Meissner Tremonia Shaving Soaps - Test Candidates
I have had the sheer pleasure of using Meissner Tremonia soaps over the past couple of weeks and have tried most of the scents, gaining a good understanding of the character and appeal of these soaps.
I asked a German pal what the words meant, whether it translated. He told me that it was simply two words: Meissner, meaning "from the city of Meissen" (cf London/Londoner) and the surname of the proprietor, Thomas; Tremonia, latin "tres moenia" (literally, "three walls") and in context means Dortmund, the home city of these truly artisan soaps.
If my German chum was pulling my leg and Germans the world over are now uncontrollably laughing, well we can't accuse the Germans of not having a sense of humour.
You can read more about their processes, their products and their history on their website: http://www.meissner-tremonia.de
I shall concern myself here with their shaving soaps which come in two guises: hard soap and a softer soap, or paste. Performance-wise, I don't think there is a lot between them, but if I was to separate them then I would say the the paste is, well, creamier and the hard soap firmer and more protective. Both have a wonderful slip in use and a supreme post-shave feel. Loading and lathering it without issue, again, I would say the paste is easier to load and more immediate in the building of lather; the soap so much more worth that extra effort, not that much is required as these soaps work, and work well.
What do you get?
You can buy these soaps in three formats: paste, in purple glass jars with hard plastic lids; hard soap, again, in purple glass jars with hard plastic lids; hard soap refills for putting into the purple glass jars or into your own pots.
While the hard soaps don't quite fit the jars snug, it really doesn't matter as the soaps are just that little bit malleable and a good, firm press into the jar will have it stay put.
The formulas do vary from soap to soap, but in a nutshell what you get is a coconut oil based soap. Other ingredients vary according to scent and all manner of natural clays are used to assist with slip and provide wonderful colours and textures. One or two are quite specialist, such as the Pots of Milk soap which is chock full of goats milk and macadamia nut oil to give a luxurious feeding for skin, leaving it silky soft, another, Strong & Scottish uses single malt Scotch!
How does it play?
I use synthetic brushes and I live in a soft water area.
Synthetic brushes are known for dumping all their water in one go when lathering, and so, folks who use synthetic brushes tend to have a drier brush for loading and feed in small amounts of water while lathering.
Being in a soft water area does mean that I am cursed with lather! I can fill my bathroom by applying just a little too much water at the outset in many soaps, foamy suds billowing out of the soap pot with little more than a few swirls.
Upon giving these soaps a few swirls with a well dampened brush (no, not 60, 80, 100 or whatever ... just a few swirls), loading is done. These soaps do not punish folks in soft water areas by foaming up uncontrollably, no, these soaps keep foaminess under control and even if the proto-lather is just that little bit foamy, it all tamps down without issue in the bowl.
Build your lather as you do, with the brush that you like to use and you're rewarded with a thick and firm lather that is strong, over-paintable, slick, cushioning and matures through the shave, each successive re-lather better than the last.
I like the lather so much, I have taken to applying one final lather after my final pass and washing off, just for the post-shave feel.
Loading, lathering, in-shave performance, wash off and post-shave feel, all absolutely superb and quite literally second to none. Make no mistake - these are seriously good soaps.
What about scents?
Here's where it gets interesting ...
Meissner Tremonia don't do things conventionally! While you can find a Lavender Deluxe, a Pink Grapefruit and a Menthol, scents do seem to be on the side of the more exotic, like Indian Flavour, Himalayan Heights and Exotic Elemi, and the unusual, like Black Beer and Strong & Scottish.
Just to briefly run through some of the scents:
Pink Grapefruit - Well, it's pink grapefruit. Quite mild, not enormously citrus but with a pleasing and full grapefruit scent.
Exotic Elemi - Asian elemi resin and Javanese canaga blossom oil. It's another woody one, peppery with a citrus backwash.
Himalayan Heights - Himalayan Heights is pretty straight-up. It's cedar and salt. Himalayan, to be precise; both of them: the cedar and the salt. Cedrus Deodara from the foothills of the Himalayas: Nepal, Tibet, Afghanistan, Pakistan and northern India. Salt, too, and a lovely light blue colour quite reminiscent of the glacial meltwater from above making its way through the tree line to the foothills. Yes, it's salty and yes, it's woody. Heady, and quite a favourite of mine.
Lavender Deluxe - Classic English lavender, flanked by rose geranium and cypress for a near heavenly scent absolutely deserving of the word "Deluxe". Not dry, not dusty, the lavender is pure floral and quite literally erupts upon opening the pot.
Salty Sea Sage - Just as if you like lavender, you'll love their lavender ... if you like sage, you'll love Salty Sea Sage! It's flanked with two, well three other key ingredients that distinguish this soap from the rest of the range: camphor oil and amyris resin, and citric acid. I think the camphor gives it that woody earthiness that would otherwise be lacking in a pure floral/herbal scent, the amyris rounding it all off. Like a clifftop walk, surf spray in the air.
