St Johns Blog

You Pick A Theme Because I Apparently Cannot. I Can, However, Pick An After Shave.

Here are your choices.

  1.  It is nonsense to care THIS MUCH about how you dress (you’re on an Ivy site friend) and still argue that you don’t care about packaging.
  2.  Rhys Moore, the CEO of St John Bay Rum, may have found that perfect middle ground between historic preservation and cultural relevance.
  3.  Layered is a word I used in college when one girlfriend asked about… the other girlfriend.  That is probably not how the word should be used.  When you hear the story of the grass weave around the bottle here, and how that level of attention works its way into a cologne or an after shave, well, I think that’s a better use of the term.  For everyone involved.
  4. A product review.

Let us begin.

When we did the WOCBD reviews (and we are not done yet, Duck Head and Eagle coming),  I included packaging, and some people said they did care what the shirt came in.  I bought that, but then it dawned on me.  You obviously care what package YOU come in.  If not, let’s just go to the mall and grab some clothes.

Ok, let’s never go to the mall.  For anything.  But you take my point.

I’ve seen St John Bay Rum around.  So have you, if you shop retail.  The bottles were cool, they were wrapped in that grass (they still are wrapped in the grass and damn but there is a story there too).  I spent more time than you do investigating the scents, and I spent more time than you with the CEO.  And there was always this tiny disconnect.  These products are complicated.  Layered. (There you go).  They deserved a better introduction than the same view they get in my medicine cabinet.  Something that tells you that a ton of care went into this brand, into maintaining it and expanding it (ever so selectively).  We are attracted to that care around here.  And I wanted that message told on the retail level, and also when the product was delivered from buying it online from the website.

Mission accomplished.

I am so much not a photographer, and if you go to the St John website you will see one of the best photographed and immaculately designed websites I have been to in awhile. How do you go there, you ask? Just click on the photo.


Boxes.  A retail presentation befitting the product.


The same collection from the side, this’ll (the proofreader is gonna hang me for: this’ll) take you to their site too. And you should go.


Just the addition of a box makes a statement, right?  But here is what I am really into.  Look at the back.


They lead with… the story. Most cologne/aftershave products will try to say, upfront, that this will make you attractive to whomever. Pheromones. St Johns leads with a Navy officer. How you don’t buy based on just that, I do not understand. No women whose lips are too big or bare chested men, just a great story about a trad guy who made a fragrance from actual stuff, no test tubes.


The labels have raised lettering.  And the caps are converting to wood, here is one:


Guess what happens if you click on this?


Moving to green (a little jammed up on caps with the supply chain).   But now the product is dressed for the date it is going on.  And that has to matter to you, because you care if YOU are dressed for the date you are going on.

The second theme is based on my interviews with the CEO.    If you go to the website here you get a real sense of the meticulous nature of St Johns, and you can buy right on the site. Or at some retailers (J. Press is one, or how about The Gentlemans Corner in Pinehurst, David Wood in Portsmouth, Travers Mahan in Tulsa, or Kinkaides in Ridgeland, MS ).  This commercial restraint is indicative of the lengths that Moore has gone to, in addition to leading with the lead story, to preserve the cachet of the brand.  AND YET.  You open one of his eco-friendly grass-covered-wood-capped bottles, or a soap, or a for-chrissakes-candle and you get… today.  This line has dated values that stand up, but contemporary application.  Where do you ever see that?   With Ivy, we always walk that line, right?  Moore has drawn it for us.

The third theme, well, to get there I gotta tell you this story.  I email Rhys, ’cause I have a few bottles of this stuff in my bathroom (and have for a year now, more on that in a second), and I ask, what’s up with the grass around the bottle.  No weaving (see what I did there) of words here, this was his response:

the weave wrap is actually palm fronds from the Tyre Palm trees in the islands.

