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

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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

Soap Commander: Courage Review

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I’ve come to love Reddit. Aside from it having everything imaginable on the Internet, there’s a large wet shaving community that not only provide tips and recommendations, but there’s also a sub-Reddit where users purchase, trade, and give away products. I happened to be at the right place and the right time and managed to “win” a give away that included a few soaps. In the hopes of being fully transparent, this review of tub of Soap Commander Courage is one that I received in the giveaway for free.

It’s hard to believe that I’ve been wet shaving for over a year now, but time flies. In that time, I’ve learned what artisans work for my face and which ones don’t. Soap Commander, as I’ve come to learn, is a top-tier soap that I enjoy using.

I’ve reviewed the artisan’s lime scent – Respect – before and found it to be a steal at $2.50 per ounce. The large, sturdy tub offers plenty of room for loading, while the hard soap should last wet shavers, even with daily use, a long time. The lather from Soap Commander’s products is rich, thick, and adequately slick enough. Courage wasn’t the slickest soap I’ve tried, but the cushion is there. And the post shave, oh man the post shave is just incredible.

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As far as post shave goes, Soap Commander is one of the few soaps that leaves my face moisturized enough to where I don’t have to use any aftershave or balm. For shavers with sensitive skin, like my self, Soap Commander is a must-have in the den.

Now onto the scent. Courage, according to Soap Commander, “contains fresh, daring notes of Japanese grapefruit, bergamot, and lemon; followed by middle notes of peppercorn, ginger, jasmine, aquatic marines notes, and a hint of peppermint…” The description continues on, but you get the point – it’s a manly, complicated scent.

Out of the tub, the smell is an interesting one. At the front, it’s sweet and spicy and then tapers off to a woodsy scent. It’s hard to pick out exact notes from the soap, but I mostly get the citrus, the slightly floral hit from the jasmine, and the cedar. The scent strength is bang on at average when smelling the soap out of the tub.

When lathering, the predominant scent profile of the soap doesn’t change, while the scent strength went down to below average. The scent quickly disappeared after the shave, making it another great choice for those that enjoy using aftershaves.

I wasn’t a huge fan of Courage. After using the soap a handful of times, I just couldn’t get behind it. People that enjoy complicated scents that mix citrus and wood together will surely enjoy the soap, though.

Scent Pleasantness: 6/10

Scent Strength: 6/10

Lather Quality: 8/10

Price: 8/10

Soap Commander Courage is a hit and a miss for me. The soap created a lather that had me questioning why I don’t have more soaps from the artisan, while the scent put me off. My advice would be to try a sample of this soap before springing for a tub.

Overall: 7/10

Wet Shaving Products: Barbershop Review

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As someone that looks at wet shaving as a hobby, I can’t pass up the opportunity to get shaving soap that has been discounted because of an imperfection. Case in point, Wet Shaving Products (WSP) was offering a scratch-and-dent sale on a few of its soaps that discounted the soaps by $5.00. So I did the most reasonable thing, I grabbed on in Barbershop.

This is my first product from WSP and I’m happy that I managed to try it when it was on sale. Usually, the Formula T version of WSP’s shaving soap costs $14.99 for a 4.7-ounce tin, making the price $3.19 per ounce. Not necessarily cheap, but still within the realm of being affordable.

With the discount, I managed to snag the same stuff for $10.00, brining the price of the soap down to $2.12 an ounce. That makes it cheaper than one of Stirling’s offerings and one heck of a deal. But I don’t think it would be fair to judge the soap on its discounted price, as the sale isn’t a regular thing.

Right off the bat, it’s clear to see that the whole tin thing doesn’t work. There’s a reason why WSP had, and will most certainly have more scratch and dent offerings in the future, soaps on sale due to dents. The soap I got had two large dents that didn’t take away from the actual quality of the soap, but could have been easily avoided by switching to a different type of tub.

