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Tabac Shave Soap Review: The Complete Guide to Tabac Shaving Soap

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In late 2021, shaving sites started reporting that the original Tabac tallow-based shave soap formula had been replaced by a non-tallow formula.  I’ve tried both and here are my thoughts.


Tabac is a product name that most traditional wet shavers will recognize from its long presence in the market. According to Mäurer & Wirtz (M&W), the product’s Stohlberg, Germany-based manufacturer (, the Tabac line has been around since 1959. 

 According to online posts, the formula changed because M&W’s tallow provider went out of business in late 2020. M&W’s media department did not respond to my questions about the formula change so I can’t confirm this but the information appears solid.

The result was a new formulation for Tabac shave soap. The new version (versus the “original’) does not include tallow, which raises the question: How does tallow-free Tabac stack up against the original version? 

The Test

For this article I spent a week shaving with each soap, using a Merkur 34C razor with Feather blades. To test the duration of the soaps’ fragrance, I applied Nivea’s Sensitive Soothing Post Shave Balm after most shaves. The Nivea balm isn’t completely scent-free but its fragrance is very mild.

I used a rating scale of 1 (poor) to 5 (excellent) for each of the following factors:

  • Easy lathering
  • Lather moisture retention
  • Lubrication
  • Protection
  • Post-shave skin feeling

Responses to fragrance are personal so I discuss it qualitatively without a score.

Original Formula Tabac

You can still find the original formula Tabac soap for sale. As of mid-February, you could find the soap selling for around $20 for a 4.4 ounce soap puck packaged in a reusable ceramic bowl with a (unscrewed) plastic lid. Refills without the bowl also were available under $20.

The key to spotting the original Tabac is the presence of tallow in the ingredient list:

Potassium Stearate, Sodium Stearate, Potassium Tallowate, Potassium Cocoate, Aqua, Sodium Tallowate, Parfum, Sodium Cocoate, Glycerin, Potassium Hydroxide, Tetrasodium EDTA, Tetrasodium Etidronate, Sodium Hydroxide, CI 77891, Limonene, Hydroxycitronellal, Linalool, Citronellol, Coumarin, AlphaIsomethyl Ionone, Benzyl Salicylate, Geraniol, Cinnamyl Alcohol, Isoeugenol, Benzyl Alcohol, Citral, Eugenol.

If you don’t see tallowate, you’re looking at the new formula.

Overall Impressions

The original Tabac gave me very good shaves and I enjoyed using it. 

  • Ease of lathering: I scored this a 5 with a badger brush and 3 with a synthetic for an average of 4. The results with the badger brush were impressive: easy to load with a fast buildup of copious amounts of lather. I had lather spilling over the Tabac bowl and my shaving bowl in less than a minute and the load held up for all three passes.
  • Moisture retention: Very good through the entire shave. Score: 4.
  • Lubrication: Very good slickness. Score: 4
  • Protection: No nicks, no hot spots. Score: 4
  • Post-shave skin feeling: Also very good. Score: 4.

Total score: 20/25.

New Formula Tabac

As of mid-February, online prices for the new formula were mostly similar to those for the original. Be careful before clicking the order button, though, and take a minute to review the product ingredients, which some sites don’t list. The ingredient list in the new formula does not include tallow: 

Potassium Stearate, Sodium Stearate, Potassium Laurate, Sodium Laurate, Glycerin, Aqua, Parfum, Lauric Acid, Limonene, Linalool, Hydroxycitronellal, CI 77891, Isoeugenol, Pentasodium Pentetate, Tetrasodium Etidronate, Citronellol, Coumarin, Benzyl Alcohol, Alpha-Isomethyl Ionone, Geraniol, Benzyl Salicylate, Cinnamyl Alcohol, Citral, Eugenol.

Overall Impressions

I’m indifferent to the use of tallow. If a soap doesn’t include it but still produces a good shave, that’s great. But in this instance, I believe dropping the tallow was a mistake. 

  • Ease of lathering: As with the original formula, I scored this a 5 with a badger brush and 3 with a synthetic for an average of 4. But there was a major difference between the original’s lather and the new formula. The original produced a dense, silky lather while the new version was much lighter and less dense. I don’t know how chemists score density so I’ll use a dairy analogy. The original formula was like a low-fat yogurt—OK, not exactly and without the fruit—while the new formula was like whipped cream from an aerosol can. The difference on my face was noticeable and that concerned me because less dense lathers have produced inferior shaves for me  in the past.
  • Moisture retention: Fair. The new formula required a thicker, Santa Claus-type application to retain its moisture for the full shave. Score: 2.5
  • Lubrication: Good slickness. Score: 3.5
  • Protection: No nicks, no hot spots while shaving. Score: 4
  • Post-shave skin feeling: These shaves were odd. Performance during the shaves was fine and my post-shave my skin was acceptably moist. But after the last pass my skin quickly became very tender and it stayed that way for hours. There were no obvious hot spots or irritation but touching my face was unpleasant. Score: 2.

