, and I wasted no time in sampling the famous English Fern and Blenheim Bouquet. But sadly, they both seemed somewhat mediocre to me, especially for such expensive concoctions. I didn't dislike them, but neither struck me as something to spend anything like £60-80 on - I think they're over-hyped and way over-priced. I mean, if they were around £20 a bottle I might buy one of each, but I wouldn't like them as much as Arlington and Windsor.

They had some Floris samples, and I did like a couple of those, especially the 89. It didn't shout "buy me now", but it's something that I think could easily grow on me - I'll probably be in London every couple of months, so I'll keep popping in and keep sniffing. Floris was a bit above my price range for now, but still quite a bit cheaper than Penhaligon's - and way nicer.

F&M had some Lucky Tiger products, but sadly no AS - only face scrub. I would probably have bought a bottle of AS if they had any. I sniffed my way around a few Trumper products too, but they were ones I'd already sampled before - and I wanted to head over to old Geo F's anyway. I also sampled Truefitt & Hill 1805 and Trafalgar, but I think I'd been doing too much sniffing and couldn't really decide what I thought of them.

I did make one purchase in F&M, but not related to shaving - a half bottle of Ch. Rieussec Sauternes 2006 :001_smile

Onwards to St James Street, and straight past DR Harris (saving that for last) down to Truefitt & Hill. I had a look around, but wasn't especially motivated - the place was full of Union Jack flags and Jubilee tat to entice the visiting American and Japanese tourists (all of whom are most welcome, but you know what I mean...).

So, up to Picadilly, past Green Park, and over to Geo F Trumper in Curzon Street. I wanted some Limes AS, and hoped to be able to sample the actual AS to decide whether to get the biggest bottle. But they only had the cologne on sample, and told me that the AS was only just alcohol and fragrance anyway - no soothing, moisturizing or astringent ingredients. So I went for the smallest travel bottle as a personal sampler - I think the lime fragrance is fantastic, but a bit of experience should tell whether it's worth the £26 I paid for it when I can get a really good Turkish lemon cologne locally for just £2 :mellow:

I left Geo F's, and while walking back started musing on my visits so far - and I didn't feel exactly comfortable with any of them. They were all polite and I certainly couldn't complain about any of them, but I got the distinct feel they were all a bit snooty and that I, a scouser in t-shirt and jeans, was a bit out of place in them.

I walked back to DR Harris - and I really had left the best to last. I did a bit of sniffing around - the Pink AS is really good, and I will probably get some of that some day. I sniffed a few colognes and bath potions too, and one thing that struck me about DR Harris fragrances is that they all seem individually distinct, as if they have been carefully chosen to smell like that. Some of the other makers' products gave me the impression that they just went for half a dozen smells that were all a bit different so they could show off a range. Does that make any sense?

But my main business was Windsor, and I bought a 150ml bottle of AS. I had a sniff of the cream sampler too, and it was heavenly, really quite strongly scented. I was tempted, but I'm holding out for the soap. They don't have a date for it yet, and expect maybe another month or two while the samples mature - they want to be sure it's good before they release it.

And that brings me to a significant difference - customer service.

The lady who served me at DRH came over and asked if she could help rather than standing back as if to dare me to approach, and she was friendly and welcoming. She was happy to talk about their products, and seemed genuinely pleased that I was a fan of them. There was none of the sort of thinly-disguised aloofness of the other shops.

So, DR Harris wins it by a mile for me. They have the best products, the best prices, and the friendliest service. And I'm going to have a shave in the morning and splash on lots of Windsor :001_smile
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I can relate. Last time I was in London made the same circuit. When I asked at GFT if Spanish Leather was coming out in a tub I was rudely told no. Upon asking why not, the jacked up sales assistant very snootily replied "because the MD decided." I do find the staff at Harris to be the least pretentious, although the nice sales lady tried to convince me Rooney went out of production years ago.
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