Stirling Soap Company: Eskimo Tuxedo Review

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The weather in Michigan changes on a dime. Once second, the sun’s out, warming the state to an agreeable temperature. The next minute, massive gusts bring dark clouds with them, covering the sun and dropping temperatures rapidly. Detroit may be on EST, but the weather, as C-Note perfectly put it in the first seasons of Prison Break: “You know what they say about weather in the Midwest: if you don’t like it, wait an hour.”

Either way, it was warm late last month, giving me the ability to try out one of Stirling Soap Company’s summer offerings – Eskimo Tuxedo, which costs $13.50 for a 6 oz. tub ($2.25 an ounce). Now it’s important to note that I’m not a menthol head. I do enjoy the occasional dose of frigid soap, but I don’t use them often. My sensitive face can’t handle overly-mentholated soaps, as the menthol just ends up turning my face red and giving me a burning sensation.

As a warning, when Stirling puts “Glacial” on the label, the stuff is going to be freaking cold. And this scent is also based off of their popular, scents, Sharp Dressed Man, which happens to be one of my favorites. As Stirling puts it, “Our popular Sharp Dressed Man fragrance with enough menthol to make a polar bear buy a timeshare in Florida.”

Don’t think of this a lightly mentholated version of Sharp Dressed Man, because you’ll be shocked if you do. The soap maker claims this is a 10/10 when it comes to the menthol level. And boy does it stand up to it. This stuff is absolutely freezing.

Face lathering this soap, at least for me, is a challenge, as it feels like you’ve just stepped out into a raging blizzard. The soap is so cold, that my face actually feels likes it’s burning throughout the entire first pass. The burning sensation, thankfully, didn’t return on the second or third pass. When loading and directly off of the puck, the scent is mostly menthol with a hint of Sharp Dressed Man.

The lather was just as one would expect from Stirling – a nice, thick, slick vessel to shave with – but I did have some trouble loading the soap. I’m not sure if the extra menthol crystals made the soap softer than the company’s other offerings, but a 20-second load ended with large clumps of soap in the brush.

Scent Pleasantness: 6/10

Scent Strength: 3/10

Lather Quality: 7/10

Price: 10/10

Is this the coldest soap I’ve ever used? No, that trophy goes to Barrister and Mann’s Artique. But Eskimo Tuxedo is still way too cold for me. And despite having a hint of Sharp Dressed Man hidden in the soap, the scent is still overwhelmingly menthol, which I’m not a fan of. If you’ve tried Chiseled Face’s Cryogen, Fine’s Snake Bite, or Artique and thought that those were way too cold, but don’t find regular mentholated items to fit the bill, try Stirling’s Glacial line.

Overall: 6

Stirling Finest Badger Bulbs vs Stirling Finest Badger Fan

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Synthetic brushes are the new craze and, as much as I hate to admit that I’m on any kind of bandwagon, I’ve been enjoying using synthetics almost exclusively for a while. But with the release of Stirling Soap Company’s new lineup of affordable finest badger brushes, I felt compelled to purchase one to try. And then, I felt compelled to try all of them.

My wet shaving history with badger brushes is short and limited to only two – a pure badger Omega brush and a silvertip badger brush from Whipped Dog. I wasn’t a huge fan of either of those brushes, which could’ve been what turned me away from badger brushes.

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Either way, I grabbed a 24mm finest badger shave brush from Stirling with the bulb knot and fell in love. It’s a fantastic brush, and affordable too at just $34.95. But the bug bit me and I wanted to see how the entry-level badger brush fares to the rest of Stirling’s lineup. So, I did what any right-minded wet shaver would do and decided to try all three brushes.

I put all three brushes up against one another on three criteria: looks, ergonomics, and performance. Performance included things like density, backbone, and face feel. While I may state that one brush is better than the other, everyone’s preferences are different and one of the brushes may work better for you. As the saying goes, your mileage may vary.

Looks

This one is an easy win and one that can be summarized in one word – butterscotch. The 24mm bulb knot in white isn’t ugly, neither is the 26mm bulb in white, but come on, just look at that handle on the 24mm fan knot. And it’s not just the butterscotch coloring that does it, but also the way the brush stands tall and its flowing lines. As far as handles go, the one on the fan knot is my favorite.