We have a network of guys who climb and cut the palm fronds, deliver them to the weavers who dry and slice them into strips and then hand weave each bottle.
Some guys keep and collect them. You can tell they are handwoven because you will notice variations in the size of the spaces created by the overlapping strands. No adhesive is used in ending the weave; each strand is tucked in and under another strand to complete the process.  Find the end of a strand and start to take it apart and you’ll see how it works.
Ok, the guy missed a capital letter.  He does not care, remember there is no period at the end of St.  Well, there was there, but that’s the end of a sentence.   But look, this is the deep end of the pool.  Moore goes to these lengths for… grass.   It makes you think a few times when you start experiencing the fragrances.  At least it did me.  I used to give notes to Cigar Aficionado for ratings, and one of my best friends was a sommelier, so my nose has been around the block.  It’s again why I am into the packaging.  Because there is a sophistication here that you have to take a minute to enjoy.
That said, I will throw my repp tie over my shower curtain bar and kick the stool out from under before I write 10 Tips On What Scent To Wear When.  But that isn’t to say there isn’t a science here, there is.  Different scents have different applications.  Rhys told me about the difference between bracing in the morning (After Shave) and… what’s the word… “facilitating” (my word not his) in the evening.  If this company pays that much attention, and expense, to the grass on the bottle, you can only imagine the energy that goes towards what’s inside.

Or, as Rhys Moore, the CEO says, “We wanted people to know this is a product developed by a person, not a lab.  With real ingredients, not chemicals.  The scent comes more out of leaves and a rum bottle than a test tube.”

This grass story is a reflection.  The company has mastered the art of staying true to history and… well, making you smell fantastic.

BEFORE I GO ON.  I was not an After Shave guy.  I am not a Shave guy.  Well, the neck, because we are not animals.  And definitely not a cologne guy.  It seemed like trying too hard.  When I took over the site, I met with the advertisers, and Rhys works about 10 minutes from my house.  He gave me a bottle.  I wasn’t gonna try it, except in the air, so I could write about it.  I bring the bottle home, and leave it on the kitchen island.  Trish picks it up, smells it.  Shows it to Gramercy.  Both of them are like, “Hey, what is this?  It’s good.”  And I started in with St Johns. 

Now that I have been experimenting, let me tell you another quick story.  I’ve been working out pretty hard for my tour, and because that photo of me with Mr. Boyer scared the beetlejuice out of me.  I get up at three every day, and am working by four.  I hit the gym around 10.   I work out with Dylan some, Elena some, DJ some.  I am sweating my now-okay-but-then-way-too-big butt off.  These are hours of total honesty.  I can do more than you, less than you,  that ring around your middle is smaller or bigger.   There is nothing not joked about, nothing not covered.  If there was even the smallest idea that what I was wearing was anything other than welcome, I would have heard about it at the same time that Dylan put a puke bucket next to me or Elena told me “there is nothing you can’t do for three minutes.”  These fragrances have withstood a tougher social test than any lab can produce, and I am telling you, no worries.

So some reviews.  Click on each image to get a more detailed description, and to buy them online.


This is the Lime After Shave. Aftershave. I dunno, I just got the whole no period after St thing down. Click on the image to learn more about it. I used it this morning. I don’t shave because I have a hyper-sensitive face (not like my soul) – but I do shave my neck because we owe each other respect. It healed, smelled like the season, and I got a nod on my way out the door. Subtle. Not a punch in the nose, but a wink that I care about the packaging.


Ok, if you had told me last year I would have a favorite anything that smells like anything I would have written you off. But this is my favorite. Just enough. Not too much. I am wearing it now. It is light, but it is a sentence. Like when someone who matters to you whispers something. Hey Rhys, you can have that line if you want it.



This is Vetiver. A grass. you have heard the term Sandalwood. Who knew what Sandlewood was? This is it, in part. This is for evenings, according to me. Or, as Flight Of The Conchords called it, Business Time. You never heard that song? Please Spotify it. It’s hilarious. This scent is not. This is suit-wearing no mucking about. But still, just enough not too much.



The work horse. The utility player. The go to with three seconds left in overtime. The whole story is right here. The rum, the gravitas. This is an after shave and a cologne, it works as both. I can tell you this. It’s about 6:10 in the morning. I have been up since 3, because. But we are out of eggs. I go to the store. They are almost out of eggs. I reach, before my third cup of coffee, for the same dozen that this other lady, also dressed early (I wonder if she has to do morning pages and meditate) reaches for. I step back politely, and she says, “Forgive me but you smell good.”



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