Artisans! So what's my favorite, you might ask? Well, that's a good question... Today, more than ever - there are a lot of great artisans out there in addition to the tried-and-true classics. Incredible ingredient lists featuring all the goodies you could imagine and unique, interesting scents to match. There's also packaging/presentation.
If I had to pick, say, a Top Five Artisans based on #soap list, I'd probably go with the following right now, in order:
- Saponificio Varesino - #sapvaresino
- Cold River Soap Works - #coldriversoap
- Barrister and Mann - #barristermann
- Dr. Jon's Shaving Soap Co. - #drjonssoapco
- Mickey Lee Soapworks - #mickeyleesoaps
Nothing, in my experience, beats SV in terms of an ultra-plush soap, robust and excellent scent and face feel (especially paired with the matching aftershave). Only a few scents are available, but they're in a league of their own. CRSW and B&M, really, could be interchanged. Both are truly top-notch soaps as far as performance, scents and face feel and both have ingredient lists to die for. I give a slight edge to CRSW lather and more approachable scents. Dr. Jon's is a fantastic lather and easily the slickest soap out there but the soft consistency can be a bit tough to load (a common complaint). This will be improved in a reformulation with the slickness enhanced even more(!). It's a bit more limited in terms of scents, but those available are unique and really excellent - and now feature matching aftershaves. Finally, MLS has a limited, but excellent offering of scents in matching soap and aftershave, and the performance is excellent.
In the end, honestly, you can't go wrong with any of these soaps as they all perform exceptionally well, across the board. Some might be a tad better in one area over another - but the other might have an edge elsewhere.
You might wonder where Martin de Candre (MdC) is on this list. You know, it was a tough call... While it's an absolutely outstanding soap, I felt it came up short in a few areas; post-shave face feel was so-so, lack of scent variety (though excellent - original, fougére and unscented), it also lacked a (matching or not) aftershave and finally, is somewhat hard to get a hold of; at least cheaply. But nothing else lathers like it; literally 5s of loading and you've got a scuttle full o' suds. It also lasts forever (almost). Typical French soap performance though, and everyone should try it!
If you don't see your favorite in this list, don't take it as a slight - chances are I haven't tried it yet or had limited experience with it. Shaving is very much a YMMV thing anyway and your list probably looks different than mine.