Winner: 24mm Fan Knot

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Ergonomics

All three badger brushes have very distinct handles. The 24mm bulb knot is in a goblet-like handle. There’s a nice tapered edge that stops lather from coming down onto your fingers and it feels good enough in your hands. Those with large hands or sensitive nerves will get a hand cramp when lather for an extensive time, but it’s nothing too bad.

The 26mm bulb knot features a large, comfortable handle. It’s the same one from the 22mm synthetic brush (Li’l Brudder) and feels really nice in the hand. It’s meaty, well balanced, and a joy to use. The only downside to the handle on the 26mm bulb knot is that lather constantly makes its way down onto your fingers. It doesn’t matter if I’m bowl or face lathering, I have to rinse the base of the handle off multiple times throughout a shave, which gets annoying. I wish there was more of a lip on the 26mm brush to stop lather from trickling down, but the 26mm handle feels a little better than the 24mm.

The winner, though, is the gorgeous, yeah it’s really hard to get over how good the fan knot looks, handle on the 24mm fan knot. It’s meat and tall, meaning that your hand won’t cramp and lather won’t get onto your fingers. There’s a prominent lip to ensure that your hands won’t get slippery either.

Winner: 24mm Fan Knot

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Performance

Just like the “looks” category, this one is just as subjective. Everyone likes something different in a brush, so these are just the things that I noticed and which one works better for me. It won’t necessarily result in a better brush for you, though.

Density, or how many hairs are in a brush when it comes to shaving, is a big thing for me. I like a knot that’s well packed and has little flop, as the majority of synthetics are floppy and aren’t densely packed. When it comes to density the 24mm bulb has it in spades, while the 26mm bulb follows closely behind. The 24mm fan knot, though, is on the floppier side.

Density also plays a role in how much backbone a brush has. Usually, a denser brush offers more backbone and that’s the same story here. The 24mm fan knot splays much easier than the bulb, making it difficult to use on harder soaps. The splay in the fan knot also makes it floppier than the bulbs, which makes it better to paint with, but not necessarily to build a lather with.

Lastly, and this is kind of odd, the tips of the brushes vastly differ. The ones on the 24mm bulb knot have more scritch, but turn into gel when any amount of water comes into contact with them. The tips on the 24mm fan knot and 26mm bulb knot on the other hand, are softer, but aren’t as gel-like. This could’ve been due to the fact that I bought the 24mm bulb knot heavily used and the other two brushes weren’t broken in yet.

Overall, I find the 26mm bulb more appealing when it comes to performance because it’s the densest, has the most backbone, and has the softest tips. And now that I’m using the brush more often, the tips are starting to mimic the ones on the smaller 24mm bulb knot.

Winner: 26mm Bulb Knot

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At the end of the day, the 26mm Bulb Knot walks away from the 24mm Fan Knot and the 24mm bulb knot for me. And it’s all because of the way the brush performs. The fan knot, though, is a looker, and I was extremely tempted to just keep the brush because of the gorgeous handle. But the knot wasn’t dense enough, didn’t have enough backbone, and was too floppy. If Stirling wishes to revisit the fan knot in the future, I would strongly urge to put the knot lower into the brush, giving it some much-needed backbone in the process, and put a larger 26mm knot into it for a denser feel.

Overall Winner: 26mm Bulb Knot

At the end of the day, I’m keeping the 26mm bulb knot until Stirling decides to revisit the fan knot. If I had to put the three brushes in order from best to not as good, it would go: 26mm bulb knot > 24mm bulb knot > 24mm fan knot.

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Mickey Lee Soapworks: The Kraken Review

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I’ve already proclaimed my love for aquatic and barbershop scents. I love them both equally and if I had to choose one, it would be a well-done aquatic scent. With that in mind, Mickey Lee Soapworks’ The Kraken should be a 10/10, since it blends both of my favorite scents together.

I’ve tried soaps from Mickey Lee Soapworks before, but The Kraken is my first go at using the soapmaker’s new formula, well the first time I’m officially reviewing the stuff. While I liked the previous scents that I’ve tried before, I wasn’t a huge fan of the lather. But this new stuff is awesome.

