Proraso Green Aftershave Lotion & Balm (Ludovico Martelli)

Here's an aftershave that has developed over many years into quite the impressive little machine. It's essentially the same kind of thing as Thayer's facial toner (it contains witch hazel), but dispenses with bold witch hazel assertions and lists the ingredient on its box without fanfare. I feel this is a wise move. While it certainly works therapeutically on newly-shorn skin, it shouldn't be considered a "witch hazel" product. It's simply a straightforward aftershave, and it works beautifully. Proraso Green is a classic. 

In addition to witch hazel and glycerin, Proraso contains eucalyptus leaf oil, and I can smell it in there. The fragrance is best described as a simple "green" essence. It pops with minty menthol on top, and within twenty seconds the eucalyptus comes forward. I find it similar to Osage Rub, but gentler. There's a bit of a powdery feel to the drydown, but the whole affair is very simple, zingy, and old-school barbershop. What I like most is the way it snaps me awake without making my eyes water. With Osage Rub it feels like the menthol is beating me over the head; Proraso is just a quick slap. 

I'm surprised that its scent profile eschews the familiar herbal-pine approach of older Italian barbershop fragrances, favoring an uncomplicated medicinal scent instead. But maybe this tonic-like aspect is true to a tradition of older continental lotions. My vintage Lilac Vegetal smells quite medicinal. Ditto my Colgate talc. My suggestion for newbies is to get the hard stuff out of the way first: buy a bottle of Osage Rub, use it for a week or two, and then spring for Proraso. If you can survive the Rub, you'll appreciate this stuff that much more. It's a rite of passage to manhood that every young wetshaver should experience, and a worthy addition to any shave den. Side note - the teeny-tiny splash spout is precious. 

The Proraso Green Aftershave Balm comes in a square glass bottle, and frankly it smells a lot like Vicks VapoRub to me. The bottle is heavy square glass and the balm is a smooth semi-fluid white substance that pours easily and rubs in even easier. I can tell this stuff is quality because it feels soothing as I work it into my skin, and it doesn't leave any stickiness (just a bit of a gloss). Very nice.

I have some experience with Trumper's aftershave balms, which they call "Skin Food," and I think I prefer them over Proraso's, but Proraso beats Nivea in this department. Nivea's balm is also good, but feels less healing on skin, and leaves some tack behind (it smells better, though). When it comes to balms, I'm not quite sure where to turn. I find them to be an extraneous shave ablution, and often skip them, favoring a simple splash with a bit of styptic. Lately my skin has been protesting my shaves, so Proraso's balm comes in handy, and I suspect I'll use it frequently this winter.

I understand that in addition to their basic shaving products, Proraso makes what they call their "Single Blade" line of post-shave balms, and also colognes. I'm interested in trying at least one of their colognes, to see how they handle the perfumery angle. I don't consider the scent of their green shave lotion anything special, but perhaps the Single Blade colognes are a step up. Stay tuned.


Bay Rum (Geo. F. Trumper)

People get hung up on the massive and very natural clove note in this one. Take, for example, Fragrantica member Planet_X's hilarious review: 
"See and hear me crying with laughter. Bay Rum smells like. . . I thought for ages it smells like Bicardi or Havana Club or Captain Morgan, funny, I know . . . But . . . quoting Justice Glaster its 'clove clove clove clove clove clove clove clove clove clove clove clove clove clove clove clove clove clove clove clove clove clove clove clove clove clove . . . that's all you get!' Take it or leave it, just do not call it Rum and Bay, please!"

Humor aside, what Planet_X has forgotten is there's more to bay rum than just rum. The bay and spice are gigantic components that offset the liquor-like sweetness found in literally 99% of designer masculines these days. And Trumper's carefully composed Bay Rum cologne contains a green monster bay note (pimenta racemosa) that overtakes the composition only a few seconds after application. While the bright clove top note is impossible to miss, the bay steals the show. Thirty minutes later the drydown arc arrives at a soft rum that smells sweet (but not overly so) and unnecessarily expensive. 

Trumper's scent accurately clones Pinaud's cheaper Virgin Island Bay Rum cologne, a favorite among wet shavers. So why all the hate for it in the fragcomm? This will always puzzle me. I suppose the bay note smells similar enough to the clove note that people think Djarum kreteks instead of the beach. It's the simple but sturdy smell of a fragrance that has survived countless world wars, pandemics, and disasters, and it now sits on my bedroom dresser in the early twenty-first century. Geo. F. Trumper's scent is a survivor, so critics should cut it some slack. I don't smell it and think, "Gee, the balance is wrong." I think of wooden ships bouncing across rough seas. I think of cowboys. Women in tight corsets. Queen Victoria. Dracula. The Industrial Revolution. 

My one gripe with this bay rum, as with all bay rums, is it isn't loud enough for how good it smells. It's a skin scent after an hour, which at Trumper prices is not ideal. Regular reapplication isn't cheap at $25 an ounce, for 1.5 ounces. So a little more perfume oil in the blend is called for, although its longevity is acceptable at roughly three hours. It's yet another winner by a brand that knows its oft-overlooked customers better than they know themselves. The wisdom of age, I suppose.