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Grim’s Reaping What I Sow

Peppermint – Taylor of Old Bond

Peppermint, and I thought it was a Holiday scent. M. balsamea Willd is a common herb. I am sure we have grown it in the garden. It contains menthol and is known as a natural pesticide. It is a common scent found in the bathroom in toothpaste. My reference to the Holiday Season was in the memories of candy canes. I should have remembered the properties of menthol.


This sample lathered as easy as all the other TOBS samples. Its performance also matched the others although I could sense just a bit of drying at the end of a pass but the lather in the bowl was still hydrated. However, what hit you was the scent, which was refreshing and lasted the entire shave. But more so was the menthol.

Without a doubt, this felt like a cold compress on the face. Lather up a second time, and it hits you again. Since the scent is a common one for the morning, it is refreshing. Yet at the same time, I have grown accustomed to warm lathers from a scuttle. My control sample was done in the normal lathering bowl, and hence cold. Each time you lathered, a new cold compress was placed on your face. If this didn’t wake you up, nothing would.

When complete, I reached directly for an aftershave bypassing the alum. Peppermint is known for its properties to kill bacteria. Maybe I instinctively sensed I didn’t need the alum. The menthol feel lasted a good five minutes after shaving.

Peppermint is not a Holiday scent, or is it? This is scent that would feel wonderful in a hot, humid summer morning. Although not something I would want to use everyday, it certainly would be a refreshing change in the hot humid days of August. I rate this product 80, and worthy of occasional use. This is the first product that I find worthy or considering purchasing in earnest, at least for occasional summer use and possibly as a Holiday diversion.

The slump is over, and it took TOBS to come out of it. :001_smile

Cedarwood - Taylor of Old Bond Street

Cedars are commonly used for Christmas Trees so I am going to consider TOBS Cedarwood a Holiday scent. It is a good shaving cream but nothing about it was outstanding.


The cream itself was smooth and consistent, something I have come to expect from this brand. As I have also come to expect from this brand, the cushion and slickness was very good. It never dehydrated and never failed me in anyway in terms of performance. But, while I did detect a faint scent of cedar giving just a hint of wood, it quickly dissipated and, for the most part, this was to me a scentless shave. For my second shave I used my scuttle, which made the scent bloom a bit more but not enough to be significant.

Both shaves were very good, exactly what I have come to expect from TOBS, but that is not good enough. Because I consider this sample, essentially, scentless, I rate this sample 65 for me.

Moroccan Myrrh - Crabtree & Eveylyn

My initial impression of E&C Moroccan Myrrh was good.


The scent was a holiday scent to me and inviting. E&C did a reasonable job for what I consider a Holiday scent. It was evident and of decent strength, unlike others which dissipate just looking at the shaving cream.

Making the lather was similar to E&C Sandalwood. The cream is a bit runny. It took more water and more product than most creams. It also tended to dry out quickly, even while on my face. It was almost like a race in that I was on the clock to finish a pass before the lather would dry out on my face.

However, its strength was its scent and the fact the scent lasted the entire shave. I liked the scent and its strength. Looking at this holistically, I rate E&C Moroccan Myrrh 40. The scent, to me, is clearly a Holiday scent reminiscent of Christmas past. Its performance is its weakness to me.

Gingered Cranberry Pear (Soap) – Mystic Water Soap

I’m not sure where to start with this soap. I was impressed.


This isn’t a sample but a full sized soap. It’s a soft soap easily pliable. Upon opening the package the scent was a wonderful, strong, and clearly a Holiday Scent. The Pear and Ginger were evident but the cranberry not so much. That’s fine with me.

I wanted to save the full soap so I cut a few tiny pieces off and pressed them into my shaving bowl. I put a few drops of warm water on top to let it bloom. I then proceeded to load the brush and make the lather directly in my bowl. This might not be an optimum procedure but it was easy to make the lather. Since there is soap always on the bottom of the bowl, it might be a struggle to get the right ratio of water to soap but it was only tiny bits of soap, it was easy to do so.

I had watched the Internet videos on how to make this lather and read that some people had difficulty in lathering it. I found it easy. Sure, it took longer than with creams but that goes with the territory. The lather did not explode out like with some other products I’ve tried but it came with a little time and just watching the ratios. After a while, you get a feel for the right ratios. I think it was a matter of just dribbling water on adlibbing the process.