The Kraken costs $14.00 for 4 oz. of soap. That brings the stuff to $3.5 per ounce. That’s a little expensive, but it’s certainly not in the realm of things that are overpriced.

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The scent, as Mickey Lee Soapworks describes it as, “We took classic barbershop a step further and incorporated an undercurrent reminiscent of fresh ocean air; hints of salt air, sea kelp and agave.” Unfortunately, the scent comes off as banana to me. I know, it’s weird, but it’s proof that everyone’s nose is different. While my sniffer got banana, my girlfriend’s got lavender. When I purposely told my brain that banana wasn’t there, I got a fresh, clean, and slightly aquatic barbershop scent.

It’s an enjoyable scent, but not one that I would like to use often. The lather, on the other hand, is impeccable. Loading a synthetic brush for 30 seconds winds up with way too much soap. But working the gorgeous white and blue stuff into a lather is incredibly easy. The soap just explodes with minimal effort into a thick, slick lather. It’s one of the easiest soaps I’ve ever used, making it worthy of its $3.50 per ounce price tag.

The new formula is also stellar at post-shave feel. My face feels moisturized and skipping a post-shave product isn’t out of the realm of possibility. The scent, though, doesn’t last very long. I could smell the scent on my hands until the 30-minute mark, which is a shame as the scent strength is a little above medium out of the sample jar.

Scent Pleasantness: 7/10

Scent Strength: 7/10

Lather Quality: 9/10

Price: 8/10

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If you haven’t tried Mickey Lee Soapworks’ new formula, I urge you to try it. The soap is easy to lather, creates an amazing vessel to shave one’s face with, and is well priced. If you enjoy barbershop scents, you’ll definitely likes The Kraken, just don’t be surprised if you happen to smell something else in the tub, like banana, or lavender.

Overall: 8/10

Barrister and Mann: Oceana Review

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Aquatic scents are my second favorite scent, after barbershop ones and on the right day, aquatic ones surpass those classic, clean scents as my go-to fragrances. For 2017, my wet shaving resolution is to make some headway on my numerous, so when I randomly picked Barrister and Mann’s Latha Oceana, I was a happy guy.

I’ve covered one of Barrister and Mann’s Latha line up before and, besides the scent, had nothing but good things to say. The Latha lineup is an absolute steal at $11 for a 4 oz. tub. Despite being part of the soap maker’s “cheaper” lineup of soaps, this stuff is in a league of its own for soaps that cost less than $3.00 an ounce.

In short, the entire Latha line is capable of producing an incredibly slick, protective lather. I caught myself saying, “holy crap, this is slick stuff” when I was attempting to pull my skin when I was shaving. Yes, it’s that good. Barrister and Mann’s products are in the top three soaps I’ve tried and Latha Oceana stands up to the soap maker’s magnificent standards. The scent is also incredibly addictive.

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Here’s how Barrister and Mann describes Oceana: “Light, clean aquatic that goes with everything. A scent that’s perfect for any time!” That’s sweet, simple, and to the point. While I got a sample that had a label that slightly differs from the actual jar, the tub has “aqua, bergamot, sandalwood, and jasmine” plastered on it as the main fragrances of the soap.

Out of the tiny jar, the scent isn’t as simple as the humble description makes it out to be. My nose detects the aqua up front and center, along with the sandalwood in a much more modest way. The bergamot and jasmine bring up the rear to make Oceana a masculine, cologne-type of scent. It’s incredible, and above average on strength scent.

A 45-second load with my faithful Semogue 1305 boar brush provides me with plenty of soap for a three-pass shave. When building the lather, the scent diminishes down to a hint below average and gains a lot more aquatic notes. On the face, it smells like pulling up to a body of water and taking a deep breath in.

It’s the perfect scent for the middle of winter in Michigan and briefly has me thinking about warmer weather.

The lather, and I can’t gush over it any more than I already have, is absolutely superb. The cushion is there in spades, the slickness is good enough to do a second pass without applying another layer of lather, and the post shave left my senstive face feeling nice and moisturized. I could’ve skipped a post shave lotion and been just fine.

