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

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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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All Photos By: Joel Patel

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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Photo Credit: 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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Photo Credit: Dodge

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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Photo Credit: Dodge

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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Photo Credit: Dodge

Viking Shaving Soap: Old Norse Review

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IMG_5171I’ve been wet shaving for over a year now and in that time, I’ve spent somewhere close to $600. Joining forums like Shave Bazzar on Reddit, The Shave Nook, and Damn Fine Shave have helped me find great products at an amazing price, while connecting with other wet-shaving enthusiasts. I’ve recently been on a Stirling kick and managed to track down a few soaps at a great price on The Shave Nook.

I hopped on the listing immediately and bough the items. The seller kindly reached out to me to let me know when the item would be shipped and updated me with a tracking number. The items arrived exactly on time, but, to my surprise, there was an extra soap in the package. The soap was by Viking Shaving Soap and it was the “Old Norse” scent.

I’ve never heard of Viking Shaving Soap before, and thought there was some kind of confusion. So I immediately got back onto the forum and messaged the buyer. Andrew (the buyer) kindly told me that there was no mistake. He is in charge of the company put the soap in my package on purpose. I kindly stated that I would feel bad excepting a free soap and offered to pay him full price for the item. He refused, stating that getting the word out on his soaps means more than the purchase and requested for me to give him my honest opinions on the soap.

You can’t find that kind of hospitality anywhere else. So I obliged. Andrew, you’ve got some great freaking stuff here.

Right off the bat, Viking Shaving Soaps are extremely well priced. Weighing in at 5.5 oz. for $12, Old Norse comes in at $2.18 per oz. Not only is the soap affordable, it’s also incredibly priced for the great qualities of the soap. The jar itself is sturdy and bears a striking design as the label.

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Old Norse is Viking Soap’s interpretation of a barbershop scent that is “scented to suit the most discriminating nose, even that of Ragnar Lothbrok, the great Viking King…” I’m not a Viking, but I can see how the scent fits into the Viking theme. Out of the jar, the scent isn’t necessarily barbershop, but is heavy on the oats. It’s a little off putting out of the jar, but is much nicer when lathering.

The soap is considered an extremely soft soap and I think it clearly earns the “croap” term that has been severely overused. Since the soap straddles the line between being a cream and soap, getting a good load off of it is a difficult task. The soap is so soft that loading only takes 15 seconds. Any longer than that and you’re just wasting soap as it your brush begins to clump with a large amount of product.

Going into a face lather reveals a complex barbershop scent that reminds me of Mike’s Natural scent – one of my favorites. Just like the scent, the lather is top notch as well. Swirling a brush full of soap results in a thick, fluffy, wonderful lather that reminds me of something that comes from creams instead of soaps. The soap isn’t as slick as top tier soaps, but has more cushion and is thicker than ones I’ve tried. It also allowed my razor to slide through the hairs with ease.

After the shave, the soap left my face feeling moisturized and hydrated. As far as post shave, I didn’t need any, which is rare for my sensitive face. This is one of the best soaps I have ever tried when it comes to the way my face feels after the shave and I strongly urge anyone with sensitive skin to give it a try.

Scent Pleasantness: 8/10

Scent Strength: 6/10

Lather Quality: 9/10

Price: 10/10

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Old Norse by Viking Shaving Soap is an amazing product that is priced well below the competition. I would happily pay much more for this soap. The scent, though, is a little weak. Out of the tub, soap strength is at a medium and stays there throughout the entire shave. But it quickly dissipates once the shave is over. If there’s one thing I wish there was more of it was the scent.

At this price point, Viking Shaving Soaps is a must-try for any wet shaver.

Overall: 8.5/10

Why Is Everyone Excited About This 727-HP, $40,000 Mustang?

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I will admit that I’m not a person that thinks that power, specifically horsepower, makes a car. Having owned three motorcycles, I can positively state that there is no possible way a car can give you the same raw feeling as a two-wheeled machine. Once you ride a bike, cars are no longer “fast” but more along the lines of being, “ehhh that’s quick.”

