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My review of Col. Ichabod Conk 'Bay Rum' Shave Soap

Hey everyone, been using this product for a while and just thought I’d give my 2 cents on it. As is always the case, I almost always do a daily 3-pass shave and rinse my face between each pass. I rate the products I use into 4 categories (from worse to best): yuck, bad, good, and excellent. The factors that I consider are scent, performance, ease of use and post-shave. I rate the conk at a ‘low-good’ which is really just good considering the price and longevity you get out of the product. I have the smaller 66ml puck and it’ll last 4 months easy…probably longer. (note I have the new formulation).

Col. Conk prides itself on ‘natural living’ but unfortunately its formulation Imo is anything but. It says it has avocado oil and vitamin E but honestly its ingredient list reads like a pharmaceutical textbook and not in a good way. The product also contains foaming agents and a preservative. I’m not a fan of its formulation personally, perhaps I’ve been spoiled by other products but for the most part I’d like to use a mostly clean shave soap/cream. It’s a very cheap product so I’m not surprised, and I haven’t noticed the formulation negatively affecting my skin in anyway but it’s something to keep in mind.

For ease of use, it doesn’t really get much simpler. Wet brush, flick out most of the water and swirl on the puck. I do it for about a minute before face lathering and get more than enough lather for 3 passes. The lather is a very slick albeit low-structure and is not particularly dense. I prefer this type of lather honestly; I doesn’t feel like its clogging up my pores or that I have some sour-cream smeared on my face. It’s a nice, light, and pleasant feeling that offers all the slickness and protection one could need. It does not take a lot of water and it is easy to drown it out or make it foamy. Dial it in, use the right amount of water and its great. It’s not finnicky though, it’s obvious when it has too little or too much water and doesn’t take long to figure out.

Performance is good. I’ve used it both with a pre-shave and on its own and ultimately the product creates a serviceable and slick lather. I never noticed it being ‘un-slick’ and creating random areas where the razor would drag, in fact I don’t really notice a huge deficit of slickness that some people seem to associate the product with. I found it for lack of a better word, good. Not great, not bad but better than it is worse. Residual slickness is also surprisingly good. Better than Speick I would say. Plenty of slickness left after the visible lather is gone to take extra strokes with the razor, this includes going against the grain which is something I could not do with speick residual (without getting irritation). I would also say that the residual is better than Arko and Proraso. Overall, the lather goes onto the face very easily, stays on the face (no goopiness or breakdown), doesn’t dry quickly, shaves without clogging the razor, rinses off no problem, no residue left either on the razor or the sink. Good across the board though again it’s not going to blow you away. Understatement and cost-efficiency are these products themes.

The scent is my first foray into bay rum. It is a weak to mild vanilla forward herbal scent that I find very pleasant. The notes (according to my nose) are vanilla, bay leaf, caramel or melted brown sugar and a hint of clove. Make no mistake though, whilst it is a sweet scent it does not invoke candy or lollies. I’d say it’s a bit creamy and I don’t get any rum or booziness from the scent at all. I was worried I would smell alcohol, and this was a big reason in not trying the scent for a while. I certainly don’t want to be going around (especially in the morning) smelling like rum haha. Instead, the scent is masculine but not overpowering. It is a bit medicinal, but I find it appealing and it doesn’t last long at all. Wash the face after shaving and its mostly gone. The clove doesn’t create a burning sensation on the face either, it makes up a very small part of the fragrance. There is no extract in the product, just fragrance.

Post-shave unsurprisingly is also good. Not greasy, not oily, not dry, not patchy. Skin is left soft and supple. I do feel a little bit of stickiness from the glycerin, but it absorbs relatively quickly and is unnoticeable after using AS. I don't get a strange 'glossy' or 'fluffy' sensation that some other products have given me.

Overall, a good product for the price. I can recommend it. They come in a lot of scents as well so you've got choice if you want it. Especially a no brainer if you are in North America, its probably the cheapest soap you could get...period.
 
Nice writeup!

I'm intrigued by your preference for slick, low structure lather. I assume this means something other than the big, meringue-like or yogurt-like lather we see in photos here on B&B. Would you share examples of soaps and creams that produce this low structure lather? Are there lathering methods that promote slickness as opposed to volume?
 
