Over the past several weeks, I have been fortunate enough to be afforded an opportunity to test out several products from a newcomer to the wet shaving market. Bill Neumann II, founder of Wm. Neumann & Co., continues an apothecary tradition started by his great-grandfather, William Neumann, at the turn of the century. Located in Williamsburg, VA, he opened up for business in the last few months of 2012. Bill’s great-grandfather made several notebooks filled with detailed notes for fragrances and other men’s products while he operated his own pharmacy in Detroit. Those notes have been preserved and passed down for three generations, and are now the cornerstone to Bill’s formulary for his fantastic new line of grooming products.
Wm. Neumann & Co. opened with a variety of products available, including shampoos, bar soaps, and lotions in addition to men’s wet shaving products like shave soap, pre-shave oil, and aftershave. They are now even offering a small selection of razors, brushes, and mugs, as well. Virtually every type of item is available in seven fragrances, all passed down from William Neumann in his notebooks. Signature 1907, Heartwood, Bay Rum, Old-Fashioned Soda, Lime & Mint, Peppermint Clove, and their flagship 1911 fragrance round out the list of options available. While I sampled all of the fragrances, the products I tested and compared were made with the 1911 blend; a masculine, woody, yet balanced fragrance made with citrus, sandalwood, rosewood, vanilla, cardamom and nutmeg. As a bonus, many of the ingredients used in these products are certified organic and kosher.
The business end of the Neumann line is their shave soap. It comes in unassuming silver tins or screw-top glass jars, depending on the size. Its opaque, tan appearance makes it even more unassuming, but that only serves to provide a no-frills, high-performance product. The soap is oil and glycerin-based, with some really nice additions of green tea, seaweed, milk thistle and marshmallow root. While many people love to debate the merits of tallow vs. glycerin soaps, rest assured that regardless of what camp you may belong to, you will not be disappointed with this soap. The lather I was able to make was easily as thick and protective as any tallow-based soap I have used in the past. I found that the best lather came from soaking the puck in warm water for about thirty seconds. Once my brush was soaked, I slung out most of the water, drained the puck, and swirled the brush around for about 30 seconds until I was able to get rid of any visible air bubbles. After wetting my face, I face-lathered. The water on my face seemed to be just the right amount needed to not have a dry lather and still maintain a thick, protective barrier. Using a silvertip brush that naturally holds more water seemed to aid in this method’s effectiveness.
If you choose not to face-lather, I wouldn’t suggest adding more than a quick splash of water to the brush. By soaking the puck, it seems not a whole lot of extra water is necessary. On successive passes, the water on my face from rinsing in between made the lather thin out, but I really didn’t mind it. If anything, it allowed the lather to become slicker. Coupled with the pre-shave oil, the thinner lather allowed me to achieve comfortable, super-close against-the-grain shaves.
My only complaint with the soap lies in the packaging. The tins the smaller shave soaps come in are just big enough to store the puck, so most people will find it more conducive to move the puck to a larger lather bowl or mug to build a lather in. This, unfortunately, makes the nice tin it’s packaged in almost useless. It looks great, but it may be more economical to package these pucks in a wrapper.
Check out wmneumann.com because now is the perfect time to try this excellent addition to the wet shaving community. I hope you enjoy your shaves as much I have, and be on the lookout for more reviews on the pre-shave and aftershaves soon!
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