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2016 Ford Mustang GT, All Photos By Joel Patel

When the Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat came out, the entire world, along with me, took a deep breath and stated that nothing was more American. Nuzzling a supercharged 6.2-liter V8 into the heart of an enormous muscle car is as American as a cheeseburger with extra cheese and bacon. What’s even better, is that the car boasts 707 hp, 650 lb.-ft. of torque and can be had with a manual six-speed transmission. Oh yes, the gold ol’ Red, White and Blue still has a lot to offer.

If an automaker told you that they aren’t interested in trying to get the same amount of performance for the price, they’re lying. Only supercars offer more power than the Challenger Hellcat, which at roughly $61,000 is a steal. That puts the Hellcat in uncharted territory.

Well, as it turns out, isn’t. Some automotive outlets—I won’t point any figures here—decided that Lebanon Ford of Lebanon, OH is a godsend by offering the ultimate muscle car to enthusiasts. The dealership currently sells a brand-new Ford Mustang GT with a Roush Phase 2 supercharger kit for a little under $40,000—$39,995. At first glance, this seems like a steal.DSC_0512

The new Mustang GT blurs the lines between a muscle and sports car with its performance and comfortable interior. A base Mustang GT features a 5.0-liter V8 that puts out 435 hp, which is nothing to sneeze at. What makes Lebanon Ford special, however, is the dealership’s decision to pack a Phase 2 supercharger kit from Roush onto the engine. This results in a total of 727 hp. For those keeping track, that’s more than a Hellcat for $20,000 less.

There’s no denying that it’s a steal. But I’m still not hopping onto the bandwagon yet and there’s a really good reason as to why.

A quick search on Autotrader revealed that the cheapest Mustang GT—in D.C. mind you—could be had for $26,805. The Phase 2 supercharger kit, which runs for $7,549.99, would bring the total of a new Mustang GT with the kit up to $34,354. With Ford’s current service rates, getting the kit installed would run roughly $1,500. That brings the total up to $35,854. If you’re handy with wrenches and sockets, you could save a lot of money for a weekend’s worth of time.DSC_1519

While saving money sounds like a good enough reason to not purchase the $40,000 muscle car from Lebanon Ford, the thing that nags at me is safety.

When it comes to everyday road use, a high-performance car is extremely overrated. Seriously, after having an Infiniti G37 X Coupe with 330 hp, I’m convinced that anything more than that is way too much. Not only that, but other outlets have failed to recognize that the rest of the 727 hp Mustang’s components are meant to deal with 435 hp. The brakes, the suspension, the tires, all of it has been engineered to cope with the Mustang’s stock performance.

Getting a car to put out a lot of horsepower is relatively, at least, easy. Slap on a supercharger here, a turbocharger there and bam, you’ve got a powerful car. Getting a car that can put down all of its power in a useful manner, however, is more difficult, which is why Lebanon Ford claims the majority of 727-hp Mustangs that are sold sell for more than the $40,000 starting price tag. Ensuring the car has the performance components to match its overly powerful engine raises the price to Challenger Hellcat prices.DSC_1528

As one can only guess, a 727-hp Mustang for $40,000 will lead to many Mustangs wrapped around trees, poles and, eventually, in salvage yards. That’s a grim outlook on a high-performance muscle car, but it’s the truth. And it’s not necessarily the dealership’s fault. In fact, I applaud their ability to give drivers the ability to get an insanely overpowered Mustang for that kind of price.

But I can’t help but remember all of the Challenger Hellcats that had a short lifespan. One must also consider the group of individuals that will be licking their lips at the opportunity to own a car with over 700 horsepower. At $40,000, the supercar-besting Mustang is cheaper than a fully-loaded Ford Focus RS. And as much as I love that hatch,the supercharger bumps power to more than double that of the Focus RS.DSC_1515

That seems like a lot more dollar per smile for not a lot of change more.

