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Greyish Vetiver Part 3: Wholly Kaw Vetivertal

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[Part 1 of this series looked at the vetiver-scented shaving soap from Catie’s Bubbles and part 2 looked at PannaCrema’s vetiver shave soap.]

Wholly Kaw is a vegan shaving products maker, that released its first soaps in roughly the last year. The company uses a formula that is fairly similar to other vegan makers like Los Angeles Shave Soap Co., and Catie’s Bubbles, but their soap appears firmer and smoother in the tub, and also uses a mix of fragrance and essential oils. (Some vegan artisans like LASSCO use only essential oils, though that is not quite de rigeur for vegan folk.) The payoff for the occasional use of fragrance oil is a complex scent palette, which has produced a noteworthy fougere (“Fougere Bouquet”), a great Old Spice interpretation (“Twice As Spice”), and “Vetivertal”, which is rather like if Grey Vetiver took a passage to India. Hot on the shaving forums, Wholly Kaw also redesigned their branding and packaging recently and look snazzier now than when they first started. Let’s take a look at what they’ve achieved so far…


Excellent waterproof tub, without any paper label at all. Ingredients are listed, scent notes are not. The tub is maybe 6 oz capacity with 4 ounces of product so there is lots of room for loading. There is no scent description, and “Vetivertal” is not really helpful for the blind buyer. I am tempted to deduct a point for making the buyer guess what he’s smelling, but the great packaging and avoidance of those pesky labels mitigates, so 2 of 2 points.

Scent In Tub

Pretty impressive. Has a dry though sweet scent, with citrus notes scented though not predominant and the vetiver underemphasized though noticeable.  Compared to PannaCrema, the vetiver is more earthy and the citrus less sour. The scent smells clean yet interesting and spicy at the same time. Though I personally would like more vetiver, this is an intriguing smell, and one that entices the user to lather up. The maker tells us this scent contains top notes of bergamot, coriander, lemon, orange flower, middle notes of vetiver and base notes of pepper, cedarwood, tonka bean with the added scents of nag champa for delicate floral notes with woody notes.”  This is kind of an over-promise (will the shaver really smell 9 different scent elements?) but the smell in the tub is complex enough to float my hopes a bit. 3 of 3 points.

Lather Creation & Stability

Went like clockwork. Blooming used, probably not needed. Ample amounts of lather produced with 40 swirls. Did not need any added water, and loading was quick and predictable. Lather was stable and well hydrated once applied. I think this would do quite well in hard water. 5 of 5 points.

Lather Performance

Glide was excellent, hair elevation excellent, making for a very smooth shave. Cushioning was very good, maybe slightly less than Catie’s or the tallow based PC. I personally had no sore spots, so the somewhat thinner cushioning is mostly an academic concern. 4.5 points, rounded up to 5 of 5 points awarded.

Scent During Shave

A powerful presence of the scent continues during the shave and develops over time to include added sweetness and even an incense note.  This comes from the nag champa, which traditionally is a blend of sandalwood and frangipani. The vetiver remains as an anchor rather than a base, and ties together the sweet and spicy elements nicely. This is not exactly the same as Grey Vetiver as there is no hint of the European style herbal elements found in GV, such as orris and sage, and the tonka bean is a bit less sweet than the amber in the Ford creation.
I am tempted to say I prefer this scent to Grey Vetiver, as I like the Indian fragrance notes, but ultimately the Ford creation, in its Eau De Toilette form, is more powerful and complex in development. The odds of us ever seeing a Vetivertal EDT is pretty slim (we may see an aftershave splash perhaps, but that will not really match what an EDT can do) so I would have to say use GV as a fragrance, and Vetivertal as a shave soap. Still, Wholly Kaw does a great job at making a powerful, long lasting, complex scent that develops over time. This is a great scent for fans of formal male EDT fragrances. 5 of 5 points.

Post Shave Feel

Pretty good. Maybe some problem spots on the visage were a tad drier than they were with Catie’s and maybe they were a bit more sensitive to the touch. Overall, I was just fine with using the Nivea Cooling Sensitive Balm for a great rest of the day feel, but I do feel most users will also need to use a balm of some sort after the shave to soothe and moisturize their faces. 4 of 5 points.


