St Johns Blog

History of the Bay Rum Aftershave: Grooming Out of Necessity

 With over 175 years of history, Bay Rum has gone through some interesting triumphs and experiences over the years. From being a grooming necessity for sailors to being the backdrop in the World War II, what we now know of today as Bay Rum has come along the way. And for the past 70 years, St. John’s Fragrance Company has trekked through the trenches to maintain authentic, luxurious Bay Rum products for men that stay true to our original formulation. But where did it all begin, you ask? Let’s take a look.



1838: The Bay Rum Beginning

Our journey into handcrafted fine fragrances began a worldly 70 years ago, but the Bay Rum beginning happened a long time before them. In fact, it began back in 1838, an incredible 175 years ago to date, with the random discovery of bay leaves and eventually, the invention of Bay Rum.


The Beginning of Bathing

With over 175 years passing by, it can be difficult to imagine a world where people didn’t shower every day, brush their teeth, shave their facial hair or maintain what we now know of today as daily hygiene. Today, people shower every day and rarely smell “bad” due to the regular hygiene practices we all indulge in. However, times were different back then; water was a luxury and it wasn’t readily available to people at any given moment. While bathtubs and bathing were widely accepted throughout the 1800s, it wasn’t under the mid-1900’s that showers became widespread.

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Stinky Sailors Found Bay Leaves in the West Indies and Created Natural Deodorant


In between the time where bathing mechanisms became unused to mainstream, it was – to no surprise, a fairly stinky time. Men were shipping off to sail the seas for months at a time and it didn’t take long for the aroma on the vessels to become putrescent. That is until one innovative sailor began to use the leaves of bay trees found in the West Indies on his skin to help combat the stench that accumulated on his body while sailing. To his surprise, using the bay leaves as a natural deodorant began to catch on for early sailors.


Sailors Discovered Bay Rum and Created Cologne

With the sailors’ newfound bay leave scents combating the horrible aroma that came with being out on the sea for months at a time, they were inspired to make some advances to their natural deodorant. This is when they discovered that their beloved at-sea beverage (rum) was able to extract the oils from the bay leaves more efficiently than rubbing the leaves on their skin. Just as you can imagine, the rum added a new element to the bay leaves aroma. The sailors loved it so much that they began to steep the bay leaves in rum before using the liquid, turning their natural deodorant into men’s cologne.


Today, alcohol is still used to remove the oils from the bay leaves before being distilled down into an essential oil. At St Johns Fragrance company, we also add in additional ingredients to ensure a superior experience that goes far beyond adding scent to your skin. One of the main ingredients in our line of exotic soaps for men is olive oil; the perfect ingredient for a natural, non-allergenic soap that cleanses away dirt without stripping away the skin’s natural oils. We also add in highly moisturizing glycerine and Vitamin E to provide you with natural healing properties that will leave your skin feeling as great as it looks.

Combine these with the benefits of bay rum, and you get premium men’s cologne, aftershave and soaps that leave you lightly scented with the aromas of exotic Caribbean spices. Our St Johns Bay Rum collection is masculine and dominant, and certain to turn heads and demand the respect that real men deserve.


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