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I was lucky enough to stay in a 5 star hotel in London in February, as would be expected from an establishment of that caliber there were quite a few 'finishing touches' in the room including some fantastic toiletries in the bathroom including Molton Brown and this Penhaligon's Blenheim Bouquet shaving soap. I originally brought it home for Mark to use but he prefers his canned shaving foam, so when I saw it languishing in its box in the bathroom I decided to liberate it and use the soap on my legs - the one I'm using is a half sized travel version, everything is identical to the 100g bar (including the super-smart box) only this one weighs in at a smidgen under 50g.
To use this soap you need a shaving brush really, and not many of us have those knocking around the house these days. I improvised with a wide blusher brush which I taped up DIY-style to strengthen the bristles, I'm obviously not using it on my face as a bloke would so don't need a softer-than-cashere-but-strong-as-copper-wire shaving brush - my way works on my legs and underarms so it's all good as far as I'm concerned. You take the soap and add plenty of water to it, massaging the surface with the brush to produce a lather. Well, when I say YOU I obviously mean this is what I do - I have absolutely no idea how to use shaving soap *properly* so I'm giving you an idea of my method, I dare say there are precise ways to use a product like this but I refuse to check for 'shaving soap tutorials' so will have to remain ignorant on the subject! When you have a lather going you can either scrape it off the block with your finger and brush it again once it's on your legs or use the brush to dot it on your skin, lathering the soap bar in between times and again using the brush to get the lather going a little bit further.
The smell is the first thing I need to mention as it's absolutely gorgeous, completely different to the smell of any shaving product I've ever used before and more like a subtle perfume than such an essentially mundane product. It's definitely masculine, but there's a nod of femininity in there too - presumably because Penhaligon's realise men don't get to keep their shaving supplies ALL to themselves so they wanted to appeal to the girls too! And this fragrance certainly appeals to me as it's absolutely stunning. It smells different when the soap is still in bar form to when it's been lathered and applied to your skin, not completely different but the fragrance is much more intense before application and has a delicious citrus smell which doesn't transfer at all to the lather. This is a shame as it's my favourite part of the lathering process, the dry soap smells spicy like an aftershave but once water is added some really gorgeous citrus and floral fragrances come through with a strength that pretty much fills the bathroom - unfortunately this is short lived (but very nice while it lasts!) and once the lather is on my legs it's just blended spicy with nothing I can really pick out as an individual fragrance. It would have been lovely if the citrus fragrance had lingered on my skin as it's so zingy and 'different', but then I suppose that would require a higher level of perfume and that's never a brilliant idea for a facial product (which this is, really).
The lather is certainly rich enough to cover my legs with a thick foam which stays in place once applied, there's absolutely no sliding off of this soap and it feels incredibly soft and luxurious before and during my shave. I usually use a cheap disposable razor but this time am using a Molton Brown one, again provided by my generous hotel and ignored by Mark as he favours his electric shaver. The blade glides through the lather and removes every single hair without having to once go over a section of skin again, I love the soft feeling on my skin as I shave because I can barely feel the razor through the foam - it really does make leg shaving feel like a worthwhile chore (yes, still a chore!) but as well as feeling gorgeous to use this soap also does my skin good. I shave in the shower and always moisturise my legs after shaving, but when I'm using Blenheim Bouquet (yes, named after the palace) I can feel even before rinsing the remnants of the lather off that my skin feels more hydrated. I inherited my mums 'dry skin on the shins' problem and it's horrible, something I definitely keep on top of as if I allow it to become too dry it just looks horrendous - usually this means anything from a light body lotion to a richer butter, depending on the mood of my skin that day. Every time I've used this one my skin feels absolutely fine and peachy without any additional moisturiser, and this isn't a short lived bonus either as I don't find myself needing to reach for the moisturiser an hour later until the next time I'd usually apply it (the next morning, or before bed if I showered and shaved in the morning). Impressive.
Rinsing off the lather is the only bugbear I have about this soap - it doesn't have a sticky feeling in the slightest, but it's completely irritating in the time it takes to remove itself from my skin. Honestly, I'd hate to be a man and using this stuff on my face due to this aspect of the shaving process - sometimes it feels like it's taking me longer to get rid of the lather than it did to actually do the business of shaving. And then sometimes you think it's all gone, only to discover a rogue spot on the back of my knee or something when the shower is off and I'm drying myself.
It isn't lasting brilliantly, thanks to the fact that the soap bar goes quite soft when wet and that so much solid soap needs to be used to create the lather I need for my legs and underarms. While I appreciate this is more skin than the soap would have to deal with if it were being used as a facial shaving soap, I still think a 50g bar should have lasted for longer than six weeks of shaving every five to seven days. Considering the full size bar is only double the size you're not really getting a lot of shaves for your money - and at £22 for a 100g bar it's a lot of cash to spend considering how cheap a tin of shaving foam is. To be completely honest even if I'd loved this shaving soap (and I do to be fair) I wouldn't have repurchased as I really don't need such an expensive shaving product, it's been a lovely item to sample and ranks as an excellent freebie - but back to reality, I'll be back to my 26p Tesco Value shaving foam as soon as this bar is all used up.