My experience with this soap (not the new formula) is opposite than yours. In my opinion, this soap is mediocre at best, with little residual slickness and a lousy lather. I would never recommend this soap (old formula at least) let alone wasting my time writing paragraphs about it.
 
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Thanks @SydneyShaver for taking the time to share your thoughts. I first used Col. Conk Bay Rum more than three years ago when I first started shaving with DE razors and haven't used it since. Not because I dislike it, but because I have since purchased so many other soaps and just never got back to it. I was recently sent a puck and (because of your review) may add it to my rotation in the near future just to see if my opinion based on what I remember of my experience has changed since my shaving technique and tastes have developed.
 
My experience with this soap (not the new formula) is opposite than yours. In my opinion, this soap is mediocre at best, with little residual slickness and a lousy lather. I would never recommend this soap (old formula at least) let alone wasting my time writing paragraphs about it.
I wouldn't know about the old formula honestly. The new one is decent and certainly no slouch. The col himself (or herself) has been saying that the new formula is slicker, easier to lather and has a stronger scent than the old one. I'm definitely not saying that this is the best product or even top tier. If you've ever paid money for proraso and found it well spent though...you should give this product a try. They're in the same league.
 
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Nice writeup!

I'm intrigued by your preference for slick, low structure lather. I assume this means something other than the big, meringue-like or yogurt-like lather we see in photos here on B&B. Would you share examples of soaps and creams that produce this low structure lather? Are there lathering methods that promote slickness as opposed to volume?
I haven't used enough products to really give many examples. I found that often even if it is meringue-esque that if it is non-tallow it often doesn't feel super heavy (but still not airy either). A lot of the traditional shave creams (TOBS and DRH) as well as Proraso and Cella bio don't seem to keep thickening up as I lather up. They kind of just get to the point where everything is mixed in properly and stay that way. I couldn't comment on anything that isn't mass produced, I've only tried a sample of an artisan. Then again, maybe its the amounts that I use too. I just found that using what I consider to be the optimal amount of product doesn't necessarily yield identical lather across products. Lathering methods...not sure tbh. I don't do anything special other than face lather and make sure the lather is neither dry or too wet.
 
Thank you for the thoughtful well put together write up.
While I don’t think I’m racing out to pick any up it does tell me much more than I knew about the product.
I love a good Bay Rum but this doesn’t sound like it for me but rather a very serviceable stand in soap when none of your preferred is available.
Not fancy not flashy nor luxurious but at least a solid workable tool soap.
I of course was hoping for a wonderful product that was sitting back being overlooked.
Thanks again for taking the time to take a serious look at it for all of us.


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Well-written review, though I would question your overall grading of the soap. You classify it as "low good" which suggests it's closer to bad than great, but then, other than your objection to the ingredient list, go on to state that it quickly and easily produces your preferred type of lather that provides a "nice, light, and pleasant feeling that offers all the slickness and protection one could need." It's also not finicky, which is a great quality in a shaving soap.

You also tout the Col. Conk soap as being superior in residual slickness to two well-loved and highly respected soaps (Arko and Proraso). You then go on to say that "overall, the lather goes onto the face very easily, stays on the face (no goopiness or breakdown), doesn’t dry quickly, shaves without clogging the razor, rinses off no problem, no residue left either on the razor or the sink." I mean, people are paying $20+ for artisan soaps that can't have the same said about them.

Now, from a review perspective, other than describing it, scent plays no part in the performance of a soap and shouldn't really be a part of the grading. Scents are too subjective; you'll either like it or not. Take Tabac for example. Many people hate the scent, but can't argue against its performance. I argue that anyone that has anything negative to say about Tabac is experiencing user error. I digress... Also, I wouldn't expect any scent to remain if you're washing your face after a shave. If you're just rinsing it, maybe a little lingering can be expected, but shaving soaps aren't really meant to provide a lasting scent. That would lower the demand on aftershaves and colognes.

So, again, other than your concerns about the ingredient list, what you describe here is a great performing inexpensive soap.

