Ease of Lathering: Very easy. Like a few other high quality creams I’ve used, this one produces a great volume of creamy lather. I always bowl lather creams, and this one responded in a way similar to Taylor’s. Perhaps just a bit thirstier, if I really squint at it. It was said that a number of the English soaps are actually made in the same factory. My instincts say that the St. James is not the same cream base as Taylor’s. The resting consistency and response isn’t quite the same. I am not sure I can easily say one is better or worse in regard to lathering capability.
Protection: The lather is quite thick and rich, fairly buttery. Ample protection is provided during the shave. You’re not going to find many creams that do it better.
Residual Slickness: I wouldn’t say that St. James overawed me with slickness. It was certainly sufficient while lathered, but did not leave too much behind. Just enough for my auxiliary passes. As with all the creams I’ve tried, it is not the final word in residual slickness. You’ll probably want a tallow soap for that. In terms of face feel, however, St. James is really good. It leaves your face feeling well conditioned and pampered.
Scent: While this soap has a very gentle scent at rest, it becomes present in a subtle way once the lathering begins. I would say that the patchouli scent is predominant here, while the mandarin is, at best, a background scent. The interesting thing is that the scent stays for hours after the shave, which is unusual. Especially so, considering the potency is fairly gentle to begin with. What I attribute this to is the scent coming from essential oil, rather than chemical chicanery. I am not head-over-heels for patchouli, but I don’t mind it. The quality of the scent is superb and authentic. It smells high quality and luxurious. For those with a greater appreciation for patchouli, it might be the very thing.
Production/Value: It’s sometimes hard to decide whether the price of a product is fully warranted. My feeling is that St. James is marketed toward someone who would rather have a rather luxurious presentation than quibble over the last dollar. There is a well-sorted element to the box, the tube (or tub), and the product itself. I don’t know if the product itself is any better than Taylor of Old Bond Street, but the “feels” are a step above. If that makes a difference for you, or if one of their scents (which are rather exclusive to their line) is exactly what you’re looking for, then the value is fine. If you just want a good shave, there’s cheaper options to be had. A good number of them.
Notes: It isn’t hard to sense the elements in this cream that mark it as a cut above the average. It is a rich, beautifully packaged product. It commands a higher price per ounce that I typically spend. I argue with myself about the merits of such products, when there are such excellent value options around, and superb products in the middle of the price range. I think that there’s something to be said for having a few products of this sort in your arsenal, if only for the “special occasion” shave. Then again, if you’re ticking off boxes and making asset vs. liability lists, it becomes clear that a product at this price per ounce is suffering from some diminishing returns issues. I would find it tough to recommend St. James cream to a beginning shaver, or one operating on a tight budget. For the well-heeled veteran, however, I think it could provide them with some great shaves. James Bond class shaves, perhaps. For me, it didn’t quite justify the cost differential between it and the Taylor’s cream, which is basically half the price.
Cheers, and happy shaving.