Picture this: You’ve just finished shaving, and you’ve got the aftermath to deal with. Only; since you’ve just got yourself a new safety razor and you’re not yet used to it, you’ve got some bad nicks and cuts over your chin.
No need to worry. Remember those odd bottles your father kept on his side of the bathroom? It’s your turn to use them, and find out exactly; what is bay rum aftershave?
Comparison Table of The 10 Best Bay Rum Aftershaves of 2021
A homegrown aftershave combining the old and the new
The gold standard bay rum for those looking for the traditional feel
Normal or Oily
Warm and mild bay rum straight from Nebraska
Smooth and moisturizing aftershave with a balanced scent
Dry or Sensitive
Aromatic, soothing balm best for sensitive skin
Dry or Sensitive
The barbershop scent your father used
A classic British blend for the discerning shaver
Clove-heavy bay rum with a burning alcohol kick
Bold and classic traditional bay rum
Normal or Oily
Clear and mild aftershave for the beginner shaver
Dry or Sensitive
1. Captain’s Choice Bay Rum – Homemade Goodness From Illinois
A traditional name should go with a traditional feel, and that Captain’s Choice does in spades. It should, because its maker, Scott Brennecke of Wheaton, Illinois, was dissatisfied at the choices available at his local Walgreens, and decided he could do better. After four and a half months of experiments, he hit on the formula that became Captain’s Choice Bay Rum.
On application, it provides a good alcohol burn, but not a stinging one. The warmth makes for a lovely feeling after the shave. Scent-wise, the bay rum is coupled with allspice and cinnamon, with a touch of citrus to round things out. There’s less clove than other aftershaves, but overall, the feel is indeed the classic bay rum we all know and love.
The ingredients aren’t quite as traditional, but they work excellently. As is expected of any aftershave, there’s water, alcohol, and essential oils for the right scents. It also incorporates witch hazel and glycerin, which work together to tone and smoothen out your skin, helping it maintain moisture.
One of them is particularly notable: the Cat o’ Nine Tails. It’s still a bay rum aftershave but turns up the alcohol to really bring a burn that you can feel on your skin for a good long minute. Highly recommended if you’d like a particularly bracing post-shave experience.
2. St. Johns Bay Rum Cologne and Aftershave – The Classic, Traditional, and Original
If we’re talking bay rum, all conversations eventually lead to St. John’s. The name comes from the island on which bay trees grew and became an important export in the 1920s. Since then, it’s grown in stature. The classic bottle with its ‘fishnet’ wrap has been around since just after WWII, and it makes St. John’s Bay Rum instantly recognizable to those in the know.
The best way to describe the St. John formula is ‘subtle’. It’s alcohol-based, but the burn is really more of a tingle, and it’s very smooth to put on. Scent-wise, it’s excellently balanced. The bay rum forms most of the body, but it’s well blended with the clove, eucalyptus, cinnamon, and musk to create a lovely, woody scent. The scent is rather short-lived, though; testimonies vary anywhere between a few minutes to just over a few hours.
Fortunately, there’s nothing to worry about in the ingredients list; it’s all-natural, beyond a few items of food coloring.
3. Ogallala Bay Rum – The Electric Blue From Nebraska
If it’s the variety you’re looking for, then the blue bottles of Ogallala Bay Rum of Ogallala, Nebraska, can provide it. From the name alone you can already see their commitment, and they offer not just a bay rum scent, but a line of six different aftershaves. One of them is a classic bay rum; the other five have a bay rum base with other scents added.
We’ll be covering the basic bay rum here — you could write a whole article about all the other scents that Ogallala offers. The first thing to notice is the characteristic blue bottle of Ogallala; you can’t miss it on the shelves. Hanging off this bottle is a little card explaining the story behind Ogallala Bay Rum, established in 1870, which focuses on the cowboys that passed through the town instead of the more pirate-y story other bay rum brands go with.
On application, it’s cool on most of where it’s applied. The burn isn’t bad: warm more than stinging, as though it’s telling you where you were too hard on the shave. Scent-wise, the clove is the strongest note, followed by the bay rum and a dash of cinnamon. It settles quickly enough after application.
Ingredient-wise, we are nicely organic and moisturizing: aside from the expected fragrance, water, and alcohol, Ogallala also incorporates witch hazel, to moisturize the skin after application.
4. Barberry Coast Bay Rum Aftershave – New, Smooth, and Soft
You have to appreciate the pirate-y pun in the name, though it’s a shame the formula doesn’t include actual barberries. Barberry Coast is a fairly new brand, but it’s picking up a lot of fans and for good reason. This aftershave is one of them.
It’s quite smooth to put on because the formula gives up some of the alcohol stings to put in a good deal of glycerin. There’s still some sting, but it’s not nearly as bad or goes on for as long as others, while the glycerin moisturizes and smoothens the skin. If you’ve got sensitive skin, this comes highly recommended.
