Shaving Product Review - Barrister and Mann "Fougère Gothique"
Value (Cost, Packaging and Performance)
Lather (Density, Glide and Feel)
Post-shave (Healing, Moisture and Feel)
Scent (Quality, Strength and Longevity)
What would the Devil smell like if he walked among us?
The long-awaited release from #BarristerMann is upon us! Fougère Gothique has shipped out to all who've pre-ordered. If you missed the boat or changed your mind, the general release to the public will follow on October 23, 2017. I'll tell you right now... Do not miss out! This is a bold, bombastic scent and perhaps the artisanal fragrance of the year (and it's a crowded field). This stuff is complex, refined and potent. It takes the place of Hallows (reviewed here and here) for this year's fall/Halloween release.
I actually did a first impression of Fougère Gothique Eau de Parfum (EdP) a few days ago... I'd strongly recommend checking that out for a real deep-dive on the scent itself. Granted, I now have a production bottle of the EdP - but it's essentially identical. If anything, it's slightly more earthy - and remains that way a bit longer. The juice itself is less green and more amber, as it's fully macerated (steeped).
Officially, the notes are lavender, oakmoss, tonka, bergamot, geranium, balsam fir absolute, vetiver, cedar, black ashes, smoldering flame, mushroom, sandalwood, leather, tuberose and musk. Generally, it's described as a smoky fougère and I would agree that that's the vibe one gets, but there's so much more going on here - both up top and on the base. Here's a brief recap of what I had said earlier:
Upon first application, it's fairly earthy and ashy. Not quite "smoky" in the traditional sense (and certainly nothing like Nocturne, Roam, Unforgiven, Texas on Fire, Morocco or Darkfall to name a few). That's the mushroom, ashes and flame. The middle reveals the classic fougère thread with its slightly floral, green hit (especially the lavender and oakmoss) - further tempered by the also floral geranium/tuberose and slightly bitter, citrusy bergamot. The warmth of the tonka bean seeps in and paves the path for what's to come... Once fully dried down, the base takes hold. It's the base that I think most people will really enjoy. It takes the green oakmoss cue and throws in some grassy vetiver, with support from cedar and sandalwood, leather and musk - for a green and woodsy, musky finish... The balsam fir adds just a smidge of twang. Absolutely gorgeous.
I won't get into the performance of the soap much; it's typical of the Barrister's Reserve base, which is used here. Just to note; the ingredient list on the bottom of the tub is actually for the Glissant base - an error. A few quick tips on this base; load less than you might typically and be prepared to add water to taste. It's unlike most soaps out there, and if you experience any stringiness of the proto-lather, you're either loading too much or have too little water. Use a wetter, stiffer brush for best results and spend the time to dial it in. When you nail it - you'll know. Performance of the soap is amazing with a creamy, dense lather that has excellent cushion and both primary and secondary lubricity. The aftershave is the Tonique base. It too performs as you surely know well by now with very good healing properties, good moisturization and exemplary face feel.
The scent strength of the soap in the tub is rather strong; it mellows out a bit when lathered to a strong medium. The aftershave scent strength is once again strong - as is the EdP. Longevity of the scent is excellent in all three mediums, starting with the soap, then the aftershave and finally, the EdP (as you might expect). The soap alone has a longevity of about an hour on the skin. The aftershave takes it to four hours or more quite readily with impressive sillage. The EdP sillage is even more potent and is mind-blowing at 10+ (I got twelve) hours for longevity and even at the end, sillage dropped off slowly. As I said earlier, this is potent stuff.
Let's talk about the packaging for a moment, as the differences from Barrister and Mann norm are many. The soap comes in the now typical tub, but instead of a clear bottom it's black to match the top. The side is silk screened with the catchphrase ("Hell is empty and all the devils are here") and there's a label with the ingredients, etc. on the bottom (see above). What's also unique is the top of the tub, which like the side, is not labeled - but silk screened with the Fougère Gothique logo in red. The aftershave is labeled traditionally, and as an inverse of the soap (black on red vs. red on black). The bottle and cap are what's new. While it's transparent, it's a smoked black. The cap actually came with the bottles, and unbeknownst when ordered, are childproof (meaning you have to press down on it while turning to open it). Rest assured that these caps will not be used again.
The EdP is a tour de force in packaging (and where a good bit of the cost comes from; aside from scent components). It comes in a completely custom red (cardboard) box, which has an embossed faux leather texture. Imprinted on the top in black is the name Fougère Gothique (no logo). If you look at it from the side, the box top doesn't come all the way down, revealing an "inset" black band. Further, when you open the box, the insides are all black. The EdP bottle itself is a clear glass cylinder with a chrome sprayer and a clear plastic square cap. The box bottom has a round cutout that holds this bottle perfectly.
Once removed from its
tomb box, the bottle is quite something to behold. I remarked recently on a review of L&L Grooming Darkfall that the new EdP was the sharpest design in the artisanal space. Well, Fougère Gothique just stole that (short-lived) crown. Besides the fully custom packaging (Darkfall has none) the bottle itself is silk screened, just like the soap tub. On it is the catchphrase in large caps, with the name Fougère Gothique in smaller caps below. On the backside of the bottle is the Barrister and Mann logo. A very fetching presentation! There was a lot of time spent in creating this, and it shows at every level. While an artisanal offering, it rivals commercial wares.
This level of attention to detail and the quality of the software contained within won't come cheap. The soap goes for $26.99, the aftershave $22.99 and the EdP and eye-watering $89.99. That's almost $140 all-in. That said, I don't think you'll find any other software offering out there (scent especially) on this level. Just for the sake of comparison, a recent offering by The Holy Black Trading Company called The Tell-tale Heart went for $135, in a similar trifecta format of soap, aftershave and EdP. It too featured highly customized packaging. Unfortunately for the latter, the quality of the software itself isn't on par with Barrister and Mann (and by extension, Barrister's Reserve on the soap base) and was limited to 200 sets. It was more of a Limited Edition offering.
If you're a fan of the fougère genre of scents, Fougère Gothique is a powerhouse. It's dark and dank at first with an upscale finish. It grabs you and only reluctantly lets go. An absolutely amazing scent.
Hardware for today included the second run of the new Timeless Razor TRBR38 bronze razor that I reviewed extensively yesterday with a #PolSilver blade on shave two. The #TRBR38 continues to impress! The brush is a new #WildWestBrushworks offering fitted with a 24mm BOSS knot in a gold, bronze and red combination called Fall Leaves. As the bronze of the razor tarnishes, it should make a striking juxtaposition. The fit, finish and performance is outstanding, and if you're curious - check out my Understanding Synthetic Knots article, also just recently published. The #GTP scuttle kept the lather nice and warm and ensured that the scent filled the bathroom for the duration of the shave. The only way to fly!
All the devils are here... Indeed. As they say, "the devil is in the details" and Barrister and Mann has left no stone un-turned with this release. Almost everything was refined, from "just a little bit nicer" to all-out custom and top-shelf. To back it up, the performance of the software contained within is beyond reproach... But the real star of this show is the scent itself. Fougère Gothique is an accord to be reckoned with. As a self-described fougère buff and fan, this one is big, bad and bold - yet refined and elegant. Wow... Well done, good sir.
Just a note; if you haven't seen it yet - be sure to check out the complete, documented History of Barrister and Mann article, covering all bases, scents and more with links to reviews!