Total score: 16/25.


I saved a discussion of fragrance for last. According to a translation from the M&W website, Tabac has top notes of pepper, bergamot, petitgrain; heart notes of lavender, clove, geranium; and base notes of sandalwood, musk and vetiver.

Also from the Tabac site:

“The brand name of Tabac Original is due to its distinctive, tart-spicy fragrance composition. However, it has nothing to do with the common processed tobacco, which smells completely different and was never one of the ingredients of Tabac Original.

Rather, it was the blooming tobacco plant fields as well as their aromatic fragrance aura that served as inspiration for the brand name. Tabac Original contains a characteristic Fougére fragrance note with spicy, herbaceous-aromatic hints. With precious woods, musk, amber and floral notes, the fragrance world after the shaving ritual underlines the personal charisma.”

The Tabac staff obviously have better senses of smell than I do. In the bowl, on my face and after the shave I experienced a lightly but indistinguishably scented soap. No specific fragrances stood out—for me, the olfactory experience was “meh.” Not terrible, not great. I asked my wife to smell the soap in the bowls and after I shaved and the fragrance reminded her of Ivory soap. That’s an acceptable scent for a body soap, but it’s not my first choice in a shave soap. 

The new formula’s scent is persistent, though. The plastic bowl lid does not screw on and the soap was like a bathroom fragrance plug-in that filled the room. The original formula was similar but more subdued. Both versions lingered on the face. I applied a scented balm once with each soap and the Tabac overwhelmed the balm.


The original formula Tabac gave me good shaves. I didn’t care for the soap’s scent but the shave performance was very good. That wasn’t the case with the new formula, which left my skin surprisingly tender with a post-shave scent lingered much too long. If you’re a Tabac fan, I’d stock up on the original soap while you can.

Ed McCarthy

Ed McCarthy


10 thoughts on “Tabac Shave Soap Review: The Complete Guide to Tabac Shaving Soap”

  1. I’ve use both the Tallow and veggie versions. In terms of performance I don’t notice any difference. Tabac is my most used shaving soap.

  2. I was a big fan of Tabac the tallow version but I think the vegan version is very poor by comparison. I have messaged the manufacturer several times but they do not possess the common decency to reply. I have been trying to buy some of the old tallow version and although they claim in the ingredients list to contain tallow when it arrives its the vegan version. I personally think they should not call it original if it doesn’t contain tallow and they should have to make it clear on the packaging if it’s the vegan version.

  3. While Tabac did have what could be described as an unusual scent it did provide an excellent lather. Since this was obviously a result of its tallow base removing the tallow which is almost a waste product of another industry is perhaps not a sensible step. I will stock up on some of the original product.

  4. Tallow was the primary ingredient in nearly all of the hard, inexpensive, mass produced shave soaps and sticks. It is an inexpensive byproduct of the beef industry which is inherently slick, creamy, moisturizing, and has a shelf life that is several decades long.

    I do not believe that it is possible to replicate all of the performance attributes of tallow with a vegetal base at the same price point. A comparable vegetal base would require the use of exotic oils, which are expensive. The shelf life of a tallow based soap cannot be replicated with a vegetal base, unless it is triple milled, which precludes the use of exotic oils.

    IMO, the demise of traditional mass produced tallow based hard shave soaps is a loss. I bemoan the marketeers being put in charge of the firms that used to make these soaps. This is yet another manifestation of finance capitalism swallowing up whole our heritage of industrial capitalism.

    I love the performance of the old Tabac shave soap, but not the scent of it. I am glad that i stocked up on several pucks of the old Fine hard soap before they were retired and replaced with croaps.

      1. I can only assume that the Marketing types believe that vegetal shave soaps will be more profitable based on focus group data.

        A croap soap does not require the weeks of curing that a hard soap does, so it should be cheaper to manufacture. Vegetarian products are also in fashion.

  5. I know what you mean, Stan–the difference in the two Tabac versions was really noticeable post-shave. I think Mark and I might have corresponded about doing a series of comparative reviews on vegan soaps–I’d have to check to with him to see if he did that or if he wants me to. But I do get very good shaves from the Phoenix Artisan Accoutrements Scentsless soap with the Formula CK-6, which I believe is tallow free and vegan.

    1. I look forward to the comparisons. I tried a CK-6 soap and it performed well but I use a very hydrated lather that almost drips off the brush. Being vegan it thinned out too much for me and didn’t have the cushion of a tallow soap.

  6. Thank you for the comparison as I was curious myself. I love the original Tabac with tallow and have been hesitant to try the now one. I have not found vegan based soaps/creams as good as most tallow based already and am actually returning to only tallow based soaps/creams.

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