Kingsley For Men
Phoenix Shaving | The Starcraft | Roswell Hybrid Synth
Phoenix Shaving | The Original Cube 2.0
Ever-Ready SE | Gem PTFE
I've used PAA's original Cube sporadically, and the results have always been outstanding. I've used it less lately because I've just about eliminated sub-par soaps from my den. In my experience, the benefits of The Cube are less apparent when using a high performance soap that natively offers superior slickness and post-shave out of the box. Furthermore, being a shower shaver, my skin and stubble start off as a best-case scenario.
The Phoenix Shaving front man recently asked me to give their "new improved" Cube a whirl pre-release. To my surprise, I received 2 Cubes, one mentholated and one non-mentholated. An obvious difference between the New Cube is the size. The original was 5 oz and this one is 8 oz, but it still fits well in my hand. The other obvious difference is the nice box with the crazy beautiful classic sci-fi pulp art that's become a trademark of PAA. The Cube itself is shrink-wrapped, but I don't recall a box being included with the original, and certainly not one with this level of art. The box, of course, is secondary, but presentation is still important to me. Fair or not, going into it, I'd expected a huge leap in performance. This simply wasn't the case. Using my usual upper-level soaps, The New Improved Cube did contribute to a bit of a lather boost on a few soaps and slightly increased slickness across the board. I didn't particularly notice much change in post-shave. The bottom line is, my skin can only be so slick and post-shave can only be so soft and luxurious before it tops out. As compared to the original Cube, I did notice improved slickness, but again, it wasn't a huge leap. This speaks not only to the outstanding artisanal offerings currently available, but also to the performance of the original Cube. While this isn't what the proprietor wanted to hear, he verbalized his gratitude for my taking the time to evaluate it and for my candor. This is why I'm always happy to be included in PAA's test groups, as the artisans seem to genuinely appreciate thoughtful feedback regardless of the outcome.
Following that conversation, while digging through a junk drawer, I came across this "Kingsley For Men Shaving Soap" puck that I'd received as a stocking stuffer several years ago. It's made in China and is distributed by "Harry D. Koenig & Co., Inc. East Rockaway, New York". As far as shaving soaps go, it has a rather pedestrian ingredients list: sodium palmate, sodium palm kernelate, water, glycerine, sodium chloride, fragrance, sodium benzoate, tocopheryl acetate, tetrasodium EDTA, and tetrasodium etidronate. The production date is September 15, 2011. The 2 oz. hard puck was shrink-wrapped in plastic. Dry or lathered, I detect no fragrance.
I'd never intended to use this soap, but an idea occurred to me. I decided to take one for the team and shave with this soap by itself and then later have a do-over with The New Improved Cube.
I have no intention of extensively reviewing this soap, but I need to at least convey my impressions to establish a foundation before moving onto the Cube's contribution. This is a hard puck. I couldn't immediately locate my Old Spice mug, so I pressed this down in a regular bowl that had remnants of an unidentified sample of another soap. This prior soap served to hold the puck in place, but it was not otherwise loaded into the knot. The Kingsley loaded similarly to other hard pucks I've used. The resulting lather was pitiful. Despite my efforts, I could only get an airy, fluffy "lather". This felt like attempting to lather a bath bar. The protection and slickness were nil. The shave was precarious, but I was especially cautious. I settled for a serviceable shave, and as such was without incident. There were no nicks or irritation. Not to toot my own horn, but I can attribute this solely to my technique.
Two days later, I essentially repeated the shave with the same gear and a new blade. Again, as per my usual routine, the shave immediately follows a shower and I remain in the shower (with the water off) for the shave. This time I used the non-mentholated New Improved Cube 2.0, applying a light layer all over my face and scalp. Once again, I loaded the knot with the Kingsley and began face and scalp lathering. I noticed an immediate improvement. The lather picked up the grey tint of the charcoal pre-shave and it quickly resembled real, usable lather. Where this lather was previously bubbly and fluffy, it could now be described as creamy. I had no illusions, this didn't turn into CK-6, A&E, Icarus, Excelsior, Talbot or Catie's, but it did transform an essentially useless product into something quite good and in the realm of Stirling. My pattern is to rinse between passes, and it's a high pressure shower head that does the deed. I expected this would wash away any remnant of the Cube from my skin, but as with good soaps, the slickness persisted despite the rinse. Additionally, the Cube had been incorporated into the lather in the knot so the benefits were repeated on the second (and final) pass. This was essentially as good a shave as I'm accustomed. The post-shave is where I notice a significant difference from the original Cube. The jojoba presence is certainly there, and I've come to learn how natural a post-shave can feel when jojoba is involved. Beyond that, there is a persistent moisturized feel that lasts several hours. It's this aspect that is reminiscent of the CK-6 base.
While nothing I did is scientific, this worst-case scenario test made me a believer in the New Improved Cube 2.0. In fact, I now have mixed feelings because I regret having let go of some of my less-than-spectacular performers whose fragrances I otherwise enjoyed. Just like the Original Cube, you can expect The New Improved Cube from Phoenix Shaving to boost your lather's performance. You'll appreciate it more when using a sub-par or even inferior soap. Even the mid-grade products currently available can offer superb shaves, but often it's the post-shave that divides the high-performers from the mid-grades. The incorporation of this reformulated Cube seems to blur that line.