Black Beer No.1 - Dark beer, lemongrass and rosemary. Probably my least favourite and one I felt didn't lather as well as the others. I get it, though. It's dark, deep, perhaps mysterious yet uplifting with a spritzy, herbaceous haze while you shave.
Indian Flavour - What a joy! Coriander, mint and lemongrass, Indian Flavour is a gentle touch of spice and a gentle touch of mint, cooling and refreshing, more akin to holding a cold bottle of Cobra against your head while the sun beats down and the sizzle of lunch wafts by ... the spice is in no way overwhelming, but simple and well pitched, the cool is not chilling, just cooling. Perfectly balanced.
Three that, for me, stand head and shoulders above the others ...
Moroccan Rhassoul - Moroccan Rhassoul is a natural clay mined in the Atlas mountains of North Africa and used in all manner of cleansing practices, as a mud mask or poultice, for example, and in soaps, shaving soaps, as the clay element which gives shaving soap its desirable slip. Thomas uses natural clays in their natural form, embracing their colour and scent. Moroccan Rhassoul can be found in this eponymous soap and their Puristic Style soap, so if their scents are not your cup of tea you can still enjoy these absolutely stunning soaps in a clear and unscented way. The scent in Moroccan Rhassoul is a clever play on a Bay Rum. Combining further scent and properties from copaiba balsam leaves and from cloves. Strongly beneficial skin properties may be had from both, but in combination their scents intermingle into a not quite, but most definitely different and no less intriguing kind of Bay Rum.
Dark Limes - Dark Limes is mysterious. I don't know how someone puts mystery into a soap but Thomas has. It is sour. It should be - it's lime. It is bitter. It is bittersweet, and I think that is the addition of bitter orange oil, which counterpoints and juxtaposes the sharp slice of lime as the two spin into a vortex of dancing scent. It's spritz and flavour, like the spray of the fruit skin as it is cut through as well as the spray of the fruit therein.
Strong & Scottish - A cursory scan over the ingredients reveals that this soap gains its earthiness from Scottish "whiskey" (presumably whisky ... no "e" in Scotch, unless you're in Motherwell) and juniperus oxycedrus wood tar, or juniper wood tar and not dissimilar to cade, which Thomas mixes with red clay to reinforce the earthiness resulting in a seriously heady, woody, ashy, peaty, burnt wood experience which is absolutely sublime. I had read about this soap being the worst scented soap ever, a scent which only its mother could love and a stink of stale ashtrays, all descriptions which I won't disagree with - yes, I get the ash, yes, I get that it is really quite unusual, earthy, mucky (not necessarily dirty) and I originally described the scent as having the same polarising effect as Pinaud's Lilac Vegetal. But, this is not a Marmite soap, one which divides opinion, but rather one with draws the absolute same opinion from all and it is the response from each that is of note - whether the person is reviled or whether the person is intrigued, even exhilarated. I am one who is exhilarated by this scent. As a sample in a plastic bag it gains the same effect as good drink in a snifter, the scent concentrated and alive for each of the constituent smells to be explored. This is not Marmite, this is oysters, this is caviar, this is that very special bottle of red wine that gives off a prolific farmyard smell upon breathing, this is Laphroaig. And on that final note, I don't think we're far from understanding the true nature of this soap - it is strong, it is peaty, it is almost medicinal. It is strong, it is Scottish. I get it ... and there it is: Thomas is a genuis; this soap is high connoisseur.
Not only, but also ...
Mint Ice Menthol - I should also give a warning about the Mint Ice Menthol: it's cold! It's so cold, it hurts! Imagine chomping through a pack of Trebor Extra Strong Mints, slugging down a glass of ice water and then ... then, cramming in a whole pack of Fisherman's Friends in one go! It's cold! And, truly deserving of those three cold words, mint, ice & menthol, each denoting a different kind of chill that you will enjoy from this soap.
... and not forgetting
Pots of Milk - Ample amounts of goat milk and cold pressed macadamia nut oil make this unscented shaving soap a real treat for the skin. Not one I've tried and having skin on the oilier side, most likely will not.
Puristic Style - Unscented, with cold-pressed organic argan oil and Moroccan rhassoul clay for a rewarding shaving experience. Another that I have not tried, but after using the Moroccan Rhassoul soap which uses the same clay, this is most definitely on my list.
... and it doesn't stop there!
If post-shave balms, pre-shave soaps, shower soaps or hair soaps are your thing, chances are you can have your favourite scent as one of those, too.
I would dearly love to see a Fougère or a Tobacco, but because this is Meissner Tremonia, I doubt we will. What we might well see is a Thomas' take on those, which will be an unconventional walk off that well-trodden path and a truly fascinating tour through the deeper woods of the mastermind behind these truly exceptional soaps.
I gather there is a Dark Limes Aftershave out there somewhere; if there is ever a Strong & Scottish Aftershave, consider me first in line! Although, it has been pointed out that simply sloshing a good Islay over post-shave would have the same effect and actually be cheaper measure for measure.