A few weeks back, I was exchanging messages with a fellow blogger, just comparing notes as to what works, what doesn't, and so on...you know, just a couple of nerds trying to figure out how to maximize what we get out of our nerdiness. Anyway, he told me that one of the things he likes about my site, (and I guess, just the entire online presence of V&T) is that there is a bit of "mystery" surrounding me...I asked him to further elucidate, and he pointed out that there are no pictures of me on this site or any of the V&T social media feeds (this isn't entirely true, as I know for a fact there is at least one picture of me on this site, but in order to protect the "mystery", I'll let those who are curious find it on their own). Now, it was never my goal to shroud myself in this sort of nebulous presence. I don't post pictures, because well, I look like your average middle aged dude with a beard; kinda fat, kinda bald, usually wearing a ball-cap, tee-shirt, and jeans...so for that reason, I don't feel like I need to post my picture...but at the same time, I feel like I share a lot more than somebody who is trying to come across as a shadowy figure behind a computer screen (not quite sure why that persona would be beneficial for a beard-care blog anyway, but that's neither here nor there). Readers of this site know which sports teams I'm the most passionate about, what state I live in, and most importantly what I look for in beard-care products. Just for the hell of it though, I'm going to let you, dear reader, know another not-so-secret thing about me; where I grew up. Now if you have any deductive abilities (and I know you do, because I seem to attract some of the smartest readers out there), you may have looked at the title of this post and been able to extrapolate that I am about to tell you that I grew up in Oakland...well that's not exactly true...I actually grew up in a smaller town in the East Bay, but Oakland was the closest major city. I'm a bit of an anomaly when it comes to Bay Area natives in that I don't really like San Francisco, I dont tell people I'm from San Francisco like so many people who grew up anywhere between Redwood City and Vallejo do (seriously, if somebody under the age of about 50 tells you that they're "from" SF, they're probably lying)...no need to really elaborate, it's a lovely city, just not my cup of tea. As the hub of the East Bay, I've always considered Oakland to be more the cultural heart and soul of the Bay Area (in spite of the fact that there's no there there). So even though, just like the Silver and Black, I left the Bay for the desert, I will still consider The Town to be a big part of my history.
What does any of this have to do with beard balm? Well a few weeks ago when I was bored, scrolling through IG, I happened to see a picture of a tin of beard balm with a logo that immediately jumped out at me. The modified version of the City of Oakland's logo that anybody who has spent any time in the 510 will immediately recognize as that of the company Oaklandish; a stylized oak tree with outstretched roots. I immediately knew I needed to pick this stuff up for a review. This led me to a brand new (like launched earlier this year type of brand new) beard-care company called Voodoo Menscraft. Now I dont know if this was created in collaboration with Oaklandish (because they do seem to work with a ton of different companies, or if Voodoo Menscraft is just paying tribute to the brand that pays tribute to Oakland, either way, my interest was piqued. With balms and oils in a variety of enticing scents, these guys look to make their mark on the beard-care game right out of the gate. So will this balm have me coming back for some of their non-city inspired scents? Only one way to find out...let's give it a try...
How can you remain objective about a scent that is inspired by a place that you spent many of your formative years? The answer is that you can't...While I don't think this scent will conjure up images of stuffing your face with Everett and Jones beef links smothered in spicy sauce, before hopping on BART and enjoying a pint of Hennessy and NorCal's finest...ummmm potable...rolled tightly in the Coliseum parking lot before an A's game, for everybody, it is still a damn good smelling balm. A soft, sweet vanilla creeps in like a thick fog hovering over the surface of Lake Merrit. This mingles with a citrussy accord that reminds me of lime and bergamot (but I could be wrong on that one), to create a deep aromatic redolence that envelops you like a thick jacket, protecting you from the cool breeze coming off the bay. Rising like the Tribune building along the skyline, a solid heart of warm spice wrapped tightly around charred barrique, providies a brilliant contrast and gives this scent a very rich, cologne-like feel. There is a tremendous balance within this scent, just as comfortable picking up overpriced pressed juice at Berkeley Bowl (technically not Oakland, but this is my description, so live with it...besides, for what it's worth...anybody who knows me knows that my favorite E&J's is the location on San Pablo, so when I mentioned that earlier, I was talking about another technically-not-Oakland location, and you didn't even notice...but I'm getting way off topic here), as it is catching a show at The Fox...Strength is just a whisper above medium, and staying power is very good, with a morning application still detectable well into the late afternoon.
How does it work?
A touch softer than your average balm, this stuff has a great pliable texture. The thing that I noticed immediately after melting this product in my palms is the thick, almost buttery texture of this product. definitely heavier than your average balm when it melts. This had me a little bit concerned, but my mind was immediately put at ease when I started to work this stuff into my beard. Now, I don't know about you, but when I apply balm, I always make sure that I get a good coating on the outsixde of my beard first and then work the excess deeper into my beard, in doing this, I find that this product does really let its presence be felt on the outside of my beard (but this isnt necessarily a bad thing, as it tames flyaways, and after a quick once over with a boar's hair brush, any trace of greasiness/stickiness is gone). With a laundry list of beneficial ingredients, it's clear that even though this company is new, they have put some serious thought into making their formulations top notch. Avocado, pumpkin seed, and hemp seed oils all go to work imparting a wonderful healthy, conditioned feel to my beard. High quality bees wax offers a good amount of hold (I'd place it just a tick or two higher than medium, which is exceptional considering how soft and easy to work with this balm is)...and the usual suspects, (shea, jojoba, etc), are of a very clearly high quality, as they use their wonderful occlusicve properties to seal in moisture, keeping dryness and itch at bay all day long. In beard feel is lightweight and completely devoid of that "crunch" that some waxier balms can impart. Staying power is fantastic, keeping my beard looking and feeling fantastic all day long on a single application!
The bottom line.
Imbued with a hint of the surreal (at least if you have a connection to the city this stuff was named after), this is an incredibly well executed balm. Even if the scent doesn't awaken a dormant cluster of neurons in your brain and momentarily transport you back to eating chicken sandwiches on an ironing board out in front of Bakesale Betty, I can guarantee that you'll dig the appeal. From a performance standpoint, this stuff lets me know that Voodoo Menscraft is definitely a company who is serious about their offerings. I am beyond interested to try some of their other offerings, and am pretty sure I will be posting reviews of some of their other products in the future, but in the meantime, I plan on enjoying the hell out of this particular balm, as I've already added it to my regular rotation. Another thing I'd like to touch on breifly is the customer service of this company, I ordered this stuff a while ago, and I'm assuming the company was so new at the time that they might not have had their stickers made up yet (I have amassed a huge collection of different beard-care company stickers, not that I put them anywhere, but I just like having them), so a few weeks later, I was surprised to see an envelope show up in my mailbox with a couple of their brand new stickers inside...it's the little touches like this that let you know a company really does appreciate your business. I noticed that they have recently updated the packaging for this product (sort of wierd for a company that isn't even two months old...but okay), the current permutation has a picture of the colden gate bridge on it (kinda wish it was the Bay Bridge, but I suppose you can't argue which of the two is more instantly recognizable), but no matter what packaging you find this stuff in, I highly recommend picking it up, because this is an outstanding balm!
Ingredients: Shea Butter, Pure White Beeswax, Virgin Argan Oil, Pure Jojoba Oil, Vitamin E Oil, Sweet Almond Oil, Apricot Kernal Oil, Avocado Oil, Pumpkin Seed Oil, Hempseed Oil, Grapeseed Oil, Proprietary Blend Essential Oils
$14.99 at voodoomenscraft.com