Revolutionary, incredible, a must have? No, I don’t think so. A 727-hp Mustang for $40,000 is, however, noteworthy and deserves to praised. I highly doubt anyone would be able to get that kind of performance in a new car with a warranty in any other country. But, then again, America is known for being larger than life. The only thing that would make this deal better would be a one-way ticket into Canada. That would make this a can’t-miss deal.

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Stirling Soap Company: Executive Man Review

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I don’t think I’ve ever come out and said this, but my first taste into the incredible world of artisan soaps came from Stirling Soap Company. I got into wet shaving through The Wet Shave Club, which gave me a couple samples of the soap. I can’t remember which ones, but I do remember that I wasn’t a huge fan as there was an underlying animal scent that I couldn’t get past.

I got wind that Stirling changed its soap to get rid of the animal scent, so I had to give it another try. I got four samples and Executive Man was one of them. Stirling has an insane amount of scents on hand and offers its soaps in three ways: jar, refill puck and sample.

Those that may be overwhelmed when looking at Stirling’s website for the first time will find comfort in being able to order an 1.1-ounce sample puck of any of the soap to try things before hand. At $13 for a 5.8-ounce jar, Executive Man comes in at $2.24 per ounce, or, if you go with the 4.5-ounce refill puck for $9, $2 per ounce.IMG_5041

There’s no way around it, but Stirling produces some of the most affordable shaving soaps on the market. At that price, one would assume that there’s no way Stirling’s products can keep up with more expensive soaps, but those people are in for a treat.

According to Stirling, Executive Man smells like: “You make your own decisions and stand by them. You give orders and expect them to be immediately followed. You walk into a room and all eyes are on you. You are the Executive Man.” While that’s not a lot to go off of, the scent is inspired by Creed Aventus. I’ve never smelled Creed Aventus, so I can’t say whether or not the soap is a similar scent, but it’s definitely a nice scent.

When I take a whiff of the soap, I get a lovely, complicated fresh scent that has some floral undertones with even a hint of aquatic ones. It’s a light scent that barely gets up to a medium off of the puck, but it’s one you’ll want to smell often. Since the scent is so good, I want more of it.

Getting a load off of the semi-hard puck is simple enough, while turning the soapy goodness into a slick, cushiony and luxurious lather takes minimal time. Once into a lather, the soap is truly incredible. It’s extremely slick, like one of the slickest soaps ever slick. The lather leaves something to be desired in the cushion department and while I didn’t get my closest shave, it did a fine job of letting the razor cut through the whiskers.

Post shave wise, Stirling Executive Man isn’t anything special, but it left my face feeling fairly hydrated. At $2 per ounce, you can’t go wrong with Stirling. For wet shavers that enjoy using a slick soap, this is one of the—if not the—best. It may not have the greatest cushion or post shave, but it’s well above the average for these two categories.

Scent Pleasantness: 9/10

Scent Strength: 5/10

Lather Quality: 8/10

Price: 10/10 

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Stirling Executive Man is an incredible product. My only gripe with the soap is its scent strength, which is barely a medium off of the puck and fades off into barely noticeable during the shave. However, it’s still a must try. Stirling’s soaps punch way above their price point and will make you question the need to purchase more expensive soaps. Oh yeah, it’s that good.

Overall: 8.5/10

 

 

Is Ford Crazy For Asking People To Apply For The GT?

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Ask any enthusiast a simple question of what car they would own if they had an overly abundant amount of money and there’s a high percentage that the answer will be some sort of supercar. This shouldn’t really be a surprise, since supercars are the embodiment of everything that enthusiasts love—blisteringly fast, eye catching and rare. Even for me, the owner of an old, and quickly-aging, ’92 Mazda Miata, I would happily spring for a supercar if my bank account were to suddenly, and mysteriously, gain seven more zeros.