As to the ingredient list, I can't speak to what the new formula is. The old formula used the scientific names for surfactants (soaps), emulsifiers (needed to bind ingredients in soaps that don't mix well), a foaming agent (which is a derivative of coconut or palm oil), and a preservative. Add in the fragrance, and you have a standard soap. Go compare that list to a TOBS ingredient list, which also reads like a pharmaceutical shopping list but only longer.

Now, I'm allergic to preservatives, so I can't use the Col. Conk soaps (I started my wet shaving life out using them before I knew I was allergic), but I would challenge you to look at any of your other grooming choices (body soap, hand soap, shampoo, conditioner) and see what you've got going on there and you'll see that Col. Conks is pretty light on their use of chemicals, and ingredients overall.

I would say based on your grading scale and your supporting evidence as written according to your experience that you've somehow incorrectly categorized this great if not excellent soap as "low good." ;)
 
Great review of the review @12stones. I especially like and agree with your "scent plays no part in the performance of a soap and shouldn't really be a part of the grading" statement. I have purchased more soaps than I can hope to finish and it was done mostly based on reviews of the scent profiles. If I had it to do over again, I would buy one or two soaps based on performance and purchase aftershaves and/or balms for the scent. Thanks again for taking the time to review the review :)
 
Well-written review, though I would question your overall grading of the soap. You classify it as "low good" which suggests it's closer to bad than great, but then, other than your objection to the ingredient list, go on to state that it quickly and easily produces your preferred type of lather that provides a "nice, light, and pleasant feeling that offers all the slickness and protection one could need." It's also not finicky, which is a great quality in a shaving soap.

You also tout the Col. Conk soap as being superior in residual slickness to two well-loved and highly respected soaps (Arko and Proraso). You then go on to say that "overall, the lather goes onto the face very easily, stays on the face (no goopiness or breakdown), doesn’t dry quickly, shaves without clogging the razor, rinses off no problem, no residue left either on the razor or the sink." I mean, people are paying $20+ for artisan soaps that can't have the same said about them.

Now, from a review perspective, other than describing it, scent plays no part in the performance of a soap and shouldn't really be a part of the grading. Scents are too subjective; you'll either like it or not. Take Tabac for example. Many people hate the scent, but can't argue against its performance. I argue that anyone that has anything negative to say about Tabac is experiencing user error. I digress... Also, I wouldn't expect any scent to remain if you're washing your face after a shave. If you're just rinsing it, maybe a little lingering can be expected, but shaving soaps aren't really meant to provide a lasting scent. That would lower the demand on aftershaves and colognes.

So, again, other than your concerns about the ingredient list, what you describe here is a great performing inexpensive soap.

As to the ingredient list, I can't speak to what the new formula is. The old formula used the scientific names for surfactants (soaps), emulsifiers (needed to bind ingredients in soaps that don't mix well), a foaming agent (which is a derivative of coconut or palm oil), and a preservative. Add in the fragrance, and you have a standard soap. Go compare that list to a TOBS ingredient list, which also reads like a pharmaceutical shopping list but only longer.

Now, I'm allergic to preservatives, so I can't use the Col. Conk soaps (I started my wet shaving life out using them before I knew I was allergic), but I would challenge you to look at any of your other grooming choices (body soap, hand soap, shampoo, conditioner) and see what you've got going on there and you'll see that Col. Conks is pretty light on their use of chemicals, and ingredients overall.

I would say based on your grading scale and your supporting evidence as written according to your experience that you've somehow incorrectly categorized this great if not excellent soap as "low good." ;)
I mean it isn’t as slick or as nice feeling as my favourite creams full stop. It just isn’t. I liked proraso but that would also just be a low-good for me. There is nothing particularly great about the conk. Almost every product I’ve used except for proraso was easy to lather and provided economical shaves in the long run. Most products in wet shaving other than MWF and GFT soaps have reputations of being extremely easy to use at basically every price point. That being said, I use conk and I enjoy it, I would rather use this than shaving foam. As for the ingredient list, you’re right. Many other brands and products aren’t good either. I didn’t give those a pass when I reviewed them. My skin is temperamental, this is not a product I would use if I was breaking out, feeling oily or dry. For what works out to be not much extra a shave I can do better here in Australia. It’s not so expensive that I can’t overlook any flaw. But it’s not so cheap either. Reviews are subjective so I throw in my opinion on scent too. I’ve liked product in the past whose scent made me gag.
 
