Review: Mad Alchemy Woodsman Shave Soap
(2017) The participation in the Bucks County Classic marked the end to my 2017 road race season. It was a long couple of months with basic results. It felt good to be back on course. The passage of a few days’ relaxation notwithstanding, the best way to enjoy some down time was to try a new tin of shave soap. Mad Alchemy as a whole has proven itself to make quality products and encourage a thriving sub culture for their goods. Those cyclists who travel should pay attention to Mad Alchemy's products, specifically their Woodsman Shave Soap.
I had used Mad Alchemy’s Ultimate Shave Cream to prepare for the culminating criterium race for the 2017 season and enjoyed the ease of use. The one remaining product, the Woodsman Shave Soap was even more anticipated because of its wet shaving properties. While the Ultimate Shave Soap did not require a shave brush, it traded convenience for the time-honored tradition of preparing one’s own lather. The 3.4-ounce tin canister featured an intensely scented, nearly clear shave puck ready for exhibition.
The scent prior to adding water is - as mentioned above - intense. Having this nearby gave way to the regular habit of snapping the lid off, taking a deep whiffs, savoring the aroma, then returning the lid and moving on with the day. The smell itself is labeled as Scotch pine and that it delivers. Once hot water was added to the puck, the scent released had this former Upstate New York resident harkening back to the days of biking or hiking among pine trees. The smell wafted as a pine stand does after a cold rain in autumn. That sounds like cyclocross weather to us.
I must admit there was some apprehension about this soap from former experiences in the same category. Mad Alchemy’s Woodsman Shave Soap is vegan soap; it lacks tallow (animal fat) to pillow up into shave cream. A tin from another vegan shave soap company left us wanting. With hot water applied to soften up the top layer of Mad Alchemy's soap and a wet badger brush added to the process, it took only a few laps around the tin to whip up a remarkably attractive lather. Here I was about to add a warmed scuttle to the process but concluded it was completely unnecessary. Within the span of approximately one minute, the brush was loaded with a deep cloud of pine tree scented shave lather. I was happily impressed.
Using the shave brush I moved to the face and continued to develop the lather with circular passes. Here is where the soap culminated into the full wet shave experience. The lather pillowed up further, enhancing the anticipation of swiping off several days’ worth of stubble. The brush and lather worked together to remove dirt, pollen, and chain grease residue on the skin. Imagine the enjoyment with each pass removing a satisfying amount of growth and leaving a lubricated path. I enjoyed it so much I reloaded the brush for a second pass to get an even closer shave. The grown out beard never had a chance.
This was a truly satisfying shave. A lingering pine aroma remained behind, the thick shave soap led to a knick-free shave, and the ease of loading a brush straight from the tin had me thinking this shave is perfect in two places: This tin can sit on the shelf in the medicine chest and pulled down twice a week, or it can be stowed in a Dopp kit along with a shave brush and double-edged razor to pose as a companion for the traveling road or cyclocross racer. John Muir once said, “Between every two pines is a doorway to a new world.” As the cycling world season moves into the woods for entertainment, having the Scotch pine scent of Mad Alchemy’s Woodsman Shave Soap is a great way to move into ‘cross, or used here, it closes the door on a satisfying season. This soap, with its cruelty-free easy-to-develop lather is the real deal.
Mad Alchemy Woodsman Shave Soap is available on their website for $15 (USD) or by visiting one of their stockists listed by state. As always, support your local bike shop first.