$18 for 4 ounces is dead average in terms of market value. Fine performance and a superlative scent design add value to the equation, but a perfect score for value would warrant either a lower absolute price or more ounces per dollar. Some soaps from Barriser and Mann match or exceed WK Vetivertal in scent, performance, post shave, and a ten percent lower price, and Soap Commander can offer the same characteristics and give the shaver 6 ounces for $15. It’s tough to be a shave soap artisan right now! 4 of 5 points.

Total Score: 28 of 30.

Very solid A Minus / A. Cheaper pricing and / or better post shave feel would elevate this one to the level of perfection. I should add that I like plenty of other shave soap smells better than this one, but the integrity and effort in the scent design makes this one stand out. Vetivertal to my knowledge is not “based” on any mainstream fragrance, and so appears to be an honest to goodness original design which uses GV as only the vaguest of inspirations and then shoots off to the exotic subcontinent to add some unique elements. Of course, if you are looking for a GV clone, this will not exactly do, but as an independent product, this is wonderful.

Matches Grey Vetiver?

Not exactly. Similar citrus notes and similar use of vetiver as a secondary compositional unifer, but this is sweeter and has that odd / interesting frangipani note that GV lacks. Nutmeg and sage fans will be saddened, and if you want predominant sour notes rather than sweet ones, a GV fan might actually prefer the PannaCrema entry.
Into My Rotation? Yes.

Summary of Series One:

Closest to Grey Vetiver: A tie between PannaCrema and Wholly Kaw. Wholly Kaw is more complex and creative than PannaCrema by far, and that complexity parallels Grey Vetiver. However, the added Indian fragrance notes move Vetivertal a bit away from GV. PannaCrema’s Vetiver in comparison gives you a small piece of Grey Vetiver, but runs with it consistently (even repetitiously). Grey Vetiver fans who loathe the idea of sweetness and incense notes may be happier with PannaCrema’s Vetiver. Catie’s Un Jour Gris by comparison goes off on a mellow spicier tangent altogether and resembles Grey Vetiver on Valium. If you want something mild, complex, and elegant, Un Jour Gris may be your cup of chamomile tea.
Best Technical Performer: Probably Catie’s in first place, PannaCrema second, and Wholly Kaw in third, but all of these did a great job and lathered excellently. Post shave feel is also excellent for all, with only very minor differences in actual quality of finish effect during the day.
Best Scent: Wholly Kaw by a mile. Un Jour Gris is promising, but ends up too underpowered to truly impress. PannaCrema underwhelms by comparison to both of the other GV type soaps, and it’s fair to say that most other shave soaps and creams I’ve used were more interesting olfactorily that the PC was.
Best Use of Vetiver: Wholly Kaw wins I guess, but I like my vetiver more central and more powerful than any of these soaps managed to execute. That’s why there’s a Second Series!
Point Totals From Series One:
Un Jour Gris:  25/30
PannaCrema Vetiver: 23/30

    Wholly Kaw Vetivertal: 28/30 

Greyish Vetiver Three: Wholly Kaw Vetivertal ($18 for 4 oz. tub of soap)
Mfgr Site:
Ingredients (Mfgr Site): Vegetable Stearic Acid, Organic Coconut Oil, Distilled Water, Sodium Hydroxide, Potassium Hydroxide, Glycerin. Essential Oils, Fragrance Oils.

Craig K

Craig K


4 thoughts on “Greyish Vetiver Part 3: Wholly Kaw Vetivertal”

  1. If you like vetiver you might want to try out L and L Grooming Marshlands. It’s VERY vetiver and has vegan and bison tallow formulas.

    1. Thanks CC, agreed, L&L is excellent and their Marshlands scent is a very authentic yet accessible vetiver scent. Performance in the bison tallow version is superlative, and most users will like the scent I think, both hard core vetiver heads and those who want something less earthy.

  2. Thanks R.K. Wholly Kaw continues to provide excellent technical characteristics with complex and elegant scent designs.
    This talented artisan now has his own “store” on Amazon, meaning you can buy Vetivertal and many other soap scents from the maker and take advantage of the convenience of the Amazon purchase system.
    Wholly Kaw also has two excellent new sandalwood based soaps recently released, both of which are available on Amazon: “Spice Route” and “Melange De Santal”.

  3. Hi,
    Absolutely fascinating ! Great to know the wheels of change in men’s grooming has come full circle back to what our grandfathers used.
    Wish you all the very best in promoting this vegan product.

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