My only complaint, and this is a minor one, is the amount of time the scent lingers on my hands. I can barely make out the notes in the soap 30 minutes after the shave. Other than that, Oceana has no faults.

Scent Pleasantness: 9/10

Scent Strength: 7/10

Lather Quality: 9/10

Price: 9/10

I’m teetering between nines and 10s for this soap. And I can only recall a few times I’ve done that before. This is a must have for wet shavers that like a light aquatic scent with Barrister and Mann’s magnificent lather. At this price point, there’s nothing that can beat this. It’s an absolute knockout and only the second soap that has earned a permanent spot in my den.

Overall: 9/10

Mike’s Natural Soaps: Orange, Cedarwood, and Black Pepper Review

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I’m not sure if it’s just me, but I find myself getting into a rhythm when it comes to shaving soaps. After using Mike’s Natural Soaps in their Barbershop scent, I had an itch to continue using a soap from the company, so I reached for their Orange, Cedarwood, and Black Pepper soap.

Unlike other soap makers that charge a flat rate for all of its soaps, Mike’s Natural Soaps differ in price. I’m not sure what causes the increase in prices, it could come down to ingredients, difficulty of mixing the scents, or the fact that it’s made using essential oils and not fragrance oils, but Orange, Cedarwood, and Black Pepper is in the midrange in terms of pricing. A 5 oz. tin of soap costs $14.50, bringing the soap to $2.90 an ounce. That’s not as cheap as the Barbershop scent, but it’s still a reasonable price for an incredible product.

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Out of the tin, Orange, Cedarwood, and Black Pepper is well above average – if you can get the lid off. This poor tin has been damaged to the point where the lid will only come off and go on if the dents are lined up and with a fair amount of effort. The rest of the tin hasn’t faired well either, as there are numerous dents, scratches, and imperfections. The soap, though, which is the most important thing, remains unharmed.

After wrestling with the tin for a few minutes, the whole bathroom is immediately filled with a spicy orange. I’ve recently become a fan of citrus scents that go against the industry standard of lime and have found orange to be one of my favorites. And Mike’s Natural Soaps’ is a fantastic scent. I mostly get orange with the spiciness of the pepper coming at the end. My nose doesn’t get anything more than a subtle hint of the cedarwood, which is fine with me as I’m not a fan of woodsy scents.

Lathering the soap brings out the citrus of the orange more with the black pepper being toned down a bit. It’s by no means an orange only scent, but the orange is the star of the show and gets stronger as the soap is lathered. I really like the scent and, since the cedarwood isn’t really noticeable, is one that I think can be used all year.

The lather, as I’ve covered before, is extraordinary. It has the cushion, slickness, and face feel to rival any soap and the post shave is amazing, as well. My only gripe with Mike’s Natural Soaps is that the soap can be a little hard to lather. But I found an easy way around this. I used my synthetic brush from L&L Grooming, which has an Amack Game Changer knot that has a fair amount of backbone to it. By using a wetter brush and something with a little more backbone, I managed to whip up a great lather in no time.

Scent Pleasantness: 9/10

Scent Strength: 7/10

Lather Quality: 10/10

Price: 9/10 

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This is another grand slam from Mike’s Natural Soaps. If you’re tired of sniffing lime-based citrus scents, I recommend giving orange a whirl. And Mike’s Orange, Cedarwood, and Black Pepper is an outstanding citrus-based soap. The lather is amazing, the scent is incredible, and the price is affordable. The only thing that may hold you back from getting a tin is that it’s constantly sold out.

Overall: 9

Barrister and Mann: Seville Review

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I’m a barbershop fanatic, something I’ve beaten to death recently. And when searching for scents that remind one of patiently sitting, waiting for the barber to begin cutting one’s hair, Barrister and Mann’s Seville constantly pops up.

I purchased this soap approximately one year ago during the soap maker’s last Flash Sale and it’s hung on since then. Unfortunately, the terrible pictures that I took don’t portray how much soap is left, which isn’t much. Every time I use the soap, I load the heck out of it and the rock-hard puck has suffered on admirably.

This white-branded tub of Seville is no longer available, as it has been replaced with the newer Glissant-based product. The price, though, remains the same at $16.00 for a 4 oz. tub. Barrister and Mann’s products, especially those that are made in limited quantities, are usually quite pricey.

