Last updated on August 15th, 2018 by Garrick Dee
Have you ever wondered how men in the prior in the industrial revolution groomed themselves?
You’re in luck today.
I’m talking about a product invented out of necessity by sailors in the 16th century.
We’ll be look at the best bay rum aftershaves. For those unfamiliar with this, it’s a fragrance in aftershave lotions and shaving soaps.
If you want a “manly” scent post shave then scroll down and learn out more about this product, the history, the best bay rum aftershaves available and how to make one yourself.
It contains West Indies bay leaf, spices and Jamaican rum hence the term “bay rum”. This mixture gives this a distinct sweet, woodsy and spicy scent.
Men love this scent because well err, it’s manly. And if you like to standup from the crowd then stick around we’re going to show you some of the best bay rum aftershaves.
Bay rum first gained popularity during the 1800 and early 1900s as an aftershave and cologne. And know it is making a comeback with the resurgence of wet shaving right now.
With wet shaving ecommerce sites popping out left and right, it’s real easy right now to buy this product online.
For every good bay rum there are bad apples that’s why I created this guide to help you choose which one to buy.
History of the Bay Rum Aftershave: Grooming Out of Necessity
The Bay Rum Aftershave was born in the seas of the West Indies in the 16th century when sailors were looking for ways to alleviate stink bombs they had after months on the seas.
Imagine yourself being on a boat full of men who had not taken a bath for months! The stench must be unbearable.
They discovered that rubbing dried bay leaves (from a West Indian bay tree) on their body transfer fragrant oil on their skin makes them smell at least a little better.
Rum on the other hand was invented by innovative plantation slaves from molasses which is a by-product of sugar.
They fermented this into a sweet alcoholic beverage.
Brewers on the islands took this beverage invented by slaves, distilled it 10 times stronger and created rum as we know it today.
Rubbing leaves on your skin isn’t what you call a pleasant experience.
So someone decided to steep bay leaves in rum to extract essential oils is a better idea than rubbing leaves direct on skin.
Thus the bay rum aftershave was born.
After this, islanders throughout the West Indies began mixing different versions of bay rum. They added stuff like cinnamon, citrus, cloves and West Indian lime. Even until today you’ll find brands that come from the West Indies.
Despite originating from the Caribbean islands, the first bay rum mass produced large scale by Albert Heinrich Riise. He was the first to use a double-distillation process that made his products superior than single distilled bay rums.
This discovery led to the bay rum exploding in popularity in the United States and Europe.
Barbershops in America started to concoct their own scents for their clients that ended up smelling manlier than the GodFather.
Best Bay Rum Aftershaves available right now
Unless you’re a history buff the information above may mean nothing to you. But I had to add this to give you context on how this product evolved from rubbing bay leaves to what it is today.
Unfortunately most products you’ll see right now have little resemblance to the original product that used essential oils from bay leaves.
Most manufacturers don’t use the original West Indian bay leaf essential oil, opting instead for a synthetic chemical version. As you’d expect the quality of such won’t compare to a product using an original bay leaf extract.
Another ingredient that manufacturers skimp on would be the rum. Instead of using authentic rum, these companies use grain alcohol which won’t be as good.
Still the very few companies that use authentic bay leaf and rum will have variances in terms of scent depending on where they source their bay leaves and rum. Even if two companies use identical ingredients, the scent will still vary depending on their propriety blends.
Some consider the Virgin Islands, Jamaica and Bermuda to be home to best, most fragrant West Indian bay trees in the world. If you can find a product that sources its leaves from these places, you’ve got yourself a winner. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to tell the difference unless you’re a connoisseur with an expert nose.
So that’s where we come in and help you in layout out the best bay rum aftershaves.
What’s the difference between a bay rum aftershave and a regular aftershave?
While both of these products serve the same purpose, the biggest difference between these two products would be the ingredients inside it.
A bay rum aftershave has two main ingredients – bay leaf and rum.
