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Controversial view of artisan soaps

I will start by saying artisan soaps are among my favorite soaps--Stirling, Razorock, WSP, Dr. Jon's and others have all been great performers for me and I have all but a Stirling in my current rotation (and only until I finish the 2018 sabbatical when I'll buy some more).

When I started wet shaving a few years ago, Prorasso, Cella, Tabac, MWF, and a few other well known brands were the most talked about. But then artisan soaps got better and more available, and more people here started reviewing them. Some artisans were poor, most were average, and a few were excellent. But now it seems like there are new artisans showing up every week with someone on here singing it's praises. That's not a bad thing, but there is no way for me to keep up.

But here's my controversial question. Are all these new artisans really producing new soaps, or are they mostly using minor variations of the same soap base recipes? If that's the case (which I think it is but I could be wrong), then choosing a favorite artisan is more about finding a pleasing scent then a better soap.

Am I correct in my thinking? I wish all of the soap makers the best of success--but considering most of us can only use up 3 or 4 soaps/year, I'm not sure the market is big enough for all of them to still be around in a couple of years.
No idea but I pretty much stopped purchasing new soaps. I'll probably resume next year, see if there are more improvements.

Scents and for the lack of a better term, gimmicks don't really wow me that much anymore. I'm not new to this hobby and I've ridden the hype train and learned a lot from it.

I just care for the ingredients used, how it performs and how good it is for my skin, the post-shave and if the price makes sense. Good packaging is a plus, but experimental, avant-garde scents.. it's just not what I'm looking for.
Yes, you're perfectly correct. Only minor changes just to keep the interest of their customers alive. That's it.

Market is oversaturated, some artisans have already stopped their business during the last couple of years. More will follow, no doubt on that. My guess is that only a handful of artisans or less will survive long term. Only the very best.

I haven't bought anything since December 2016. I'll make it without buying anything this year as well. No desire to buy as I have too many products to choose from for my shaves.
I have found that comparing soaps to find the best is like splitting hairs. I have most of the top
artisan soaps of the last couple years and I have found that they are pretty comparable in performance
although I will give an edge to tallow based. The new bases that have come out recently are soft and after
a dozen uses I'm seeing the bottom of the tub. If I blind shaved with an assortment of soaps I don't think
I could tell what's what without the scent. YMMV

Ad Astra

The Instigator
"is more about finding a pleasing scent then a better soap."

You nail it!

This, again.

Sure I have a lifetime supply at this point. But seasonals add some fun to your life, and it's just SOAP, after all. A consumable, and on the order pricewise as a bottle of wine.

It's also entrepreneurship, and I'm glad to support someone's dream of success. I hope they ALL make it.

The essentials of making soap are set, and there will never be any huge breaktroughs which radically alter the product. Artisans will tweak ingredients and scents, resulting in an appeal to particular individuals due to the personal subjective preferences of those individuals. However, there is too much hype in the artisan soap market.
I think everyone is right. I picked B&M. Like alot of other companies, more than enough standard soaps and a seasonal or two released every month. Cant complain about the performance.

Im at the point where the 3017 thing is looking rather appealing to me right now too.
I agree with most of what is posted above. I may be wrong, but as with all aspects of consumerism and marketing, people are often buying the new thing simply because it is "the new thing" whether it is the newest artisan soap, scent, or the "in" vintage razor. I do my best to resist these trends, not always successfully.

I didn't notice this when I first joined B&B because the hobby was new, but now that I don't drop in as often, it is more apparent. I'm sure it must be a bit tedious for those who have been around for long while.

So, I don't know how much soaps change or need to change. Like the latest phone, they just need to be "the new best thing" whether in regard to scent or whatever.
This where the modern consumer has brought us. All show and no go. It’s all about who has the most stuff. You see the same thread in the razor discussions, it seems every statement includes an inventory list.
That's pretty much where I am now. The scent descriptions coming from the artisans have lost their luster. I don't feel the need to buy any more new scents or try the new artisan soaps. I find they all perform similar enough. After I use up what I have now I'll stick to 2 or 3 scents from one maker.

I can see artisans closing up shop from a small and competitive market. But they'll only be replaced by the newly praised artisans. The way I see it, they have to keep marketing new scents and push limited/ seasonal releases to stay relevant. They have to stand out from their competitors to keep your business.
It all depends on how important scent is to you. That's the bottom line. In my case I don't give a damn about performance - all soaps perform with a DE and I'm not using a straight so not fussy.

