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The Rise of Bay Rum

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Bay Rum #1
If you’ve ever cruised through wet shaving websites or had the luck to actually visit a real live old-school barber shop, odds are you’ve come across Bay Rum. It, perhaps more than most, is the smell and memory of wet shaving for many. For decades it was how men smelled. Yes, there was Old Spice and Aqua Velva but that couldn’t come close to the smell of Bay Rum!

My Dad used Bay Rum from time to time. He liked regular cologne more, and because he used an electric razor, didn’t use a lot of aftershave. But when he put on a beige linen suit for church in the summer or a Hawaiian shirt to go out to eat, he’d splash on Bay Rum. I still to this day have no idea who made it, but I always thought it was a unique smell. That was my introduction to Bay Rum.
Fast forward about 25+ years, and I’m just starting down the rabbit hole that is wet shaving. I’m checking out a couple of web sites and lo and behold…there’s Bay Rum! This is in 2011 and two in particular catch my eye. One is Captain’s Choice, which is getting lots of good reviews, and the other is Ogallala Bay Rum. I ordered one from each, Ogallala’s original Bay Rum scent, and Captain’s only had one scent at the time. When both arrived, man…did that bring back some good memories. Watching my Dad splash it on after the shower and that wet, Bay Rum smell slowly seeping through the house…very good memories.
Because my OCD easily kicks in when I find something I like, I did that with Bay Rum. Ogallala Bay Rum fed my craving, because they have so many different smells and types. Their cool blue bottles hark back to the time of the cowboys. Growing up and now living in Kansas, I felt a kinship to the company, because it’s based just up the road in Nebraska. By the time I went through most of their line, I decided that Limes and Peppercorns was my favorite. Because I have the honor of writing for Sharptologist, I decided to contact John, the owner about how he started the company.
He says it was in 2005 and a relative got him a bottle of Bay Rum and he says it smelled terrible. “Like turpentine,” is how he described it. So he set about to create his own scent, based on what he remembers it smelling like when he was a kid. By 2006, he had come up with what he thought was would become Ogallala Bay Rum Cologne. He says that, yes, his wife thought he had lost his mind, but little did she…or John for that matter, realize how well his new product would be received.
When I “discovered” John’s products in 2011 it was a full blown company, even though John says he didn’t set out to start a Bay Rum company. But when you create something that the masses want, you gotta give it to them! That’s what John did. By the time I emerged from my period of not wet shaving much, John’s little company had grown. About a year and a half ago he had to stop selling direct on-line because they couldn’t keep up with demand. His product is sold in national magazines, lots of website and even 35 countries. His line has grown from one aftershave to five scents, that are also sold as double strength, seven shaving and bath soaps, shaving sticks, and accessories. Heck, it’s even gone to the dogs! He has a Wiener Wash dog shampoo in their classic Bay Rum scent. That’s how well his Bay Rum has been received. But is his case the exception? Let’s ask the Captain.
ScottScott Brenneke released his Captain’s Choice Bay Rum in October 2011. That was just as I saw the light of wet shaving. Little did I know that I was buying products that would explode in popularity. I talked with Scott about his motivation for making Bay Rum and Scott says that he thought that store aftershaves smelled like chemicals and wanted to make his own. Like John, it was try and fail…until he hit upon what is now the original Captain’s Choice. He said that his feedback from customers was instant and enthusiastic. I include myself in that group as well. In fact, I was honored to be sent early sample of Cat O’ Nine tails and their Lime scent awhile later. In the early days, that’s how Scott got some of his feedback. “Hey! Anyone want to throw some of this stuff on your face?” I’m sure it was worded much better than that but it sure beats a focus group in a mall somewhere! Scott says that he listened to customers who wanted more burn in their aftershave so he created the Cat. He expanded the line again in 2013 with Lime and has since added Sandalwood and North, a juniper and pine aftershave. Like Ogallala, Scott has also branched out into shave balm, soap and even lather bowls.
Scott said that back in 2011, you could find Bay Rum, but there weren’t many choices. Now, he says, every wet shaving website has a slew of Bay Rum products and if you’re just starting to create your wet shaving products, you just about have to have a Bay Rum scent because that’s what customers expect.
While you can’t swing a cheap cartridge razor now without hitting a Bay Rum product, it wasn’t like that five short years ago. As I was feeding my desire to know and buy everything wet shaving, I stumbled upon Barclay Crocker. They had a wide selection of Bay Rums from not only U.S. companies but in the Caribbean as well. I gave many a shot from their site and was happy to see that every couple of months their list of inventory of Bay Rum goodies was growing. I contacted Barclay Crocker and Michael Davidson, with the company, said that their growth in Bay Rum products has is large enough they recently launched a separate site dedicated just to that Caribbean goodness! He says that as soon as the site was announced, orders started pouring in.
These are just three examples of how Bay Rum has continued to grow in popularity. And as more and more men discover that it’s okay not only to devote time to take care of yourself by wet shaving, they’re also realizing it’s also okay to want to smell like a man. Not by wearing some uni-sex cologne or aftershave that makes you smell like a Justin Bieber fan, but by splashing on aftershave that perhaps your dad or grandad wore, and that odds are, your mom or grandma loved to smell on their man as well.
In case anyone is interested, here’s my lineup of Bay Rum aftershaves that are my regular aftershaves. I’m not putting down any of the wide array of Bay Rum products on the market now. I’m just a guy that when I find something I like, I stick with it. Plus, I’m always a little afraid that my OCD will kick in again…because there’s Bay Rum stuff I haven’t tried yet. And as the number of Bay Rum products continues to grow, I know that my simple lineup could easily double or triple in size. I guess that wouldn’t be too bad…would it?
Related Articles:
Genuine Ogallala Bay Rum, Limes, and Peppercorns Shaving Soap
Riding with the Captain (Captain’s Choice Bay Rum Review)
Captain’s Choice Shaving Soap
BebeLush – Bay Rum Shaving Soap With A Twist
Kell’s Original hemp blend shaving soap – Bay Rum

Jay Harrell

Jay Harrell


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