You Pick A Theme Because I Apparently Cannot. I Can, However, Pick An After Shave.

Here are your choices.

  1.  It is nonsense to care THIS MUCH about how you dress (you’re on an Ivy site friend) and still argue that you don’t care about packaging.
  2.  Rhys Moore, the CEO of St John Bay Rum, may have found that perfect middle ground between historic preservation and cultural relevance.
  3.  Layered is a word I used in college when one girlfriend asked about… the other girlfriend.  That is probably not how the word should be used.  When you hear the story of the grass weave around the bottle here, and how that level of attention works its way into a cologne or an after shave, well, I think that’s a better use of the term.  For everyone involved.
  4. A product review.

Let us begin.

When we did the WOCBD reviews (and we are not done yet, Duck Head and Eagle coming),  I included packaging, and some people said they did care what the shirt came in.  I bought that, but then it dawned on me.  You obviously care what package YOU come in.  If not, let’s just go to the mall and grab some clothes.

Ok, let’s never go to the mall.  For anything.  But you take my point.

I’ve seen St John Bay Rum around.  So have you, if you shop retail.  The bottles were cool, they were wrapped in that grass (they still are wrapped in the grass and damn but there is a story there too).  I spent more time than you do investigating the scents, and I spent more time than you with the CEO.  And there was always this tiny disconnect.  These products are complicated.  Layered. (There you go).  They deserved a better introduction than the same view they get in my medicine cabinet.  Something that tells you that a ton of care went into this brand, into maintaining it and expanding it (ever so selectively).  We are attracted to that care around here.  And I wanted that message told on the retail level, and also when the product was delivered from buying it online from the website.

Mission accomplished.

I am so much not a photographer, and if you go to the St John website you will see one of the best photographed and immaculately designed websites I have been to in awhile. How do you go there, you ask? Just click on the photo.

 

Boxes.  A retail presentation befitting the product.

 

The same collection from the side, this’ll (the proofreader is gonna hang me for: this’ll) take you to their site too. And you should go.

 

Just the addition of a box makes a statement, right?  But here is what I am really into.  Look at the back.

 

They lead with… the story. Most cologne/aftershave products will try to say, upfront, that this will make you attractive to whomever. Pheromones. St Johns leads with a Navy officer. How you don’t buy based on just that, I do not understand. No women whose lips are too big or bare chested men, just a great story about a trad guy who made a fragrance from actual stuff, no test tubes.

 

The labels have raised lettering.  And the caps are converting to wood, here is one:

 

Guess what happens if you click on this?

 

Moving to green (a little jammed up on caps with the supply chain).   But now the product is dressed for the date it is going on.  And that has to matter to you, because you care if YOU are dressed for the date you are going on.

The second theme is based on my interviews with the CEO.    If you go to the website here you get a real sense of the meticulous nature of St Johns, and you can buy right on the site. Or at some retailers (J. Press is one, or how about The Gentlemans Corner in Pinehurst, David Wood in Portsmouth, Travers Mahan in Tulsa, or Kinkaides in Ridgeland, MS ).  This commercial restraint is indicative of the lengths that Moore has gone to, in addition to leading with the lead story, to preserve the cachet of the brand.  AND YET.  You open one of his eco-friendly grass-covered-wood-capped bottles, or a soap, or a for-chrissakes-candle and you get… today.  This line has dated values that stand up, but contemporary application.  Where do you ever see that?   With Ivy, we always walk that line, right?  Moore has drawn it for us.

The third theme, well, to get there I gotta tell you this story.  I email Rhys, ’cause I have a few bottles of this stuff in my bathroom (and have for a year now, more on that in a second), and I ask, what’s up with the grass around the bottle.  No weaving (see what I did there) of words here, this was his response:

the weave wrap is actually palm fronds from the Tyre Palm trees in the islands.

