PannaCrema is Italian based, quite small, and fairly mysterious, due mainly to their awful website that tells one nothing about the company’s history or philosophy. Nor does the site list retailers or ingredients, and the scent descriptions are, umm, vague and poorly stated, to be generous. PC nevertheless has an excellent under the radar rep for packing a lot of high quality ingredients in their formula, along with that cool Euro image.
They are also among the relatively rare ranks of Euro makers who produce tallow soaps, and indeed their Vetiver is the only tallow based soap featured in our first set of Vetiver reviews. Castor oil, shea butter, and kaolin clay all accompany the more mundane coconut oil and glycerin. But do these add-ins do any good? Read on…
Sturdy plastic jar, with 7 ounces of capacity and less than 5 ounces of product, a good ratio allowing ample headspace at the top to allow easy mess free loading of the soap. Ingredients are listed (good to see them somewhere!) and my only issue is that there is no scent description. Considering the title of this scent is “Vetiver” the pronounced absence of vetiver in the actual scent leads me to deduct a point. If you are selling to blind buyers who cannot get a sniff ahead of time, IMO, if you call a soap “Vetiver”, it should be a clear powerful vetiver, not an equivocal nuanced vetiver that is overpowered by other scents. If they called this “Citrus Vetiver” or “Italian Vetiver” I would have no issue, but truth in advertising concerns annoy me when a simple scent is not properly described. 1 of 2 points.
Scent In Tub
The maker cryptically tells us “With notes at the same time warm, woody, dry and balsamic, the vetiver fragrance is probably the closest to the “barber smell”. Yes, we can safely ignore that, this smells as much like a barber shop as a jar of pickles does, unless of course your barber is in a dirt field in the middle of a citrus grove. I would call Vetiver instead pretty close to GV top notes and base; that is a complex citrus and a somewhat noticeable undertone of vetiver. Smells like a sour citrus scent, maybe a mix of bergamot and neroli, with a slight earthy base. Not bad, but again, vetiver does not exactly leap out of “Vetiver”, which is just wrong. The sour citrus and mild vetiver smell more like lemongrass than vetiver really. 2 of 3 points. (It should be noted also, based on my brick and mortar sniff tests, that all the other PannaCrema scents are even less complex and powerful than Vetiver, so if you think this one is dull, the others will probably not wow you much either.)
Lather Creation & Stability
Easy as pie. Not much product or water needed. Lather is fairly stable once applied, but did show some signs of thinning towards the end of my second pass. The lather still worked very well though, so the thin appearance did not create any deficient performance. I’m taking a point off due to the appearance of thinning, as shaving should not be an alarming experience on any level. 4 of 5 points.
Simply great. Smooth glide, excellent cushion. Ghost lather effect was a tad less obvious in effect, so you may want to be cautious about shaving spots where you have already taken lather off during a pass. No sore spots observed after the shave, and the thickness of the lather did not create any clogging issues for the Progress. I am tempted to deduct a point for the absence of ghost lather effects, a feature which other contenders in Series One had plenty of, but I maintain that ghost lather is a privilege rather than a right in using shaving lubricants, so the shaver should never assume the persistence of lubrication in a spot where lather has been shaved. Call this 4.5 points, rounding up for the other excellent characteristics. 5 of 5 points.
Scent During Shave
Sadly, not much happens. The same balance of sour citrus and mild vetiver loiters around, and does not develop. It remains constant and noticeable during the shave, which is nice, but it continues to mumble “lemongrass” instead of shouting “VETIVER!!!”. When rinsed at the end of each pass, the PC goes away altogether, a disappointment, as that moment (the rinse) is usually when the smell is strongest and most developed. Instead, PC Vetiver just exits quickly and ignominiously, like a disgruntled guest leaving a bad hotel.
I feel PC utterly misses the complexity of Grey Vetiver, in terms of absent spiciness and sweetness, and all we get here is the relative easy part of the GV scent pyramid. If GV was indeed the model for PannaCrema’s design, they missed the mark widely.
Even if we consider PC Vetiver on it’s own, it is a mild and rather dull scent. Though it is more powerful of a scent than Catie’s UJG, it is also more boring. I would rather smell what there is of UJG than the more robust though monotonous PV Vetiver. At least the odor doesn’t fade away during the shave anyway. And it more or less fulfills the limited promise of what can be smelled in the tub, so what you sniff is what you get here. 3 of 5 points.
None during or after shave. No complaints, so no points deducted.
Post Shave Feel
Just fine. The castor oil and shea butter worked as expected and gave me a fine feeling adequately moisturized face with just a splash of Nivea Sensitive Cooling Balm applied. Guys with less sensitive and dry faces could probably get by with no post shave finishing applications at all. 5 of 5 points.
Meh. $18 for 4.8 ounces is more or less the market average in the artisan soap world, and the technical performance is excellent. But all too many other soaps have these characteristics of decent value and excellent technical merit. If this soap was cheaper or had a memorable, amazing scent, I’d give it 4 or 5 stars, but given its dull simple scent, along with the proud proclamation of being something it is not in its very title, I am awarding 3 of 5 points. If you like lemongrass and / or do not expect much from your soap scents, add a star.
Total Score: 23/30 points
B Minus. This one is not a thriller. The technical reputation of PannaCrema is not undeserved, but many, many other soap makers match this level, either with or without similar formulas (Barrister & Mann, Wholly Kaw, Catie’s Bubbles, Soap Commander for instance.) Most of these other makers beat PC’s price and value figures, and are also easier to find and sample. And all of the artisans mentioned utterly slaughter PannaCrema in scent design and execution. Also, as mentioned, Vetiver is more or less at the apex of PC’s line in terms of scent quality, so if this is the best they can offer, I would recommend just passing on the brand altogether. Certainly if you were looking for a Grey Vetiver match, this is close, but not that close.
Matches Grey Vetiver?
Basically, having lots of citrus up front, and weak vetiver. But then no spice, no sweetness, and no development.
Into My Rotation? Nope.
Greyish Vetiver Two: PannaCrema Vetiver ($18 for 4.7 oz. tub of soap)
Ingredients (From Package):Water, Stearic Acid, Tallow, Potassium Hydroxide, Coconut Oil, Shea Butter, Castor Seed Oil, Glycerin, Sodium Hydroxide, Fragrance, Kaolin (clay), Ascorbic Acid.