During my shave, the scent was always present. Upon lathering, my face was instantly cool as if the soap was mentholated, but I thought perhaps it was drying and cooling my face, but it was not drying. It did not have the velvet feeling of other soaps I have tried. Shaving was uneventful. The scent was always present and the shave went easily and was very smooth. In the end, I was very pleased with the results and had little irritation. My alum block found little burn. But the aftershave feel was wonderful.

This is a very good soap and surely worth consideration as an occasional holiday treat. I rate this product 77. Its not a scent I would use every day but it is most definitely worth a look as a Holiday treat.

Throughout my search for the best products for me, I have avoided discussing costs except on rare occasions. Ultimately, the cost really doesn’t matter and I intend to stick with a handful of chosen products (and try new ones as they come out). For now, I am building a baseline. However, like Proraso, this sample is deserving of discussing value for money spent. While I rated Proraso Red poorly for me, this product was far different. I look at things holistically ignoring cost, which might be different than others. Despite cost, so far, I found this product as good as the best of the British creams and much superior, to me, than many other products. Given its low cost, that has value. While I would not choose Gingered Cranberry Pear as an everyday product, and I am do not know yet if the rest of the product line holds up to this product, only time will tell as I build my baseline. In any case, so far, for money spent, I don’t see how one can go wrong with this product. I’ll guess I will shave with this again during the Holiday season. It’s hard to argue with good performance and a decent scent.
Autumn Glory – Stirling (Soap)

On the last day of Autumn, I decided to go with Autumn Glory, a Stirling Soap. The scent of this soap reminded me of the outdoors and possibly conifers. That was good enough for me to include it in the Holiday scents. Stirling’s scents are pronounced and their sample sizes are generous compared to samples received from other companies. Kudos to Stirling. This was my sample of this product.


The scent was strong enough to be present the entire shave. It was a pleasant scent but forgettable. There was nothing distinct about it. The performance of this soap was mediocre. There was nothing that stood out. It worked fine, but to me there was nothing about this sample to set it above others. I rate this product 35.

Frankincense Fog - Stone Cottage Soapworks

My initial impression of Stone Cottage Soapworks Frankincense Fog was good. The scent was not particularly strong but it was a good scent to my nose and smelled like a Holiday related scent to me. The sample size was generous, a lot more generous than some other samples of creams I have tried. Kudos to SCS for excellent sample sizes.


This was an uneventful shave in terms of performance. The lather was good, the glide and cushion was comfortable, and I had no irritation to speak of. In the end, it was another close shave, totally uneventful and what I have come to expect in a product I might use continually. The lather did not feel the same velvet sensation as some of the soaps I’ve tried but it did the job. These are all good things.

The scent, however, disappointed me as it almost instantly dissipated and was replaced with what I can only characterize as generic “soap”. The last time I smelled "soap" might have been 4 decades ago in what I can only describe as Ivory soap. While other shaving creams scents have also quickly dissipated, this was the first time the scent turned into just a generic “soap” scent to my nose rather than being scentless. To be fair, I checked the remaining amount of cream in the sample and to my nose, I smelled a bit of original scent and generic “soap”.

I let the sample sit a few days then retried it using a scuttle. Warm lather is a good thing. This time the scent seemed to last longer, or at least a hint of it until the end, but then came a hint of the generic “soap” scent. In other words, it was a different experience but ultimately, the scent faded not to scentless but to soap. I rate this sample 53, mostly based on the nice frankincense scent turning into a generic soap scent. Otherwise, it was a good sample. Since I am discussing what is important to me, I would have liked the original scent to remain the entire shave.

Cedar & Sage – Mystic Water (Soap)

Mystic Water Cedar & Sage – I was expecting great things from this soap, and I wasn’t disappointed.


The scent to me was just cedar wood. I cannot detect a second scent. It was not particularly strong but stronger than TOBS Cedarwood. It was always present. The performance of this soap was similar to Mystic Water Gingered Cranberry Pear – excellent. Upon lathering, my face was instantly cool as if the soap was mentholated, but I thought perhaps it was drying and cooling my face, but it was not drying.

Shaving was uneventful. The scent was always present and the shave went easily and was very smooth. In the end, I was very pleased with the results and had little irritation. My alum block found little to burn. But the most remarkable thing about these soaps is the after face feel. It’s just superb. I rate this product 76, the scent not being one I would use everyday. Like Sandalwood, Cedarwood is not my favorite scent. But the performance of this soap is very good. Mystic Water is a brand soap that I am looking forward to trying other scents.

St James of London Cedarwood & Clarysage

SJOL makes beautiful shaving creams that are a joy to lather. They are rich, slick, and cushioning, on par with GFT. This one started to dry out just a bit at the end but it was barely noticeable.


