Bay Rum... mmmm the smell of summer! For the uninitiated, bay rum is a fragrance that’s often used in aftershave's, shaving soaps and other mens cosmetics products such as our Moustache wax. We were recently asked this question by a customer who was a little disappointed upon receiving his moustache wax stating that it did not smell like rum and he had even asked a bar tender friend. There is probably quite a few of you out there who had though the same thing so we thought we'd shed the light on the infamous Caribbean Bay Rum scent.
A common misconception is that the scent is as per the name, Rum from a beautiful caribbean bay and should smell like a bottle of 15 year old aged, small batch rum. This is not the case however. The "bay" in the name refers West Indies bay leaf which gives it its unique scent along with spices, and traditionally Jamaican rum. These were combined to give the bay rum fragrance its distinctive woody, sweet, and spicy scent. These days rum is usually not included due to cosmetic standards however the blending of bay, cinnamon and other scents such as vanilla or honey are used to replace rum. Bay rum is the perfect summertime scent but if you are addicted to scent that steeped in history, it's a great fragrance to sport year round.
The history of bay rum is as manly as it smells. Sailors in the 16th century discovered that the West Indies bay leaf made a great perfume to freshen up and mask the stink they acquired while being stuck on a ship for months. To apply the scent to themselves, the sailors would rub the dry leaves on their body, thus leaving the fragrant oil on their skin. While sailors were rubbing leaves on themselves, farmers were cultivating boat loads of sugar to be shipped back to Europe. A few enterprising plantation slaves discovered that molasses, a by-product of sugar, could be fermented into a sweet alcoholic beverage (RUM). Brewers on the islands took the slaves’ crude recipe, distilled it, and made it 10 times stronger, thus creating the rum we know today.
Tired of having to rub bay leaves on himself like a crazy seafarer, some sailor got the idea that rum would make a great liquid to steep the bay leaves in to extract their essential oils and make an easy-to-apply cologne. And with that, bay rum was born ("sailors would rub" 2010).
Islanders took this basic recipe and began adding their own olfactory flourishes by mixing in cloves, citrus rind, and cinnamon.
From the West Indies the scent spread to the rest of the world and became popular among men as an aftershave scent. Barbershops in America developed their own unique version of bay rum aftershave to slather on their patrons so they walked out smelling awesomely manly after getting their straight razor shaves .
We have incorporated our version of the Bay Rum scent into our old time moustache wax with hints of cinnamon and bay leaf clove essential oils and a touch of honey to add the sweetness as Rum is not permitted in this day and age.
McKay, B & K, (2010) DIY Bay Rum aftershave, Retrieved from http://www.artofmanliness.com/2010/01/21/diy-bay-rum-aftershave/
Thought this was very educational, until I read the words “sea fairer” and “sailor”… I’m sure the words the author meant to use were ‘seafarer’ and/or ‘seaman’…there is a big difference and it does matter to the Ol’Salts.
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