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Besides how easily damaged the tin can get, the other thing I wasn’t a huge fan of was the opening and the size. Despite being a 4.7-ounce tin, the soap is tiny. And the opening doesn’t make loading easy. I used various brushes, including two 24-mm synthetic knots and one 24-mm boar knot, and all three barely fit in the tin’s small opening. Loading out of the minuscule tin also causes lather to spill over the sides in an inconvenient way.

At this price point, WSP desperately needs to replace the tin with something that makes it easier to load. It doesn’t even have to be plastic, as Mike’s Natural Soaps still come in tins, but something needs to be changed. The waterproof label, though, is gorgeously designed.

Taking the lid off of the soap reveals an amazing Barbershop scent that rivals some of the best. As WSP puts it: “Our inspiration was an Italian barbershop. We’ve blended all the signature scents of a barbershop into this intriguing fragrance…we have started with a base of powdery musk, added some bergamot, orange zest, oakmoss, patchouli, and finished it with a hint of geranium.”

The scent is reminiscent of Maggard Razor’s and Mike’s Natural Soaps’ Barbershop offerings, but is cleaner than the other offerings. I can’t detect the citrus or the powdery musk, but the rest of the ingredients combine to make a fresh, clean Barbershop note. Not only is the scent good, the scent strength is well above average, as well.

Off of the puck, the scent strength competes with the best, especially for a Barbershop scent, which tend to be quite diluted. And the strength of the scent doesn’t dissipate upon lathering either.

The soap is on the harder side, making loading times a little longer than usual. But a roughly one-minute load with my trusty boar brush ended with plenty of lather for three passes and some extra for a quick cleanup.

The soap took a bit of time to get into a creamy, thick lather, and it took a fair amount of water to get it there, but it provided great cushion and below average slickness throughout the shave. In addition to being slightly below average when it comes to slickness, WSP’s Formula T soap isn’t on part on post-shave feel either.

After the shave, my face felt pretty dry – it could be the frigid temperatures that could be adding to that – but I was still able to smell the scent on my hands an hour after. Being able to smell a barbershop scented soap five minutes after shaving is an impressive feat, but I’m not sure the compromise is worth it.

Scent Pleasantness: 9/10

Scent Strength: 8/10

Lather Quality: 7/10

Price: 7/10  

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WSP’s Formula T Barbershop shaving soap is a mixed bag. While the scent is superb, especially for a Barbershop lover, the lather that it is capable of producing is average right across the board. And the post shave feel, at least for my sensitive skin, is below average. If the soap was cheaper and more in line with the $2.00 mark, I would say that it’s well worth a try. But at this price, I wouldn’t pull the trigger unless the scent really stands out as a must have.

Overall: 7

Stirling Soap Company: Bay Lime Review

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At some point in 2016, I decided to branch out and try soaps scents that I originally hadn’t cared for. After giving Stirling Soap Company another try, I decided to order some samples that included a scent that I was never fond of – Bay Rum.

I watch numerous wet shavers on YouTube, including Nick Shaves and The Clean Shaver, who love Bay Rum. So I got a sample puck of Bay Rum from Stirling and, unsurprisingly, absolutely hated it. The scent was too harsh for my liking. The clove overpowered everything else and after using it once, I threw it out.

I found myself shopping for more samples on Stirling’s website again and decided to give a new scent, Bay Lime, a try. The scent is no longer on the website, which is a shame, as I think it’s a great one for wet shavers that aren’t Bay Rum fanatics.

Since I’ve talked about Stirling already, I won’t go into the type of lather the soap is capable of making. In short, Bay Lime creates a thick, rich, and creamy lather that punches well above the soap’s weight of roughly $2.20 an ounce. The lather is extremely slick and has great cushion. Post-shave wise Stirling is just a notch below the best. The artisan soap company has quickly become one of my favorites and will always have a place in my expanding den.

