Williams Mug Soap (Combe Inc.)

If we must continue to live under pandemic conditions, I am officially switching from shaving with pedestrian "canned goo," like Barbasol and Gillette, to a synthetic brush and shave soap. One can offset life's big impositions by embracing its small luxuries. There is no better way to do that than by dropping a puck of Williams shave soap into a shave mug and whipping up a stiff lather. 

Except, as gentlemen on B&B point out, lathering is tricky with Williams. Considered to be one of the cheapest standard no-frills soaps a bloke can buy, Williams is notorious for being difficult to whip, even with rigorous brushwork. To succeed you must (a) Use soft water, and (b) "Bloom" the puck before attempting use. I do the following: buy Poland Spring water, and boil some in a kettle. Then I pour it over the puck and wait about twenty minutes. By that point it has absorbed all the water and created a layer of solid fattiness over it, which then needs only a bit of brushwork to resurrect. 

It takes serious motion in my Fendrihan mug to get something like the consistency of whipped cream, but it gets there. I can brush it on my face, and it holds long enough for my razor to do its magic. I have oily skin, so the drying nature of Williams is a plus for me (and a significant minus for anyone with naturally dry skin). The scent? It is identical to the original Ivory bar soap, the one which famously floats. This makes sense, as Williams is the creator of Ivory soap.

At a buck per puck, this is a true bargain. There are pricier soaps that I'm sure I'll try, but for a guy like me who just wants a quick scratch, Williams is fine, and for the price it's impossible to beat. 


Evergreen Forest (Stirling Soap Company)

Photograph Courtesy Creative Commons by M, 7/19/12

I promised to explore this brand further, so here we are. It is with some trepidation that I review their relatively new Evergreen Forest EDT. It makes me a bit nervous, because this is a difficult fragrance to review fairly. I feel I was a bit too hard on Stirling Spice, a pretty good oriental that awkwardly compares to vintage Old Spice (and stands better on its own), and I don't want to make the same mistake twice, but I'm afraid this post will leave Stirling fans disappointed (no backsies this time).

The standard test of a label's chops is to see how it handles a "green" fragrance. If a company can render botanical notes well, it can do anything. Pine notes are among the most difficult to create for a few reasons: the inevitable comparisons to floor cleaner, the tendency to resemble car air fresheners, and the scent of fresh conifers gets tiresome fast, even if conveyed accurately. Pino Silvestre succeeds as a fougère by using basil as a dupe for pine, and it ends up smelling warm and expansive. Acqua di Selva blends mint with its pine notes to freshen things without straying into air-care territory. It takes a degree of cleverness to pull off a good evergreen frag. The perfumer must understand that less is more, and focus on compositional balance above all else.

Stirling's scent screams "PINE-SOL!!!" for an hour, then morphs into a neon Christmas tree: loud, unpleasant. It lacks dimensionality, and resembles True North by Little Trees. Perhaps some lavender or spice would've helped. Instead the perfumer misused a cheap frankincense note, and I find myself marginally appreciating the heart more than the top. The base just fades everything out. Does it conjure up a mystical emerald forest of wolves and witches and gorgeous lake sirens? I wish, but no. Avoid this one.