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Paying $4.00 per oz. isn’t something that I usually do, since there is abundant amount of soaps out there that perform incredibly well for less. But, as I’ve pointed out before, Barrister and Mann’s products create an incredible lather. And the old jar of Seville isn’t any different.

Barrister and Mann’s Seville creates a rich, thick, and slick lather that is hard to beat. Yes, the soap is pricey, but after using the soap I can see why. Few soaps can compete with the soap maker’s products and they continually give me an amazing shave.

The only thing that stops me from gushing over Seville is the scent. The soap is characterized as: “A traditional barbershop scent, this soap contains bergamot, lemon, patchouli, oakmoss, lavender, and rosemary. A fresh, clean fragrance that goes with pretty much anything.”

Seville, unfortunately, doesn’t do it for me. The rosemary and lavender are front and center, creating an herby-forward scent. The oakmoss comes in at the end to provide a bit of powder, which I enjoy, and my nose doesn’t detect any of the citrus notes. While other barbershop scents provide a fresh, modern take on the fragrance, Seville is more of a traditional take. Some will enjoy it, while others, like myself, will veer towards the other family of barbershop scents.

The one good thing about the scent is the strength. It’s strong out of the jar and stays above average throughout the shave. The scent doesn’t hang around for too long after the shave though, as I was only able to smell it on my hands 30 minutes after the shave. Still, it’s good to see, or rather smell, that the soap has above average scent strength for how much it costs.

Scent Pleasantness: 6/10

Scent Strength: 7/10

Lather Quality: 10/10

Price: 6/10

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I’m not a huge fan of the scent, but it’s something that I reach for when I’m looking to get a great shave before bed. It’s a calming, relaxing scent that barbershop fans should try. The lather is superb, which is something that is to be expected from Barrister and Mann, the post shave is great, and the price, while a little high, matches the quality of the soap. Before spending $16.00 on a tub, I would recommend getting a sample to try out.

Overall: 7/10

Mike’s Natural Soaps: Barbershop Review

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This, ladies and gentlemen, is it. It’s the first time I will be giving a soap a 10/10, the first time I used a soap and contemplated selling everything I own and only carry scents from one soap maker, and the first time I felt true rage for ever using shaving cream from a can. This, then, is, for me at least, the best soap I have used.

Mike’s Natural Soaps has been around for quite some time and is regarded as one of the first artisans on the market. Before I dived into wet shaving, I watched a few YouTubers, including Nick Shaves, who had only good things to say about Mike’s. So I bought a few samples. Unfortunately, the soap didn’t work as expected and I ended up putting Mike’s on the backburner.

I eventually found a few examples of Mike’s Naturals Soaps on sale, either through eBay or Reddit – I can’t remember which one – and pulled the trigger. One of the scents I purchased was Barber Shop, something I had tried earlier. The 5 oz. tin of soap, the website claims that some tins may have less while others may have more, costs $13.00, bringing the price for Barber Shop scent to $2.60 per ounce. That’s a bargain for this soap, which punches way above its price point.

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Unlike other soap makers that have shied away from using tins, Mike’s continue to use them. And that’s a shame because they get dented easily, are hard to load out of, and don’t do anything to really showcase how good the soap really is. While I would really enjoy having a sturdy, pretty tub to load out of, having something that keeps costs down isn’t that bad.

The labels are another disappointing aspect of how the soap is presented. I’m not sure if they are waterproof or not, but after a fair amount of use, it’s starting to show some wear. The writing is fading away, there are numerous crinkles throughout the entire label, and the edges are beginning to become unglued. Again, this is something that could easily be improved, but if it helps keep the price down, it’s okay with me.

As a barbershop fan, Mike’s Natural Soaps’ rendition of one of my favorite scents is sublime. Here’s how the soap maker describes the scent: “A complex, potent, manly scent consisting of bergamot, basil, oakmoss, and patchouli.”

This is in my top five scents that my nose has ever had the pleasure of sniffing. I hate not being able to describe the scent, but it’s complex, masculine, and just so gosh-darn clean. I get the basil front and center, offering a bit of spice. The rest of the scents intertwine together to provide some citrus, some powdery notes from the oakmoss, and the patchouli coming in the end. It’s an incredible scent that I find myself sniffing randomly throughout the day.