Scent wise, Bay Lime is a special soap. Off the puck, Bay Lime is everything Bay Rum lovers enjoy. It’s nearly identical to Stirling’s regular Bay Rum puck, as it’s clove heavy at the beginning, with sweetness from cinnamon and citrus coming at the end. The lime at the end is subtle, but a nice addition.

Upon lathering, the scent changes a bit. The Bay Rum is still the most prominent scent, but the Lime kicks up a few notches. The scent is much more enjoyable, at least to me, when lathering than it is off of the puck. For someone that doesn’t like Bay Rum, the Lime helps take a lot of the harshness away, making this the only Bay Rum-based soap that I’ve enjoyed using.

  • Scent Pleasantness: 7/10
  • Scent Strength: 6/10
  • Lather Quality: 8/10
  • Price: 10/10

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I enjoyed using Bay Lime, but if it was available, I don’t think I would purchase more of it. I’m happy that I tried it, but Bay Rum, in any form, isn’t for me. The Lime definitely helps, but isn’t enough to make me fall in love with the scent. For wet shavers out there that were turned off by traditional Bay Rum scents, Bay Lime is, or more aptly was, worth a try.

Overall: 7

I Bought A Terrible Toyota 4Runner Because Of Michigan

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In my haste to move from Northern Virginia to the Greater Detroit Area, which happened roughly seven months ago, I didn’t have the time to talk about my latest acquisition – a 1996 Toyota 4Runner.

Earlier in the year, I accepted an automotive journalism position in Michigan, forcing my girlfriend and I to pack everything from our beloved apartment and make some difficult choices as to the items that would be coming with us on the nearly 600-mile journey. After a long, thoughtful discussion, we decided to sell the ’92 Mazda Miata in favor of something more winter-friendly.

After scouring forums, Craigslist, and eBay, I settled on a 1996 Toyota 4Runner. The only problem was that I was running out of time, as I had already agreed to start the job in two weeks. That didn’t leave a lot of time for me to sell my Miata and find a SUV to take its place. And since we were in desperate need of a larger vehicle to ferry large items for the move, I had to purchase the only 4Runner I could afford.

Unfortunately, as I will go into greater detail later on, I wasn’t able to get one in superb condition. For one, it’s a ’96 with 138K miles on it. The front seats are completely mangled, the rear wiper motor and window don’t work, the tailgate is from another 4Runner model, and there’s something wrong with the SUV’s electrics. Other than that, it’s mint!

After I bought the SUV, I put my Miata on Craigslist for $2,500, which is $300 more than what I paid for it roughly a year ago. The antique sports car sold within two days for $2,300. While that’s not as much as I was hoping to get, I didn’t have the time to find the perfect buyer and I was happy to get $100 in my pocket.

Saying goodbye to something is always difficult and it was the same for the Miata. I’m not going to lie, I shed a tear for the orange machine. And my wallet shed a few more tears when I started to work through all of the 4Runner’s problems. The Miata was an amazing car and it will be missed.

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So why did I buy a SUV? Well there are a few reasons.

The number one reason why I bought a SUV, despite the vehicle representing everything I hate about the automotive industry’s move to crossovers, is because of a little thing called snow. In NOVA, we didn’t see that much snow. In fact, I used my Miata throughout the entire year, including the few months where the slippery substance accumulated on the roads. And it ran fine. Apparently, winter is a lot different in Michigan.

When we visited Michigan, a few homeowners took some time to tell us how winter is in the north and it sounded terrifying. Looking over some data, last year wasn’t so bad, but the year before that, the Grand Rapids (northern part of Michigan) saw 114.2 inches or roughly 10 feet. Yup, there’s no way the Miata’s going through that.

The next point is that the roads in Michigan are utter shit. I’ve complained about Washington, D.C.’s roads before, but they’re as smooth as a freshly shaved face compared to Michigan’s. Immediately after entering the state, drivers are welcomed to insanely bumpy roads with massive pieces missing – and I should remind you that this is the state’s major highway. It feels like you’re riding on horseback, until your tire goes into one of the craters and then it just feels like your car and body are falling apart.