We have a network of guys who climb and cut the palm fronds, deliver them to the weavers who dry and slice them into strips and then hand weave each bottle.
Some guys keep and collect them. You can tell they are handwoven because you will notice variations in the size of the spaces created by the overlapping strands. No adhesive is used in ending the weave; each strand is tucked in and under another strand to complete the process.  Find the end of a strand and start to take it apart and you’ll see how it works.
thanks,
Rhys
Ok, the guy missed a capital letter.  He does not care, remember there is no period at the end of St.  Well, there was there, but that’s the end of a sentence.   But look, this is the deep end of the pool.  Moore goes to these lengths for… grass.   It makes you think a few times when you start experiencing the fragrances.  At least it did me.  I used to give notes to Cigar Aficionado for ratings, and one of my best friends was a sommelier, so my nose has been around the block.  It’s again why I am into the packaging.  Because there is a sophistication here that you have to take a minute to enjoy.
That said, I will throw my repp tie over my shower curtain bar and kick the stool out from under before I write 10 Tips On What Scent To Wear When.  But that isn’t to say there isn’t a science here, there is.  Different scents have different applications.  Rhys told me about the difference between bracing in the morning (After Shave) and… what’s the word… “facilitating” (my word not his) in the evening.  If this company pays that much attention, and expense, to the grass on the bottle, you can only imagine the energy that goes towards what’s inside.

Or, as Rhys Moore, the CEO says, “We wanted people to know this is a product developed by a person, not a lab.  With real ingredients, not chemicals.  The scent comes more out of leaves and a rum bottle than a test tube.”

This grass story is a reflection.  The company has mastered the art of staying true to history and… well, making you smell fantastic.

BEFORE I GO ON.  I was not an After Shave guy.  I am not a Shave guy.  Well, the neck, because we are not animals.  And definitely not a cologne guy.  It seemed like trying too hard.  When I took over the site, I met with the advertisers, and Rhys works about 10 minutes from my house.  He gave me a bottle.  I wasn’t gonna try it, except in the air, so I could write about it.  I bring the bottle home, and leave it on the kitchen island.  Trish picks it up, smells it.  Shows it to Gramercy.  Both of them are like, “Hey, what is this?  It’s good.”  And I started in with St Johns. 

Now that I have been experimenting, let me tell you another quick story.  I’ve been working out pretty hard for my tour, and because that photo of me with Mr. Boyer scared the beetlejuice out of me.  I get up at three every day, and am working by four.  I hit the gym around 10.   I work out with Dylan some, Elena some, DJ some.  I am sweating my now-okay-but-then-way-too-big butt off.  These are hours of total honesty.  I can do more than you, less than you,  that ring around your middle is smaller or bigger.   There is nothing not joked about, nothing not covered.  If there was even the smallest idea that what I was wearing was anything other than welcome, I would have heard about it at the same time that Dylan put a puke bucket next to me or Elena told me “there is nothing you can’t do for three minutes.”  These fragrances have withstood a tougher social test than any lab can produce, and I am telling you, no worries.

So some reviews.  Click on each image to get a more detailed description, and to buy them online.

 

This is the Lime After Shave. Aftershave. I dunno, I just got the whole no period after St thing down. Click on the image to learn more about it. I used it this morning. I don’t shave because I have a hyper-sensitive face (not like my soul) – but I do shave my neck because we owe each other respect. It healed, smelled like the season, and I got a nod on my way out the door. Subtle. Not a punch in the nose, but a wink that I care about the packaging.

 

Ok, if you had told me last year I would have a favorite anything that smells like anything I would have written you off. But this is my favorite. Just enough. Not too much. I am wearing it now. It is light, but it is a sentence. Like when someone who matters to you whispers something. Hey Rhys, you can have that line if you want it.

 

 

This is Vetiver. A grass. you have heard the term Sandalwood. Who knew what Sandlewood was? This is it, in part. This is for evenings, according to me. Or, as Flight Of The Conchords called it, Business Time. You never heard that song? Please Spotify it. It’s hilarious. This scent is not. This is suit-wearing no mucking about. But still, just enough not too much.

 

 

The work horse. The utility player. The go to with three seconds left in overtime. The whole story is right here. The rum, the gravitas. This is an after shave and a cologne, it works as both. I can tell you this. It’s about 6:10 in the morning. I have been up since 3, because. But we are out of eggs. I go to the store. They are almost out of eggs. I reach, before my third cup of coffee, for the same dozen that this other lady, also dressed early (I wonder if she has to do morning pages and meditate) reaches for. I step back politely, and she says, “Forgive me but you smell good.”