While the scent is intoxicating in the best way possible, it’s not that strong. Out of the tin, the scent strength is right at medium and when the soap is lathered, it goes down to below medium. I would love to see the scent strength go up a few notches, but I doubt that would ever happen.

The scent isn’t the only thing I’m in love with. The lather that this soap is capable of making is truly magical, as well. Mike’s Natural Soaps take a lot of water and effort to lather up, but it’s so worth it. To ensure that you get a rich, creamy lather, I would recommend starting with a wetter brush and loading for at least a minute. And to continue adding water slowly until the brush just explodes with lather. It might take a while, like up to five minutes, but it’s so worth it.

When the lather is built properly, it has the same qualities as Barrister and Mann’s soaps, which is another top tier product. It’s slick, thick, creamy, and any other adjective that you can imagine for a shaving soap. To my face, this stuff feels slicker than the majority of other soaps, while having more cushion, as well. And the post shave is fantastic, too. My face feels hydrated and I can even get away without putting a post-shave product on my face.

The scent, though, barely hangs around after the shave. I have a difficult time smelling the scent on my hands 15 minutes after the shave, which is a shame.

Scent Pleasantness: 10/10

Scent Strength: 4/10

Lather Quality: 10/10

Price: 9/10

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If you’re looking for a soap that just explodes into a great lather without any work, this isn’t it. If you’re looking for a soap that requires a fair amount of work before it transforms into an incredible lather at a great price, then this is it. The scent strength and availability are the only downsides I can see, but that still doesn’t stop this from being the best soap I’ve ever used.

Overall: 10/10

Going Autonomous Makes Perfect Sense For Aston Martin

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Autonomous cars are coming and automakers are desperately clawing to make strides in the segment. Falling behind now could lead automotive manufacturers to play catch-up for the foreseeable future. But there’s one group of automakers that haven’t entered the self-driving fold just yet – high-end sports car makers. That is, until now.

At the Canadian International Auto Show in Toronto, Aston Martin CEO Dr. Andy Palmer not only unveiled the incredible AM-RB 001, but he also took some time to reveal that the brand would have an autonomous offering in the near future. Palmer, according to TechCrunch stated that autonomous cars are the way forward and, while Aston Martin is in no rush to meet the needs of the growing segment, a self-driving Lagonda will happen eventually.

I, for one, think it’s a brilliant idea, but one that needs to be expanded to the rest of its lineup.

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All photos by: Aston Martin

Sports cars are meant to be driven and enjoyed. They are not vehicles that should be used to give people rides. That’s why Ferrari and Lamborghini will still be insanely popular in the future, despite not having a self-driving car in their lineup. But Aston Martin needs to change. And this is the perfect way of doing it.

Before the release of the all-new Aston Martin DB11, the British automaker was in a rut, losing large amounts of money to its competitors. From the outside looking in, the loss of money is primarily due to Aston’s aging lineup. The current Vanquish, for instance, was unveiled in 2012 with the S variant being the most recent vehicle in the family. The DB9 was introduced back in 2003 and hasn’t changed much since, while the Vantage is from 2005.

Somewhere along the line, Aston Martin thought it was a good idea to lightly update its vehicles instead of coming out with brand new models. A report from Automotive News last summer claimed 2015 was the fifth consecutive year where the automaker failed to make a profit. As one of the first new vehicles from Aston in years, there’s a lot riding on the DB11 for the brand and moving upstream into the technology-heavy world of autonomous cars would be a good thing.

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Sports cars may not need autonomous tech, but having a luxurious, four-door sedan with self-driving capabilities wouldn’t be such a bad thing. Having older, two-door sports cars aimed at drivers that want a plush ride on longer journeys hasn’t been working that well for the automaker. And adding something that’s more modern into its lineup would help bring the brand into 21st century.

As I don’t have enough money, and will probably never have enough funds, to purchase an Aston Martin, I’m not sure what brands prospective buyers are cross-shopping Aston with. My best guess would be Porsche, Bentley, Maserati, and, just maybe, Ferrari. I can’t see Porsche packing a 911 or the 718 Boxster/Cayman with autonomous features, but Bentley did showcase a self-driving car with a holographic butler last year.