In terms of scent, you get a deal of orange and bay rum on the application, but it balances out in a short time into its six main scents; allspice, cinnamon, vanilla, bay leaf, clove, and orange. On average, the scent lasts about two to three hours. It’s just strong enough to be noticeable without being overpowering.
5. Gilbert Henry Bay Rum Aftershave Balm – Bring Wood and Oil
Though bay rum tends to be a more traditional thing (it’s the classic post-barbershop scent, after all), there’s still room to experiment and bring new things to the table. Gilbert Henry takes the old and gives it a fresh new touch.
This particular aftershave is slightly different from the others, in that it’s a balm as opposed to a splash; the consistency is more along the lines of lotion, and it’s opaque where the others are clear. The scent is still classic bay rum, though, and it works just as well as the others.
Despite the thickness, there’s no greasy feel after application. It’s light on the alcohol, focusing more on the other ingredients: aloe, coconut oil, and glycerin to moisturize the skin, witch hazel and willow bark extract to counter-irritation and redness, and neem oil for its anti-bacterial and anti-microbial capabilities. Overall, it’s very soothing on the skin.
Scent-wise, there’s the classic bay rum, augmented by clove, as can be expected in bay rum. The clove is most notable on the application, but it steadies out with the other woody scents once it settles: sandalwood and ylang-ylang, with just a dash of orange to round it all out.
6. Gabels Bay Rum Aftershave – A Blast From The Barbershop Past
Ask your parents or grandparents about aftershave, and the topic of a barbershop will most often come up. A good barber knows how to make his clients look and feel their best, and the right scent is often a component of it, hence why we’re considering aftershave. And bay rum is the classic barbershop scent.
Gabels still bears that barbershop heritage. It provides a good alcohol burn to wake you up after the shave, and the scent is nicely simple. The expected mix of bay and clove slants a bit to the clove, but overall it’s a refreshingly simple and bold scent.
Ingredients are the usual for aftershave: water, alcohol, and fragrances, plus some food coloring, but nothing objectionable. You won’t find any trouble with your skin after using it.
7. Taylor of Old Bond Street Bay Rum – The Old, British School
Shaving enthusiasts will no doubt be familiar with Taylor of Old Bond Street. The name alone feels British, and they’ve brought good-quality shaving products since 1854. Their bay rum, bearing the tagline “traditionally blended for the discerning gentleman,” carries that tradition forward.
There’s a sharp alcohol kick over the usual, so brace yourself. Scent-wise, it’s straight-up bay rum with additions of clove and citrus, which evens out to a gentle but spicy bay rum after application. Most of it fades after about an hour, so you may want to carry the bottle around if you want to keep the scent. Taylor does say it can be used as an aftershave or a cologne.
In terms of ingredients, some caution may be warranted. There’s the expected combination of water, alcohol, and essential oils, plus chemicals derived from essential oils. Those are nothing to worry about. It does incorporate some preservatives; as always when in doubt, consult your dermatologist.
8. Clubman Pinaud Virgin Island Bay Rum – The Virgin With Sting
The Pinaud name is very well established, having been founded in Paris in 1810 by Edouard Pinaud, and in the area of men’s toiletries, the Clubman line carries the Pinaud name forward.
From the packaging alone, the heritage is clear to see; you get a lovely liquid with an old-fashioned bottle shape and label, complete with a pirate ship upfront. The effect is slightly ruined by how it’s a plastic bottle.
That minor flaw aside, it’s an excellent product. On application, it provides the classic burn on the rough spots and cools the other places it’s been applied to. The scent is classic bay rum with spicy notes: a touch of citrus at the beginning, before settling down to a blend of bay rum, clove, and cinnamon, among others. It settles quickly, but it does linger.
9. Grand Bay Bay Rum – The Classic, Grand Formula
Enthusiasts will remember the classic Dominica Bay Rum. It had a particularly straightforward approach because it didn’t pretend to be anything else other than aftershave. For a time, it disappeared from the shelves (to the sorrow of its fans), but worry not; it’s returned under the name of Grand Bay. (Though the terminology, especially on Amazon, gets cumbersome. “Grand Bay Bay Rum”?)
The scent is an elegantly simple bay rum with nothing else added. The ingredients are the same: water, alcohol, and Dominica Bay tree oil. The simplicity does have a downside; the scent lasts for only about half an hour before it fades away. As it’s mostly alcohol, it’s got a good bit of sting to it.
If you have sensitive or dry skin, you may want to give this a pass, especially as there are no other ingredients to soften the alcohol burn. And regardless of your type of skin, a moisturizer is advisable after application, for the sake of your skin.
10. Master Bay Rum Aftershave – Mild And Basic
If you’ve tried some aftershaves, you’ll no doubt have experienced the kick of alcohol on the spots you were hard on with your razor. Some aftershaves emphasize this kick, to provide quite the bracing end-of-shave experience, while others keep it down.
Master Bay Rum falls into the latter camp. The alcohol provides warmth on the application, without really stinging. The scent also has some warmth to it, with a little touch of darkness; it’s mostly bay rum with a touch of cinnamon. The scent is sharp at first, but it evens out quickly into something sweet and warm.