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Great review of the review @12stones. I especially like and agree with your "scent plays no part in the performance of a soap and shouldn't really be a part of the grading" statement. I have purchased more soaps than I can hope to finish and it was done mostly based on reviews of the scent profiles. If I had it to do over again, I would buy one or two soaps based on performance and purchase aftershaves and/or balms for the scent. Thanks again for taking the time to review the review :)
I agree, scent shouldn’t affect performance. That being said, if something smells bad or goes against out tastes I doubt we’d give it a fair shake. I just like to include the scent and what it smells like to me because reading descriptions and notes doesn’t really mean anything to me. Hopefully, it can help someone decide if the product is for them. For instance I don’t care how good a product is. If it has an almond scent…I’m never buying it…ever! Glad you liked the review
 
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I agree, scent shouldn’t affect performance. That being said, if something smells bad or goes against out tastes I doubt we’d give it a fair shake. I just like to include the scent and what it smells like to me because reading descriptions and notes doesn’t really mean anything to me. Hopefully, it can help someone decide if the product is for them. For instance I don’t care how good a product is. If it has an almond scent…I’m never buying it…ever! Glad you liked the review
I hope you didn't take offense. While scent shouldn't affect performance, it certainly can influence a review... and a purchase :)

As I stated previously, "If I had it to do over again, I would buy one or two soaps based on performance and purchase aftershaves and/or balms for the scent."
 
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I hope you didn't take offense. While scent shouldn't affect performance, it certainly can influence a review... and a purchase :)

As I stated previously, "If I had it to do over again, I would buy one or two soaps based on performance and purchase aftershaves and/or balms for the scent."
No offence taken! I’m not sure I prefer the scents of most AS though. I think I’d rather have a nice scented cream, scentless AS and then wear cologne on top. What would you pick for performance btw?…interested to hear your opinion!
 
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No offence taken! I’m not sure I prefer the scents of most AS though. I think I’d rather have a nice scented cream, scentless AS and then wear cologne on top. What would you pick for performance btw?…interested to hear your opinion!
I'm glad you were not offended. It's not always easy for me to convey intent in these forums, so I have no problem checking to ensure the true meaning of my messages.

Since I haven't been playing this shaving game for very long, what I offer now is just my personal opinion based on my limited experience... I would pick Arko because of the price, availability, performance, and simplicity. By "simplicity" I mean how easy it is to use in either stick form or pressed into a bowl; just load with a damp brush and start building lather. I won't comment on the fragrance here because you specifically asked about performance :)

Be well and stay safe...
 
Col Conk soaps are great, lots of slickness (which is the most important characteristic of shaving soaps in my book), nice scents, and easy to lather.

Sometimes too easy to lather, it took me a while on my first one to learn to load much less and use more water. As noted, you won't get mountains of whipped cream, but you do get very slick lather that holds well.

The bay rum is nice, the almond is nice, Lime lit my face up one time, but that may have been the new razor blade as I've not had any issues since.

Great soap for minimal effort daily shaving. I think I got 150 shaves out of my first one, haven't finished any others to verify that.
 
Col Conk soaps are great, lots of slickness (which is the most important characteristic of shaving soaps in my book), nice scents, and easy to lather.

Sometimes too easy to lather, it took me a while on my first one to learn to load much less and use more water. As noted, you won't get mountains of whipped cream, but you do get very slick lather that holds well.

The bay rum is nice, the almond is nice, Lime lit my face up one time, but that may have been the new razor blade as I've not had any issues since.

Great soap for minimal effort daily shaving. I think I got 150 shaves out of my first one, haven't finished any others to verify that.
I agree 100% I don't know if I would try any other scent except for maybe the amber as I don't like the lolly or candy type lime scent and I hate almond scents. It gives good shaves at a good price for a good while (haha!).
 
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