It’s not just an isolated thing. Roads, even in the “best” part of town, are horrendous. If you value your car, then you shouldn’t bring it to Michigan. Because the state’s awesome roads will tear it apart.

Thirdly, Michigan has the worst drivers in the entire country. No, I’m not kidding. Before moving to Michigan, I would say that that the area around Washington, D.C. is home to the worst drivers. After experiencing the drivers in the Northern State, the ones in the Greater DMV could give Nico Rosberg a run at the Formula One title.

This isn’t just a bold claim, as I have some facts to back my claim up. Michigan is one of the few states in the country that requires drivers to get specific insurance coverage. Michigan is a “no fault” state, which means no one is at fault in an accident. The no-fault insurance plan covers drivers for up to $1 million for damages done to houses, vehicles, or property. There are so many accidents here that the state has decided to let everyone drive around like bumper cars.

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Thawck. “Oh, hello there. Uhhh sorry, I ran into your car. Good news! You’re alive, I’m alive and even though I was clearly catching Pokemon on my cellphone, it’s not my fault. Eat it.”

That, I’m guessing, is the typical conversation that goes down when two drivers get into an accident in Michigan. And yes, it is that ridiculous. Care to guess what else is ridiculous? The insurance rates. Since so many people get into accidents here, getting no fault coverage on a car is downright ludicrous. For my ’96 4Runner it wasn’t so bad – a bump of $20 per month. But one of my coworkers stated that she drives a relatively new Mazda3 and it runs her in the neighborhood of $250 per month.

That’s a car payment to just insure the freaking car!

You know why the insurance rates are so high? Well for one, it’s because the roads are completely idiotic. The state has gone out of its way to create its own system of roads, which contain “Michigan lefts.” In order to reduce traffic, Michigan has taken the regular left turn lane out of its roads for a “Michigan left.” This type of left, essentially forces the driver to make a U-turn. Yeah, you should’ve seen my face when I first encountered this monstrosity.

The specific Michigan left lane is supposed to reduce traffic by allowing drivers going straight to bypass traffic lights. While this makes sense, it’s stupid. The U-turn lanes, depending on what county you’re in may have a yield sign, a stop sign, or an actual signal light. Being from Virginia, we actually follow the signs. For instance, if it’s a stop sign, we stop. If the signal is red, we stop. Michigan drivers do not. Drivers go side-by-side in the single U-turn lane and, if there’s no oncoming traffic, pay no attention to the sign. They just freaking go!

Oh yeah. And every driver is doing something. When stopping at a red light, it’s clear to see drivers search for something, using their phones, eating, or attempting to multitask. This wouldn’t be an issue if drivers stopped when driving, but they don’t. As soon as the light turns green, Michigan drivers floor their cars – even if it’s a Dodge Neon that’s falling apart – and continue to multitask.

Lastly, Michigan has one of the weirdest mixes of nice cars and extremely crappy ones. I’ve seen everything from a Lamborghini Aventador to a Dodge Grand Caravan that has enough rust to make the underside of my 4runner blush. Vehicles are literally falling apart on the road and owners refuse to fix them. I have never, ever seen so many cars with major damage on the road. And that boils down to the state not requiring vehicles to get inspections.

This may sound like a lot of complaints about Michigan. And it is essentially that. But there are a lot of good things about the state. The food, for instance, is delicious and well priced. Car leases are incredibly affordable, if you work for one of the Big Three, and, besides the occasional jerk wad, the people are relatively friendly, Eminem-loving individuals.

Amazingly, there are also some gorgeous landscapes to ogle at. You have to drive a few hours away from Detroit to get to the scenic parts of the state, but boy is the drive worth it. I haven’t had much time to enjoy the state’s prettier sides and with winter breathing its bitter breath upon the state, it’ll be a few months before I do any more exploring.