The scent was Cedarwood to me and lasted most of the shave but was fading. While its performance is excellent, Cedarwood (and Sandalwood) are just not scents for me. I rate the shaving cream 76. It’s reasonable to compare this to Mystic Water’s Cedarwood & Sage. I wish I could combine the two into one product. SJOL performance was superior, but the post shave feel of the Mystic Water was superior. Even using the companion post-shave gel, the SJOL product didn’t approach the Mystic Water post shave feel. The SJOL post-shave gel had little scent and was average. I found nothing special nor poor about it.



XPEC you ask? That’s not a holiday scent! That’s OK. It’s Christmas Day. It’s time from a short diversion from the Holiday Scents into a trio of something different: one high end product, at least based on price; one product that might be perceived as an old man scent; and one product that seems to be perceived as a young man’s scent. XPEC seems to be highly regarded. Correspondingly, considering its cost, I had high expectations. Its reputation preceded it. This reputation is not something just found on this forum but the product seems well regarded across the Internet.


The scent did not disappoint. The touted complex combination of at least six different scents was far beyond my meager ability to discern scents. I got one thought - “orange juice”. The scent was, compared to other shaving creams, strong, and unlike most other shaving creams did not rapidly dissipate. Rather, it was present the entire shave. It was a wonderful, strong scent of orange juice in the early morning, something quite acceptable that time of day. I not only liked it but also wanted more of it. Orange Juice early in the AM? What could be better than that?

Unfortunately, the performance of the cream was not up to the same standard in exceeding my expectations. The slickness and protection were equal, but not better than the best of the British shaving creams. In fact, the product started to dry out in the end and I could see the beginning of a dry residue in my bowl.

With my second shave with this sample, I used my scuttle. There was no scent. Although the lather was warm, the scent was gone. By the middle of the second pass the lather was drying out and I had to re-lather in the bowl. By the end of my shave the lather had dried in the bowl. Here is the bottom of my scuttle prior to cleaning up.


I then proceeded to try other products and give this a break. I had a second sample and came back to it several weeks later. I had forgotten my first impressions other than it was not something special and had been disappointed. Upon trying it again, my first thought was “orange juice” and a long lasting scent. This is good. At least my impressions were identical. I had noticed that some people objected to the scent but I had forgotten what it smelled like. So I looked up my notes and sure enough, originally I had thought orange juice. I thought it might contain the only scent I know used in creams as orange, that being Bergamot but only citrus is mentioned. Since it had been some time since I tried the first sample, I re-reviewed this with an open mind, actually hoping that the first sample was just bad.

Unfortunately, there was nothing special about this sample either. The performance was above average and this product surely was a very good shaving cream with what I consider a wonderful and long lasting scent while cold. Unfortunately, I prefer my lather warm. Its performance did not exceed the best of the British shaving creams. I rate this product 79, clearly worthy of consideration without giving consideration to cost. However, I will need to think long and before but I decide to purchase a full tub of this. I am not considering price yet at this stage of analysis but other than the scent, which I like, and the fact that when not heated it seemed to retain the scent, I see nothing to warrant the cost/oz nor anything special.

Violet - Geo. F. Trumper

Now for something one might consider an older, classic scent - GFT Violet. It sure looked colorful and was just sitting there so I grabbed it before going back to the Holiday scents. And, I am very glad I did!

The scent of GFT Violet is sublime. There is a hint of violets but it is not a flowery, overbearing scent. I am beginning to understand the appeal of turn of the 20[SUP]th[/SUP] century gentlemen scents. This is not the sweet flower scent of a feminine perfume. I am also beginning to understand the appeal of a single main scent aroma. The aromas of multiple scents in the same cream or soap are lost on me. This subtle scent lasted the entire shave and up to 30 minutes later, a hint of the scent was present. This is the first time I have experience a hint of shaving cream/soap scent lasting so long. GFT knows its scents.

Upon first glance, seeing the dark purple in the GFT Violet cream can be disconcerting. Most all creams I experienced are whites or off-whites. This is a dark purple. I wondered how long the purple would remain but it disappeared after a day or so.


As you make the lather, it turns paler but never turned pure white. There was always a faint tint of purple, and what a lather! It lathered easily and beautifully. The shave was wonderful. It was cushioned and slick. More important was the slickness remained after removing the lather. You could go over the same area twice without any dryness. This was one of the best shaves I had since undertaking this study. The aftershave feel was excellent. However, since I’ve started to use witchhazel, I cannot attribute that to this cream.