Regular aftershaves use a lot more chemicals and divided into two sub-categories – water based and alcohol based.
Scent is another thing that separates this two. Bay rum aftershaves have a strong scent characterized by a woodsy, earthy or spicy scent.
Barberry Coast Bay Rum Aftershave
One of the best characteristics of the Barberry Coast bay aftershave would be its authentic bay leaf scent that brings back memories of sailors rubbing dried leaves on their skin.
Their scent is as close as you’ll get to the first bay rum aftershaves manufactured decades past.
Barberry Coast was able to pull this off because of the authentic blend of oils and spices extracted from bay leaves from the West Indies.
What I like about this product is the 100% all natural ingredients that does not contain any parabens or alcohol that could dry up skin.
It also contains skin friendly ingredients like Aloe Vera, Vitamin E and Shea butter. This product will leave a cooling sensation because of the menthol content.
Fragrance also comes from natural sources such as clove, vanilla, cinnamon, orange and allspice. All of these ingredients in addition to smelling great have numerous benefits to our skin. These include stress relief and improving blood circulation.
If you’re looking for something traditional smelling then this would be a great choice. Take note that the scent isn’t as strong and if you prefer something with a stronger scent then opt for another product in this list.
Gilbert Henry Natural Bay Rum Aftershave Balm
The first product feature here is an aftershave splash. This next product is an aftershave balm that has a slightly thicker consistency.
Whereas splashes greet you with a stinging sensation as soon it touches your skin (remember Home Alone?), an aftershave balm offers a more soothing and moisturizing feeling that works well for men with sensitive skin.
Gilbert Henry is another bay rum aftershave that uses 100% all natural ingredients that’s paraben free.
The ingredient list includes Aloe juice, Coconut oil and vegetable glycerin that will moisturize dry skin.
It also contains witch hazel, neem oil and black Willowbank extract that soothe razor burn and cuts.
The formulation will not leave a greasy feeling behind. And it doesn’t contain any alcohol which so you don’t have to worry about it drying up the skin.
Purist may discount this as a bay rum product because it lacks alcohol but it has a similar scent so that’s all that matters.
In terms of scent, some men say in the reviews that this had a strong clove scent that’s overpowering. But this is a subjective matter so it’s best that you check it out yourself.
Captain’s Choice Cat O’ Nine Tails Bay Rum
If its old fashion bay rum scent you’re after then Captain’s Choice Cat O’ Nine Tails should be on your short list.
This bay rum splash is a popular choice in the wet shaving community because of the unique stinging sensation that is described as the “perfect burn”.
It’s an intense burn that’s similar to a pepper but on the skin. This sensation starts off mild then quickly escalates into something you think you can’t handle.
Some guys love it while others will not.
Men who liked the sensation have described it as “addictive”. It has a classic bay rum scent with only a hint of clove. So if you don’t like clove this is a good alternative.
What’s unique about this aftershave is that despite the burning sensation it will not dry out the skin.
If you take a close look at the ingredient list you’ll know why. Along with alcohol, this product also contains witch hazel, essential oils and glycerin. The last ingredient is what prevents it from drying out the face.
Genuine Ogallala Bay Rum Aftershave
Last on this list is the Genuine Ogallala bay rum aftershave that probably has the strongest scent.
Men who literally want to turn heads should try on this aftershave.
This will last the longest but if you’re allergic to cloves or don’t like the scent of it then avoid this.
Ingredient list is all natural and these include cinnamon, witch hazel, bay oil, oil of clove bud, rosemary, lime, wintergreen, sage, ginger and orange.
However that long list of ingredients does not product a classic bay rum scent that some men may prefer but still smells great nonetheless.
Despite the strong scent, this will not leave a burning sensation ala Captain’s Choice.
Some bay rum aftershaves that contain synthetic ingredients
It would be a disservice to you if I didn’t share some products that are popular but use synthetic ingredients.
Because these products use synthetic ingredients it won’t be as expensive and yet still provide a similar type scent.