Being one of the first high-end automakers to introduce a sporty, luxurious sedan with autonomous features would put Aston Martin in a class of its own, besides the Tesla Model S of course. And while I wouldn’t be a huge fan of having autonomous features in a sports car, I think prospective buyers that would use the vehicles as intended – for a cross-country barrage – would benefit from being able to enjoy the finer things in an Aston without worrying about aiming the car down a straight road for hours.

Going autonomous would help Aston finally turn a profit and would see the automaker go from playing catch-up to being first in an emerging segment. At the end of the day, I’d rather have a car that can drive itself if I’m not in the “mood” to drive than see a sports car automaker go down the SUV/crossover rabbit hole.

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Caties Bubbles: Ocean Grove Review

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Catie’s Bubbles is one of few soap makers that everyone raves about. Check out any review of one of the soap maker’s products and it will probably be well regarded. But for some odd reason, I haven’t tried a lot of soaps from the brand. I’m not sure if it’s the available scents, the price point, or the availability, but Catie’s Bubbles is on my lengthy list of soap makers I need to purchase more from.

Enter Catie’s Bubbles Ocean Grove, which seemed like something right up my alley and a great entry into the soap maker. To my knowledge, all of Catie’s Bubbles offerings are vegan and the soaps are made out of some really good ingredients like shea butter, jojoba oil, and coconut oil. And the nourishing, non-harmful ingredients in the soaps affect their price tags.

Ocean Grove, as with the majority of Catie’s Bubble’s “Luxury Shaving Soap” line comes in at $14.00 for a 4 oz. tub. There’s also a 2 oz. tub that costs $8.00 for those that don’t want to feel tied down by a larger tub. Opting for the larger 4 oz. jar brings the price to $3.50 per ounce, while the smaller 2 oz. tub costs $4.00 per ounce. Either way you go, it’s an affordable price for a high-quality soap.

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So why Ocean Grove? Well, just take a peek at the description. “A beautiful day by the sea. A delicious picnic while listening to the crashing of the waves. I would like to bring you to Ocean Grove with this delicious blend of fruits, florals, and salty marine notes.”

I love aquatic scents and Ocean Grove’s description made the soap sound like a must-try for me. Luckily, Maggard Razors had a few samples of the soap left, so I scooped one up. It’s easy to tell that this is an aquatic scent right out of the sample jar. The salty marine notes are upfront, but masked by an overwhelming note of freshness. The fruit and floral notes combine to remind me of crisp, fresh air around a body of water. Or clean laundry with aquatic notes mixed in. It’s a fantastic scent that I really enjoy.

The soap is extremely soft and loading takes no time at all. A 30-second load ends up with a substantial amount of soap for three passes. There was plenty of soap left over for two or even three more passes. Clearly, a 30-second load is a bit much for the soap. I think a 15- to 20-second load is the sweet spot for the soap.

Making the lather, regardless of how much soap your brush has, is a synch with Catie’s Bubbles. This may be the best soap I’ve ever used when it comes to how quickly it makes a lather. I’m one of those wet shavers that like to work a lather for a lengthy period of time to get it to my liking, which is why I recently picked up doing a mixture of bowl and face lathering. But that’s unnecessary with Catie’s Bubbles as the soap exploded into a voluminous lather with minimal effort.

The lather is yogurt-like in the best way possible. It’s thick, rich, dense, and does a fine job letting the razor slide through the hairs. The only downside to the soap, and it’s something I’ve found with other vegan-based soaps, is the slickness. It’s there, but not like it is in tallow-based products. This by no means should be something that stops shavers from getting the soap, because the lather is still superb.

Ocean Grove continued to impress after the shave, as my face, even without any post shave products felt nice and hydrated. The scent, though, didn’t hang around for long. I got faint whiffs of the soap on my hands 30 minutes after the shave, but it disappeared soon after.