For a second shave I used my scuttle. I think that caused the scent to fade a bit quicker and the lather started to dry a bit toward the end in the scuttle. However, overall, I believe this is an truly excellent shaving cream rating it 86. For me, this is the highest rating I have granted so far. Does it mean that this sample was twice as good as some other creams/soaps? To me, absolutely. This is good stuff. Should I stop here and not go on? No, I’m sure there is better stuff out there for me, but GFT Violet rocks.
GFT Violet was my first high end cream and remains my favorite. Performance is great, and the scent is fantastic. Interestingly, the scent of the Violet soap is a bit different, with more of a cologne character than the cream. Performance of the soap isn't nearly as good, but I'll overlook the flaws in consideration of the scent.
GFT Violet was my first high end cream and remains my favorite. Performance is great, and the scent is fantastic.

I was pretty disappointed in XPEC after many members here lauded it. From the build up, I was expecting much more. I see few reviews of GFT Violet across the Internet but I thought it just rocked. I am tempted to just quit and call it a day but back to Holiday scents.

Steel - Through the Fire Fine Craft (Soap)

Now back to the Holiday scents. Through The Fire Fine Craft (TTFFC) samples are ample and come in nice small containers. These are really nice containers for samples. TTFFC Steel is described as containing gingerbread. I love gingerbread and there is a picture on their website of a gingerbread man on the tin. I would consider a gingerbread man or gingerbread house as a Holiday Scent. In fact, I recently had some delicious gingerbread. Unfortunately, that’s not what I got, to my nose.


My mistake. I got lots of a flower like, feminine to my nose, perfume scent. To be fair, the description of the soap on the TTFFC website does describe this scent as a complex cologne type scent. I take the word “cologne” to be associated with “perfume”. Complex scents are lost on me.

The scent faded quickly but a residual scent remained by the end of the shave. To my tastes, I did not like this cologne type scent. The lather was easy to make and voluminous. I did not feel it was outstanding in anyway nor particularly bad in any way. The lather worked and my assessment it is that it was average.

I have gone back just to smell the sample again, and reconfirmed to my nose I smell no ginger or gingerbread but instead a feminine flower type smell that I find unattractive for shaving. Considering that this scent was not for me, and what I consider average performance for me, I rate this sample 51. If the scent was better, I would have rated it a bit higher.
Through The Fire – Through the Fire Fine Craft (Soap)

Think about a Christmas Eve Snowstorm. It’s freezing outside. The snow is coming down and you and the family are sitting in front of an open fire in the fireplace. If you have a wood stove, think about the first scents you get when lighting the kindling. What is more inviting than this scent? Upon opening this sample, I got a roaring, open fireplace fire on a cold winter night. Fantastic.


Similar to TTFFC Steel, the scent faded somewhat but a residual scent remained by the end of the shave. The lather was easy to make and voluminous. I did not feel it was outstanding in anyway nor particularly bad in any way.

I finished with some witch hazel and some leftover SJOL Cedar & Clarysage balm followed by a little bit of cologne. Getting dressed, I notice a residue scent of burnt wood. That’s not good. This is no longer the inviting pine/smoke scent upon starting a fire but more like the morning afterward cleaning out the dead ashes. I asked my wife to take a sniff and she turned her nose up. Thirty minutes later there was still a bit of this residual scent lingering.

My assessment is that this sample is average. I give it credit for what to my nose was a great opening scent but the after scent was not pleasant. I rate this sample 51 for me. But the worst was yet to come. The next morning, sniffing my brush, it smelled like dead ashes from the fireplace. :001_huh:
Frankincense & Myrrh – Mystic Water (Soap)

The scent of this sample was barely noticeable. Unlike the MWS Gingered Cranberry Pear soap, which just jumped at you and grabbed your attention, this scent was subtle and pleasant.


During my shave, the scent was always present but suppressed, just under the surface. I used a scuttle and the lather was warm and inviting, a perfect lather for a cold winter morning.

Shaving was uneventful. Its performance was identical to the other MWS soaps. My face was very smooth and my alum block found nothing to burn. I would be hard pressed to find anything wrong with this soap other than the scent is not something I would buy, even for the Holidays.

To be fair, I had more difficulty in lathering this sample but once dialed in, it was fine. I did not use the same brush as usual but a Chubby instead. Fair warning. The Chubby eats this soap. The after shave feel of this sample was typical of all the other MWS soaps – excellent.