Biggest downside would be the allergic reaction these chemicals may have on the skin.
For instance the term “Fragrance” or “Parfum” refer to an undisclosed mixture of scent chemicals such as diethyl phthalate.
EWG says that these ingredients have been associated with allergies, dermatitis and respiratory distress.
The worst part for me is the potential effects it has on the reproductive system.
Clubman-Pinaud Island Bay Rum
As popular as this aftershave is, I’m afraid you’d have to cross this off your shopping list.
It’s cheap and smells like the real stuff but be wary of what’s inside it.
This product contains artificial fragrance that almost smells the like a real bay rum. What’s more they added a coloring agent that gives it a rum-like appearance.
While you’ll smell good, your skin may not appreciate all the synthetic stuff that touches it.
Why not spend a little more and go for an all-natural bay rum?
Royall Bayrhum of Bermuda
The new formulation is inferior to the original that was popular more than a decade ago and smelled like a “knock off” bay rum. Sad part is this product isn’t cheap. Spend your hard earned money on something that has a better ingredient list.
How to make your own bay rum aftershave?
Yes you can make your own bay rum aftershave with readily available ingredients. All you need are a few essential oils, rum and a mason jar (or any airtight container) to store it with.
What’s great about making your own scent is you can tweak and adjust the scent to your liking – if you’re patient enough to wait.
There are a few recipes available online to help you get started.
Homemade bay rum aftershave by Dr. Axe
- 2 tablespoons of rum
- 4 to 6 ounces of witch hazel
- 20 to 30 drops of Bay West Indies essential oil
- 4 to 5 drops of cinnamon oil
- 5 to 10 drops of orange oil
- 2 to 3 drops of black pepper essential oil
- 5 to 6 drops of vanilla oil
Combine all of these ingredients inside an 8 ounce mason jar and store it in a dark, cool place for 2 to 4 weeks for all the ingredients to combine.
What I like about this recipe are the skin benefits each essential oil brings to the table. Witch hazel has healing has is a natural astringent that prevent signs of aging.
Orange oil helps decrease wrinkles and improve complexion.
Cinnamon oil adds that sweet and spicy scent along with antimicrobial properties that help prevent acne breakouts.
Black pepper essential oil also prevents wrinkles and reduces irritation.
Vanilla oil also provides nourishment to the skin and reduces anxiety.
Bay Rum Aftershave
- 4 ounces vodka
- 2 tablespoons Jamaican rum
- 2 dried bay leaves
- 1/4 tablespoon Allspice
- Fresh zest from orange
- 1 stick of Cinnamon (break it into pieces)
Use dried bay from natural food stores not in groceries and use Pimenta racemose.
Like the first recipe I shared, combine all of these ingredients into a Mason jar and store in a dark, cool area for two weeks. Strain contents out onto a few paper coffee filters to remove any residue.
Bay Rum No.3 Recipe
- 4 ounces Jamaican rum
- 2 Drams of Oil Bay Laurel (that’s 1/16 of an ounce)
- 36 ounces of water
- 24 ounces of alcohol
- 1 ounce pulverized magnesia
This is an old recipe from a Barber’s manual in the mid-1800s! Talk about old school.
Bay laurel is a bit pricey at around $20 to $30 but you don’t need a lot for this recipe.
This recipe will not require you to store it for a few weeks since you’ll be using the oil of bay laurel instead of leaves. If you don’t like waiting, this is an instead aftershave treat.
Run this mixture through a coffee paper filter or cheese cloth to remove any residue.
The last two recipes I found in the Art of Manliness website.
Spread the Word
There you have it, 4 bay rum aftershaves that’ll give you that old school scent you’re looking for. If you find this article helpful please share it with your friends. And if you want to go the extra mile, make them a bay rum aftershave! It could be the greatest gift you’ll ever give to any man who wet shaves.
Garrick spends his days researching and writing about grooming. When he’s not in front of his computer, you can find him hanging around with his wife and son.