Scent Pleasantness: 9/10

Scent Strength: 7/10

Lather Quality: 8/10

Price: 7/10

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Catie’s Bubbles Ocean Grove isn’t one of the cheapest soaps on the market, or one of the best aquatic scented soaps for that matter ether. But it is one of the best vegan-based soaps I’ve used. While I would’ve liked more aquatic notes in the soap, I think the fresh aspect makes it more of an everyday type of soap instead of a once in a while type of product. Aquatic lovers that require something without any animal products should look no further, as this is an excellent buy. Heck, it’s a good soap for anyone that enjoys oceanic scents.

Overall: 9/10

Barrister and Mann: Lavanille Review

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When it comes to shaving soap, Barrister and Mann, to my face, sets the standard. That’s why I was surprised when I saw a tub of Lavanille, one of the soap maker’s most expensive fragrances, in the giveaway I won. This is an expensive soap, and for someone to just simply give it away with no strings attached was something that caught me by surprise. Either way, this is the last of the free soaps that I have that I will be reviewing.

I’ve reviewed soaps from Barrister and Mann before, but never one from their Tallow lineup. And that’s not because I’ve never used one before. I’ve owned a few of their Tallow soaps, including Seville and Cheshire, which reminds me of even more reviews that need to be done.

The lather that Barrister and Mann’s Tallow soaps are capable of making are at the top of the rung for me. Nothing compares when it comes to slickness, cushion, and post-shave feel. Other soaps out there get close, but when I do these reviews I have one soap maker in mind that I compare everything else to and that’s B&M. But there’s one major drawback – the price.

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B&M’s Tallow soaps are its priciest and Lavanille is currently the most expensive out of the lineup. At $24.00 for a 4 oz. tub, Lavanille comes in at a pricey $6.00 per ounce. This is one of the most expensive soaps I have ever used and while I know that there are even pricier things to shave with out there, I don’t see something with a larger price tag being added to my den.

The soap is housed in a nice clear tub with a gorgeous, elegant label. I like the sturdy design of the tub and the straightforward, but stylish design of the label. Overall, it’s an appealing tub of soap.

Opening the lid to Lavanille reveals a complex, masculine scent that I have a hard time pinning down. B&M creates some of the most unique scents I ever used and my poor sniffer just isn’t up to the task of being able to name every single note. There’s a lot of stuff in the soap and, unsurprisingly, B&M has an extremely lengthy description. Here’s a snippet of it:

“We have not copied the original; instead, we have taken the Mousse de Saxe and blended it with lavender, vanilla, cedar wood, and the elegant musk Exaltolide to create a dark, leathery, elegant soap unlike anything seen for nearly a half century.”

Off of the puck, the soap starts off as a dark scent with a strength that’s more than average. The cedar wood and leather are up front, while the sweetness from the vanilla and floral notes from the lavender come toward the end. Oddly, Lavanille reminds me a lot of Hallows. It’s not as dark, though.

Lathering for 30 seconds off of the hard puck produced more than enough lather, but Barrister and Mann’s Tallow lineup is quite thirsty. Adding gradual amounts of water resulted in an incredible lather that was more than enough for three passes and a clean-up pass.

When going into a face lather, the scent mellows out. The dark notes that were present right out of the gate off of the puck now take a back seat. The cedar wood and leather are still up front, but they are more intertwined with the vanilla and lavender. It’s a complex scent that reminds me of wealthy individuals. Since I am not one of those, it’s a scent that conflicts me. It smells good, but it’s not up my alley. I’ve transitioned to simpler scents and this sophisticated one is a little too royal for my nose.

For those that do enjoy the scent, there is some good news. The scent lasts for hours. I shaved at around 7:30 PM and managed to smell the soap on my hands when I went to bed at 11 PM. And that’s even after I put a balm on. I even thought I got a hint of the soap on my hands when I woke up this morning.

Scent Pleasantness: 6/10

Scent Strength: 8/10

Lather Quality: 10/10

Price: 3/10 

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This soap is incredibly expensive, but it’s worth every penny. The scent may not be to everyone’s liking, but it’s unique, complex, and lasts for hours. And the lather it makes is superb. This price point makes it inaccessible to every wetshaver’s den and sets the bar for what I am willing to spend on a shaving soap. It’s amazing stuff, but to those that can’t afford it, don’t feel bad. It’s just shaving soap and I wouldn’t say it’s a must have.

Overall: 8/10