 

JB

 

 

28 Comments on "You Pick A Theme Because I Apparently Cannot. I Can, However, Pick An After Shave."

  1. I don’t really care about packaging unless it’s something I’m actually keeping. The bottle itself that sits in my bathroom cabinet? Sure, I can appreciate the nice little bottle with the palm fronds on it. The cardboard box that’s going to get tossed? Not really as important. As for clothing, I’m not sure why anyone would care about the plastic packaging a shirt comes in but if that’s important to you, then by all means. As for St. Johns, all the packaging and storytelling and website stuff, that’s mostly marketing. Not to say that marketing can’t inspire or whatever, but it’s not really all that important compared to how the stuff smells, at least to me.

    And one more thing, you can definitely buy St. John’s on Amazon, which I have done before. It’s fine but my tastes tend more towards Eau Sauvage.

  2. Old Bostonian | June 3, 2022 at 12:32 am | Reply

    Greetings JB,
    Re: “No women who’s lips are too big”
    Before some grammar policeman comes up with a lengthy tutorial on the difference between “who’s” and “whose”, (you already know the difference), let me just kindly say that it would look better if you change that “who’s” to “whose”, since–as we would agree–appearances do matter.

  3. Given that packaging is mostly ephemeral, I tend not to waste much time considering it. And speaking of waste: To the extent that I have an opinion about packaging, it’s almost always “less is more” (in that we should be filling up our landfills with as little as possible!)

    • John Burton | June 3, 2022 at 4:02 am | Reply

      Hi Harrison – the company is moving as far green as possible, from wooden caps to investigating recycled glass. There are mitigating factors – supply chain, pricing, etc. Cardboard boxes reduce the need for plastic as well.

  4. St. John’s is a very good product.
    When are you going to review Caswell-Massey’s line?
    Although they’ve recently “upgraded” the marketing (very unfortunate advertising campaign) and the prices have significantly changed, I’m still sticking with Jockey Club, Newport and Tricorn when I’m not wearing Guerlain’s Vetiver or Habit Rouge.
    75 years kinda pales when compared with CM’s 230 some.

    • John Burton | June 3, 2022 at 4:04 am | Reply

      Hi Will – I just started wearing after shave, but I will take a look for sure and let you know 🙂

  5. Mr. Moore might consider using this entire review on the back of the new box. Thank you for all of this information. It is reassuring to learn about companies and people who are more concerned with what they make than with the next quarter’s bottom line. I will be a new St. John customer.

  6. I believe, in this discussion of packaging, we’re comparing apples and things that are not apples, because the one key element left out of the discussion around packaging is the transactional activity to acquire the item and the safety and security of the item being purchased.

    When shopping retail, packaging is important – it’s security and safety for the product and the store. Glass bottles and jars are shipped to retail and need solid packaging – it’s a great idea to use that packaging to accent the product. When I did purchase NEW clothes in a retail store – the experience has varied between the items shoved in a bag for me to pick up and leave with, to being wrapped nicely in tissue paper and presented to me in a bag, on my side of the “cash” register. But the item I purchased I was drawn to visually. It is the same with consumables, it’s the aura of the package that creates the first interest, and only through careful examination and some use, can one discern whether the item is satisfying and worthy of repeat interest.

    When not-shopping retail, i.e.buying clothes online – i.e. Lands End – they always arrived in a nice individual package – a plastic bag inside a cardboard box. This model is still in effect when I do happen to buy new and on-line. I made my purchase decision based on the visual elements of the item, not for the tissue paper inside one of the socks in the pair.

    Consumables marketed AT me (specific use of the word “at” was included on purpose), i.e. consumables, such as soaps and potions and lotions, market themselves over and over again to the user via the packaging and labeling. Wearables, such as shirts, ties, coats, and more ties, market themselves over and over again to the user via labeling – but also via their ongoing appearance. The nose knows what it likes in the same way the eyes see what the like. The only difference is the packaging required to secure a breakable item, or a non breakable item.

    We don’t want SJB shipping it’s soaps, potions, and lotions in plastic bags tossed into a cardboard box – and personally, I don’t require the online provider of socks and bow ties to provide me with sturdy packaging inside the sturdy shipping container, which more and more has itself become a plastic bag.

    However, Allen Edmunds always sends their shoes in a very nice shoe box – which facilities easy stacking and sorting on the closet shelves. So in the end, I guess it’s the same decision process for a significant other – to each their own and none of what I just wrote changes a thing.

