Traditional wetshaving

Let me begin this post with a caveat: I don’t grow a lot of facial hair. Its true and I won’t try to deny it. However, I do grow enough to warrant shaving, and have since I was 16 or so. Now, my first shaving implement was an electric razor that I got because it was my Dad’s old one, and he wanted to upgrade to a new model. It worked fine for me for a while, but wasn’t a particularly enjoyable experience, more of a mind numbing habit.

So I bought a Gillette Mach 3. From the first time I shaved with it, I was impressed with the closeness of the shave. However, shaving with the Mach 3 eventually became the same thing as the electric: a boring routine. I avoided shaving as much as I could, and then when I finally did shave, I wouldn’t even use shaving cream, just a quick splash of water and a few swipes against the grain of my beard. Well you know the old adage “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.” So when a friend of mine mentioned that he shaved with a brush and double-edge safety razor, I decided to give in and fulfill my fantasy of owning a straight razor.

I immersed myself in the world of straight shaving, as told by the guys over at straightrazorplace.com, and learned everthing I could from them about shave technique, stropping, lathering, and products. When I recieved a straight razor for Christmas, I was anxious to try out this new hobby.

Well, it didn’t go as I had planned. The soap that came with my razor dried my skin too much, and the razor burnt it to a crisp. However, I persevered, and after a few shaves my skin had gotten used to this new way of doing things. I had also aquired some Proraso, made for Bath and Body Works under the C.O. Bigelow name. The combination was heavenly. Proraso is a very “slick” cream, and lubricates and hydrates the skin very well, which works wonders for those shaving with a straight razor. The razor literally glides over the lubricating layer of the cream, which protects and moisturizes the skin. My shaves have become “baby’s butt smooth,” and are more comfortable with a straight than with any razor that has come before.

According to Gillette, “the multi-blade razor opertates on a principle called “hystoresis,” within which the first blade grabs the facial hair, pulling it out of its follicle, and the second, and third, and fourth, and fifth blades cut it off, creating a condition ripe for ingrown hairs and “razor bumps”. Yank, hack, yank, hack, yank, hack. However, what they don’t tell you is that when your beard area is properly hydrated, the hair is 25% more elastic, allowing for a closer shave” (mantic59, from youtube.com). That was an intext citation of the man who must be the wetshaving guru, mantic59. Check out his videos if you’re looking for more information on wetshaving. Anyway, when the beard is properly hydrated, one can cut closer with a straight razor than with a multi-blade razor because the straight razor actually cuts below the skin by shaving off the layer of dead skin that rests on top of the epidermis. So you can cleanse your skin, and get a closer shave with a straight.

Point is, by shaving with a straight razor, you’re exfoliating by removing a layer of dead skin with every pass, which in turn creates a closer shave, and you’re cutting hairs exactly at the skin level, which prevents ingrown hairs and razor bumps. When I shaved with a Mach 3, I needed to shave every two or three days. Now that I am shaving with a straight, my face stays “baby’s butt smooth” for 24 hours, and I don’t begin to show stubble for 36 hours after a shave.

So consider straight shaving. Consider buying that badger brush, straight razor, and strop. Your Mrs. will thank you. So will your face.

Published in: on February 7, 2009 at 3:30 am  Comments (1)  

Are cigars really better with age?

I find that one of the most widely held misconceptions about cigars is that they are always better with age. I say “always” because it is true that some cigars do improve with age, to a certain point. However, not all cigars age well, and those that do inevitably hit their peak and then begin to decline.

For example, Camachos tend to need down time; right out of the box they can just be over powering. La Flor Dominicana Double Ligeros age nicely, and after just 6 months down, they tend to calm down and develop into very nice cigars. And the famous Arturo Fuente Fuente Opus X ages, if not spectacularly, then certainly interestingly, over the course of a couple years. In addition, most Cuban cigars need down time (anywhere from 6 months to about 2 years), as Cuban cigar companies put less emphasis on creating a fine, well aged cigar and more emphasis on getting cigars out onto the market.

However, even cigars that age well, do so only to a certain point. Ashton’s VSG ages phenomenally to about 9 months, but by month 12 you just may find that your cigar has declines and lost flavor, body and character. Don Peppin’s Blue Label is another great example of a cigar that improves with down time, but much past a year and all that delicious spice has mellowed into something unrecognizable and quite ordinary. Even with my examples in the previous paragraph, age can be a good thing to a point, and after that your cigar will start to decline.

Yet, for some reason, when people come into A Little Taste of Cuba and see the Padron 1964 and 1926, many of them are overly impressed and say things like “Wow, was that cigar really rolled 83 years ago?” When I tell them it wasn’t many are downright disappointed. Now, I would never keep a Padron 1964 down for more than 6 months because its so subtle to begin with, after just a few months it simply loses flavor (I hold to the old cliche when it comes to the 1964: “Smoke ’em if you got ’em.” I do not let those guys sit). How bland would a Padron 1964 be after 45 years?

And yet people are constantly paying outrageous amounts of money for a “Pre-embargo” cuban cigar. The story is familiar to everyone: “Hey, we just found a bundle of tobacco from Cuba that was imported before the embargo…etc.” Really? Even if the story is true, they are trying to sell tobacco that is over 4 decades old? A cigar that old is going to taste like chalk and dust. It will have lost so much flavor and character, it won’t be worth a cent.

So please, don’t get sucked into the hype that the older something is, the better it is. Challenge the misconception the next time your local cigar shop tries to push some expensive 20 year old stogies on you, or one of your buddies starts talking about a deal he found for 60 year old Cubans. Cigars age quickly, you really shouldn’t ever have to age anything past a year or two. For those cigar-agers out there (and trust me, I am one), I would suggest buying 4 or 5 sticks whenever you decide to age a cigar, and smoke one every 3 or 4 months, so you can get a feel for the characteristics of that cigar. A well aged cigar can open up the potential and possibilities of the tobacco; A poorly aged cigar becomes tired, old and unremarkable.

Happy smoking.

– Nate

Published in: on January 31, 2009 at 12:07 pm  Comments (2)