I rate this sample 76, just a point below the Gingered Cranberry Pear sample based on scent alone.
Pumpkin Spice – Mystic Waters (Soap)

One whiff of MWS Pumpkin Spice and you will think it’s a pumpkin pie ready to eat.


MWS soaps aren’t the easiest to lather but once you get used to the soap, it becomes second nature. The lather was typical MWS, beautiful, cushioning, and slick, above average. The resulting shave was about as good as it gets, a completely smooth shave and great after feel.

But the downside to this sample was its strength, that wonderful pumpkin pie scent. Although decently strong and lasting, it just doesn’t seem right for the early morning, pre-dawn. It’s not that something is lacking but more that its just not the right scent for me. I rate this sample 65.
Dickens – Barrister & Mann (Soap)

Barrister & Mann makes limited edition Holiday scents and for several years it has been Dickens. To me this soap resembles Christmas cookie dough in both texture and scent. I wanted to roll it out and bake it. The recipe that inspired this soap can be found online. This soap smelled delicious, maybe better than the MWS Pumpkin Pie scent in that it smelled like a Christmas Cookie.


Lathering was an issue. It took me a fairly long time to get it right. This is a problem. Time is precious. In the early morning hours it’s dark and cold out in the winter. One might be half asleep. Trying to figure out the correct amount of water and constantly whipping up this lather simply was not worth the effort to me. A review of the notes on the B&M website indicate this soap requires a lot of water. Well, I lack the patience for that so this brand is not for me. I have no time for fooling around, testing water ratios, looking up directions, etc. I got places to go, people to see, things to to, so they get one shot.

The initial excellent cookie dough scent changed upon lathering to - Orange Juice. Looking at their website, B&M says it contains lemon. I found it smelled like a strong XPEC, which is a good thing for the early morning. I liked the scent and it remained strong. For me, this is a good thing. Unfortunately, the performance was lackluster. Both cushion and slickness were below par. Based upon the entire set of attributes, I rate this sample 36 for me.

Holiday Analysis

I like the idea of holiday scent. They are a break from routine. They are also a reminder of a time past, a childhood time of snow on pine trees, a roaring fire during a cold snow storm, gifts, and family. They are a break from the routine and usual humdrum of daily life. These scents are not something I would use everyday but make for a good break from routine. Some of the scents truly reminded me of the holidays. Memorable ones included TTFFC Trough The Fire, B&M Dickens, MWS Pumpkin Spice, and MWS Gingered Cranberry Pear.

I found TOBS Peppermint shaving cream to probably be the best all around, except it’s probably not a Holiday Scent. There was too much menthol in it for the winter. In financial terms, my opinion is that MWS Gingered Cranberry Pear comes on top simply because one gets more shaves per oz. than creams.

Obviously GFT Violet and XPEC were not part of this analysis. They were a mid-month diversion. IMO, XPEC was a disappointment. It’s a very good shaving cream and I liked the scent but I do not believe it deserving of the accolades it receives. OTH, GFT Violet might be underrated, is rarely discussed, and does not seem to be popular from my observations. However, that is a product I will be buying.
Sandalwood & Bergamot - St James of London

​The holidays are over and its time to get back to reality. I am really sick of sandalwood and hope to never smell it again. I have learned a valuable lesson here. If you do not like a scent - duh - don't buy a dozen samples of it. Its NOT going to smell better tomorrow. In fact, it will make you hate it even more. :thumbdown

SJOL Sandalwood & Bergamot comes in these nice little carboard containers from the manufacturer. I don't think anything is repacked here.


They also give you the matching post - shave gel, I guess in lieu of aftershave


It took SJOL to break out of the Sandalwood slump.

SJOL Sandalwood & Bergamot is an excellent product for me. This sample says it’s good for 2 – 4 shaves. I no longer have the patience to save this stuff rationing out dollops or whatever measures are called and just whipped up a great batch of lather. This is another lesson learned. It's soap. It's cheap. Just use it.

This lather was a joy to create. It was similar to the TOBS, GFT, and DRH creams and easily made a great lather. It looked and felt fresh, took little time to create, was protective, and never dried out. As with the other British creams, the scent was barely there but the orange note cut back on the light Sandalwood scent. In a way, it was a strange combination but delightful to use.

The cream was on par with these other British creams. I down rated it slightly solely because the scent quickly disappeared and the sandalwood/orange combination a bit strange. I rate this shaving cream 75.

It’s too bad I don’t like the scent of Sandalwood :bored:
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