But the fact of the matter is, you need a lot of money to afford cars like these. And for some incredibly rare supercars, you need to be “in the know” to even have the opportunity to purchase a vehicle. Getting into a supercar was already a difficult task, but Ford has completely changed the game when it comes to getting one of their new GTs.

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2017 Ford GT; All Photos By Joel Patel

To keep things civil with limited-edition, high-end supercars, automakers do a couple of things. One: it’s a first-come-first-served basis. If you’re the first one in the door, you get the car. Two: dealerships tack on a massive markup for the cars to not only limit the amount of people that can afford the car, but to also get more money from a purchase. Three: the actual automaker reaches out to a select few to give them the opportunity to purchase the car.

This seems fairly straightforward. If you have the money or have purchased other cars from the automaker, you’re likely to get your hands on the latest supercar. Since the new Ford GT isn’t like any supercar before it—or that’s what Ford wants everyone to think—the automaker decided to do something a little different.

Ford only plans to make 500 units of the GT, which is much less than the 375 units of the McLaren P1 and one unit less than the Ferrari LaFerrari, so it’s obviously going to draw the attention of enthusiasts and wealthy investors alike. That’s what one assumes, but let’s not forget about the GT’s starting price tag of $450,000. That alone, one would think, will limit the amount of enthusiasts that are able to purchase the machine, but the automaker has received over 7,000 applicants that have their hopes on getting a car.DSC_1236

That’s right, instead of reaching out to people that owned an older version of the GT and asking them to pony up $450K for the car, Ford has gone the route of making people apply for the supercar. The application process is an extensive one that even has a section where the automaker makes the applicant promise to drive the supercar and not sell it immediately after purchase.

In an attempt to stop people from flipping the GT immediately for a huge profit, what Ford has done is created a bubble for when the GT comes out, which will be dictated by the first supercar on sale. For instance, if the first GT for sale is set at a whopping $1 million, there’s nothing Ford can do and one unfortunate, but wealthy, individual will have to pay up.

Other GT owners will see that they are now sitting on a gold mine and will surely post their vehicles for the same price if not a little bit more. And while Ford has made the applicants swear up and down that they’ll drive the vehicle, the logic behind making an owner of a $450,000 supercar do something you want is unrealistic. Say you purchased a car that has the same price has a house, would you listen to someone who’s commanding you to drive it? I sure wouldn’t.DSC_1237

After seeing how high prices have become for the Porsche GT3 and GT3 RS, I understand the need for an application process. Yes, it would be better if high-end supercars went to people that would actually drive them instead of locking the cars into a chamber to rot away. But these are supercar owners we’re talking about here, not average enthusiasts with an insane amount of money. And at the end of the day, a $450,000 car is as much as an investment as any other similarly-priced item.

It’s not like I’ll ever have the sort of income to hand an automaker $450,000—or even $100,000—for a car. But if I did, I don’t like the idea of filling out an application. My ability to afford the supercar should be good enough for an entry into the coveted group. I shouldn’t have to a private garage with over 100 other extremely-overpriced cars to get onto an automaker’s “friends only list.”

There was a time when getting a supercar was as easy as buying any other vehicle. You had to be willing to spend an incredible amount of money on a car and be the first on through the door. Now, automakers have made it as hard as graduating from an Ivy League school with Magna Cum Laude. There are tests, applications to meet and promises to keep, which look like they would dilute the whole experience.

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I’m no millionaire and, as I’ve stated before, I doubt I’ll ever be one. But if I do become one and I have $500,000 laying around, I would fill out an application to get my hands on a supercar. However, I would do it grudgingly and then question my need for said car. Yes, a GT would be nice, but if I can get a Lamborghini Aventador SV without having to fill out some silly form, I’d much rather do that.

I highly doubt that other automakers would use a similar application form to narrow down the list of wealthy buyers for their supercars, because it’s too tedious and why on earth would they lose money to those willing to spend more. If you ask me, automakers should only have one question on the application sheet for supercars: “exactly how much are you willing to pay for this car?

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