    • John Burton | June 3, 2022 at 9:30 am | Reply

      Yessir. I suspect that people who say that they care about their clothes but not packaging are more reacting to their feeling like they are being sold something than their actual understanding of the process?

  7. Packaging is paramount to a brand.

  8. I have not used St. Johns products before, but I am curious to take a whiff from the bottle next time I see one. I use Floid Mentoloado “Vigoroso” aftershave from Spain (bracing menthol punch, old-timey powdery scent). I go to Pasteur Pharmacy, and they stock this and a lot more. John, highly recommend you swing by Pasteur next time you are in town, you can walk from Grand Central in less than 10 minutes.

  9. Scents are usually not for me, but I make an exception for St Johns Bay Rum. Long curious, I recently purchased a bottle from the local haberdasher, John Helmer. It’s quite possibly perfect. It’s tastefully gentle and decidedly non-chemical-smelling, so you’re not burning the nose hairs of people in your immediate vicinity. I can also vouch for the Lime — if you’re a seasonal scent kind of person, Lime might be the perfect one for summer.
    Re: the packaging, the greener the better as far as I’m concerned. And the woven grass is a very nice touch. It looks great sitting there on the bathroom shelf. Why hide it in the medicine cabinet?

  10. I would rather not hide cool containers in the medicine cabinet. They are decorative, after all. It can get cluttered however, so I just keep what I’m currently in the mood for on the counetr-top. Currently, I’m in an old-school mood, so it’s Aqua Velva in a vintage glass bottle, and my grandfathers vintage Old-Spice mug and brush set, and aftershave bottle. Of course this is easy given I do not have to share counter space.

  11. How great is St. John’s Bay Rum? It makes a Texan smell good in August.

    As for packaging, I loathe it. Any of it. All of it. Especially the food-related ones that force me into a life and death battle like Robert Shaw and Sean Connery (greatest Bond ever) on that train (yes, it’s a sneak attack on your choice of Brosnan).

    • Agreed on packaging, though I’d probably liken battling with that clear plastic stuff more to Brosnan’s life-and-death struggle with Famke Janssen.

  12. The four and eight ounce bottles that the various Royall aftershaves come in are attractive in an understated way. Not enough to keep forever after they are empty (unlike the vintage Avon racing car decanters from the 1970s. “That’s a joke, son” as Foghorn Leghorn used to say.), but three or four of them Royall bottles look nice arrayed on a shelf in the medicine cabinet when opening the door each morning post shower and shave. One of life’s many small pleasures.

    Kind Regards,

    Heinz-Ulrich

  13. “Like when someone who matters to you whispers something.” Pretty close to the Nuance by Coty line is in the 70’s. How the hell do I remember this stuff?

  14. So who ended up with the eggs?

  15. While I’ve never tried St John’s, I’ve worn the Royall colognes sold at Brooks Brothers for years. Both their Lyme and Mandarin are great everyday scents that aren’t overpowering. I will buy one of the small bottles of their Bay Rum to try it.

  16. I am partial to Hai Karate!
    And have memorized the accompanying self-defense instructions against overzealous women.

    Tried to post a picture link but it blocked me, I assume most of you have access to Google.

  17. Any thoughts on pairing scents with seasonal Ivy Style outfits? For me it is limited to AV in hot weather, and Pinaud Clubman in Fall-Winter. I’m into stepping up a notch, but I need a simple plan. Tx.

  18. I’m an amateur* at this stuff (scents), just as I am (happily) at tweed and flannel and worsteds and tailoring. Still learning. With this in mind, I’ll recommend two bay rums that I like a lot:

    Ogallala and Captain’s Choice. Here’s what you’ll get: a robust yet forbearing bay rum. Here’s what you won’t get: a lot of packaging.

    “I have observed that the world has suffered far less from ignorance than from pretensions to knowledge. It is not skeptics or explorers but fanatics and ideologues who menace decency and progress. No agnostic ever burned anyone at the stake or tortured a pagan, a heretic, or an unbeliever.”
    – Boorstin on the amateur spirit

  19. Ha! I well remember the Hai Karate commercials from the early 70s. Funny then even to a five-year old. Gray Flannel is also a very pleasant scent on a more serious note.

    Kind Regards,

    H-U

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.


*