But there are HUGE differences in the strength and complexity of scents. For me, as somebody who doesn't use aftershave, I want a strong and complex scent with good linger. So for a start the artisans with weak scents don't interest me. What interests me is the smaller number of truly interesting artisans - Grooming Dept, Eufros, Tallow and Steel, Wholly Kaw... guys like that. But even then, there are scents that are wonderful like King of Oud and others that don't make it. No - I'm satisfied with the market as it is and like many others I'm collecting what are to me the great soaps.

As for collecting soaps, have you seen the perfume collections of some people, male and female? That's all about scents. Same thing. We're animals by nature - scent is a strong part of our evolutionary makeup. Small wonder it matters.
I'm absolutely in love with the performance of soaps like Wholly Kaw and Tallow and Steel. But to be honest, I'm not a fan of the increasingly complex scents. I have cologne to wear, I want my soaps to be more simply scented. I wish someone like Wholly Kaw would duplicate the scent of something like MWF with modern performance.


Goose Poop Connoisseur
I throw my lot in with the scent opinion. Most soaps are more than adequate. I got my first artisan soap about a month ago, Stirling Bay Rum, and the scent blew me away. I crave it. However most of the pre artisans are fine. I shave with straight razors exclusively and while many say that you need a top performer for a straight, I use Williams at least once a month and it works just fine. I just got a half dozen samples from Stirling and nothing blows my skirt up like their Bay Rum and I hope they never go out of business. If Arko were the only soap left in the world, we all would get Great shaves - just not so exciting.
As time goes by I am less and less interested in the scents of a soap because I find I grow weary of sniffing the same scent every day. Hard to believe I know. I am leaning more and more in the unscented direction and will leave the sniffer to my AS or ASB. The quality of all the artisanal and factory soaps is very good. And it seems they have hit their peak. And the ones that are not good likely won’t last and that is just good competition and supply and demand. I do have quite a few scented soaps to use up. And a line up of unscented products to take their place!


"A Boy Named Sue"
To me variety is the spice of life. I like all kinds of scents and like all kinds of soaps whether old school are new artisan. Yes, I lean toward the new artisan flavors and believe there are subtle differences in performance in the top tier groupings. As @Ad Astra said,"I hope they all make it."
I think a big part of what we don't really come out and say too often about this is the gulf between stuff like Arko or Col Conk or Cella to the artisans stuff that's costs x2 or more times as much honestly is very small from a strictly performance standpoint. If your technique is good, have a good razor and blade and have a decent brush/can lather well enough the performance is pretty similar. Now don't get me wrong, I just bought a sampler of Wholly Kaw a couple weeks ago and own a couple Stirling's and some DG and some CC so I'm well on that bandwagon. I've been using the WK since I got it actually and I would say that that soap seems to lather a bit quicker and more easily than say Col Conk and has a nicer smell but really the difference isn't that huge. Both perform well and do the job well and if I didn't have the extra disposable income for little luxury items like artisan soaps I honestly wouldn't feel left out. I could use Cella, Arko, Conk etc... happily for a long time and know that my technique and blades matter a lot more.

But that said, I'm still totally up for the artisan soaps and love the little details about them yet at the same time know that strictly speaking, you're totally fine using any of the much more budget options. I do agree that the artisan market is probably a bit over saturated at this point but competition usually leads to better products overall anyhow :)
All I know is that I have used many soaps over the years and it's pretty hard to classify any of them as "bad," which would equate to "unusable" in my book. Granted, I have water-shaved and even dry-shaved in the past, so maybe my definition of a "bad" soap is different than yours.

I no longer chase new soaps or new manufacturers, but if I ever get down to only a few pounds in my stash, I'll see what's available and hope to have the variety of choices that currently exist.
I pretty much use artisan soaps exclusively these days. Scent is the reason i got started in this hobby and is very important IMO. Performance is also important of course, but as mentioned, many of the top soaps are very close performamce wise and what seperates them is the scent profiles.

I also agree that the market is pretty saturated, but the wide variety allows a ton of choices. For most artisans this is their passion and i also hope they all stay in business. The artisans seem to have better customer service and try to make the best product possible and really want people to enjoy their products.
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