The ingredient list is unremarkable: water, alcohol, fragrances, some food coloring.
Best Bay Rum Aftershave Buyer’s Guide
So that’s our list of best bay rum aftershaves, in all their varied forms. Of course, the question now becomes: What do I pick? There’s a lot of things to consider when we think about that question, so here’s a guide on how to go about it.
At its heart, aftershave is a skincare product, and that means you also have to consider what kind of skin you have. Examine your chin, jaw, and upper lip, as that’ll receive the most attention from aftershave. Check the condition of your skin, and how much oil builds up, and where.
Some things to consider: Are you prone to acne, blackheads, or whiteheads? Does your skin feel tight? Are there scaly patches, does it flake off? Do you have any blemishes? These are all pointers to oily or dry skin, but it’s also possible that you can have an oily forehead and nose but dry cheeks, a sign of combination skin. For the surest possible answer, consult your dermatologist.
Also, regardless of skin type, look for moisturizers. The most common you’ll find in aftershave is glycerin and witch hazel, though they’re certainly not the only ones; the Gilbert Henry splash above does make use of sunflower seed oil. You’ll want moisturizers because they help smoothen out the skin and keep it hydrated, and dry skin makes for cracking and lines.
If you do prefer the aftershaves without any moisturizers in the formula, it becomes highly advisable to add a moisturizer to your post-shave routine. Witch hazel is also a common shaving care product, and the same shops that sell shaving products will also stock it.
Aftershave is both a skincare product and a cosmetic, and when it comes to cosmetics, they have to fit your style. An aftershave may be perfect for you, but linger far too short, or it could last long enough but not be the right scent for you.
Here, there’s really no right or wrong answer; instead, the best smelling bay rum is the one that’s right for you. That’s something that only you can figure out for yourself. Still, we can help a little with the factors at play.
Consider these questions: Is the scent right for you? Do you want straight-up bay rum, or do you want to mix it with something else? How strongly do you want it? How long do you need it to last?
And of course, let’s be honest: cosmetics exist to make us look good and attract the attention of a partner, in all the ways the term can be used, which means their opinion is important. Now, bay rum does have a good track record of being considered a manly scent, but that doesn’t mean every possible partner can be attracted to it. Your partner, should you have one, also has a say, so keep their opinion in mind.
And of course, we can never consider anything in this world without considering the price. Sometimes, you have to ask yourself if four ounces of scent is really worth the amount of money you’re putting into it because some products really are overpriced. There’s no point spending money where it won’t do any good, after all.
On the other hand, though, there’s no call to cheap out, because sometimes, saving pennies now means paying dollars later. Better quality of ingredients means a better quality of the product, and the good stuff almost never comes cheap. Sometimes products are expensive for a reason.
Ultimately, no two people are alike, and what are major concerns to one person may not matter at all to the next. Of course, some factors can still pop up. For instance, circumstances of creation. Is the product ethically produced? In these days, people do take an interest as to whether a company uses organic materials or uses animals in testing its products.
In such cases, there’s an ingredient list to consider. We’ve written some notes above about which ones are most relevant, though to be completely sure, best do your own research.
Do It Yourself
Now, if absolutely nothing in the list above and nothing else you’ve tried does fit you, then you’re still not out of options. There’s no real secret to bay rum aftershave; after all, barbers in the early 1900s popularized the scent by making their own blends. You can do the same.
The good people of the Badger & Blade shaving forums have come up with a blend they call Bootlegger’s Bay Rum, made by combining three different bay rum aftershaves together. Basically, mix one part of Clubman Pinaud Virgin Island to one part Master Bay Rum to one part Superior 70 Bay Rum. Two of those are listed above; Superior 70 will be listed in the same shops as them.
The result is a lovely aftershave that provides a good bit of burn and incorporates a deal of glycerin to keep your skin feeling smooth. As long as you can afford the initial outlay, you’ve got it in good quantity if you’re of the mind to mix the three.
Or, you can go full DIY and really make your own. Various recipes exist, generally a combination of rum and spices. The bay leaf you’re looking for is pimenta racemosa, and it’s not the same bay leaf as sold at a grocery store. You may see it stocked at a natural food store; if in doubt, make certain.
Frequently Asked Questions
Even in today’s world, you can still take a moment out to look after yourself and your facial hair, and treat yourself to the calming experience of a good wet shave. And of course, to top that off, we’ve got aftershave to both soothe your hurts and give you a lovely good scent to carry around for a few hours.
It’s not really any one of these factors that puts Captain’s Choice on top, it’s that it has all of them. St John’s is excellently made and is the classic bay rum, but it’s expensive and it doesn’t moisturize. Barberry Coast is quite lovely and hits all the same notes, but it costs a deal more. Gabels hits the right price and scent, but it doesn’t moisturize.
Of course, what works for one person might not work all that well for you, which is why we encourage you to do your own research. Take a scent of what you can get, apply them and wear them for a few hours, and see if they’re your aftershave.