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The All-Wheel-Drive Dodge Challenger GT desperately needs a V8

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In the world of modern muscle cars, the Dodge Challenger is the only one that boldly sticks to its roots. The competitors, the Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Camaro, at least in their latest renditions, blur the line between the sports car and muscle car segment. The Challenger, however, continues to stick to what it knows best – going in a straight line while urging bystanders to think about times when America was truly great.

In the realm of what’s going on with modern muscle cars, the Challenger is an anomaly. And Dodge, in all of its wisdom, has decided to take the Challenger and continue the tread of not following in its competitor’s wake with all-wheel drive.

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All Photos By: Dodge

Let that sink in for a second. The Challenger, which sits on a shortened version of the LX platform that harks back to 2005, now sends its power to all four wheels in its GT trim. There is some bad news, though as the automaker has no plans to shoehorn one of the glorious V8s in its stable underneath the hood or to have drivers shift their own gears through a manual transmission.

That’s a shame and a missed opportunity.

As someone that once owned an all-wheel-drive coupe, I can see how a sporty car, especially one with the Challenger’s menacing looks, that sends power to all four wheels is an enticing option. And while the Pentastar 3.6-liter V6 that pumps out 305 horsepower and 268 pound-feet of torque is more than enough grunt for the majority of red-blooded drivers, I can’t shake the feeling that Dodge needs to do more under the hood.

When looking at the current crop of athletic and affordable all-wheel-drive coupes, my mind fails to bring up anything that would say interested buyers away from the Challenger GT. Off the top of my head, there’s the Audi S5, Infiniti Q60, BMW 4-Series and, Audi TTS. I’m sure there are more, but those are the ones that stick out in my mind. There are, of course, more like the Porsche 911 4, Nissan GT-R, Jaguar F-Type S AWD Coupe, etc., but those aren’t necessarily what I consider “affordable.”

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The Challenger GT, then, is already in an intimate group of vehicles with its current powertrain. If Dodge, however, were to place the mighty, red-blooded Hellcat engine into the all-wheel-drive coupe, it would, assuming a similar price tag to the current Hellcat twins, be in a league of its own.

Having experienced the ferociousness of having 707 horsepower on tap, I can definitely state that having all-wheel drive as a safety net for everyday use would be a welcomed addition. And there aren’t many V8-powered, all-wheel-drive coupes on the market.

Don’t get me wrong, sending 707 horsepower to only the rear wheels is addictive, downright impressive, and hilariously unusable for everyday driving. With power going to all four tires, the new Challenger GT, and any more powerful variants coming in the near future, caters to those who actually want performance that they can control.

Having dealt with a few weeks of Michigan’s harsh winter with a rear-wheel-drive SUV, I can see how enthusiasts living in states that get snow would be interested in this. For those out there that believe a muscle car should only be rear-wheel drive and that the Challenger GT is the contaminated foe to the pure Challenger, there are some upsides to the new model.

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For one, all-wheel drive has become something that is meant to exude luxury. Mercedes-Benz and BMW have decided to that all-wheel drive is the future for its high-powered sedans and it makes sense for American automakers to follow suit. This will surely drive the Challenger’s price up, but will also solidify its role in Dodge’s lineup. A fair tradeoff from where I’m sitting.

All-wheel drive, thanks to its abilities to lull people into a safety net, will also draw more drivers towards the Challenger. The muscle car, which has routinely come in third place in sales behind the Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Camaro, needs something to boost its sales figures and capture the attention of a new group of buyers. More attention would give Dodge the confirmation it needs to stuff more powerful engines into the all-wheel-drive coupe and, possibly, even a manual transmission in the near future.

The all-wheel-drive Challenger GT may be the most un-American vehicle on the road. But a V8-powered Challenger with a manual transmission is 80-percent American. In a time when we can choose between 80-20 and 92-8 beef, having more options to pick is a great thing. And for those of us that have the misfortune of dealing with wintery conditions for roughly four months out of the year, it’s the ideal compromise.

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