While winter isn't officially here for a month and two days, the weather outside seems to indicate that it has no intention of waiting, add to that, the fact that beard-care brands everywhere are rolling out their winter scent collections one after another, and well, even in mid November, you'll notice that things are feeling nice and wintery already. Now a good amount of winter scents are holiday themed (I cannot reccomend Ho, Ho, Ho! by The Bearded Bastard highly enough if you're looking to comb a little holiday cheer through your beard), but a few producers out there, like Ruddy Man Grooming have gotten a bit more ambitious with their winter blends, creating something that doesn't just go for the typical pine-tree-meets-baking-spice holiday scents, and instead aims to capture the entire feeling of the season; afternoon sunsets, the rush of cold air filling your lungs, that perfectly broken in wool beanie that is just the right amount of scratchy and warm, there is so much more to the season than just Santa and doug firs. Founded in North Carolina by a part-time rock band frontman, and full-time pastor, Ruddy Man Grooming has already made quite a name for themselves in the beard-care game as a small-batch producer of both beard and body products in a variety of inovative and appealing scents.
As somebody who can trace his family lineage back to a small colony in Russia as far back at the 1700's, and a huge fan of Russian tea, I knew I'd be trying Moscow Morning the minute I saw it advertised. I could go on and on about how important tea culture is to Russian people (in spite of what you may have heard, tea, and not vodka, is the national drink of Russia...and believe me, I love my vodka too, but that's a topic for a different conversation), or the weird ancestral connections I feel at times when I brew up a pot of Prince Vladimir by Kusmi Tea (any and all fans of black teas who have never checked this blend out, simply must do so...you can thank me later), but instead, let's just give this oil a try and see if it can speak for itself.
So you know how I do that thing from time to time where I'm all like "oh I was expecting this to be blah blah blah, but boy whas I wrong, because it turned out to be blah blah blah instead"? Yeah no, not here...I was expecting a product called Moscow Morning to draw up a mental picture of a little glass of Russian Caravan (another tea you need to check out if you're into black teas), exuding smoky, astringency, with sugar crystals on a stick meant to be parked inbetween your teeth while you drink, and a slice of lemon arranged neatly on a saucer next to it, and I was not disapointed. Intense clouds of rich, pine-wood smoked Lapsang Souchong mixed with that extremely familiar citrus/floral tang of an Earl Grey, come barreling forward with the power and intensity of a freight train slicing through the still night air. This kicks up an intoxicating tailwind of dark, astringent Darjeeling so mouthwateringly accurate that you can almost feel the fuzzy tannins left behind on your teeth, blended with a spicy accord vaguely reminiscent of those scented pinecones that every grocery store has up front by the doors this time of year. In the high note, a solitary candied orange peel, in all of its saccharine glory, stands alone as if it had been dropped into the dregs of a still slightly warm tea-pot to release its aromatic sweetness. At once a holiday scent and something so far beyond that, this is quite possibly my favorite winter themed oil to be released this year. Strength is a shade above medium, while staying power is good, but unfortunately not great, lasting a few good hours before fading to a delicate whisper.
How does it work?
Sporting a fairly spartan list of ingredients and a middle-of-the-road viscosity, I wasn't really expecting to be blown away by the performance of this product, but was pleasantly surprised to see that it definitely offered a good amount of conditioning. Imparting an acceptable level of softness, I can't help but think how much of a superstar this product might be with a bit more comprehensive carrier blend...I mean, in beard feel is good, very good, in fact, but it seems to fall short of feeling "great", this product takes my beard right to the edge of that same softness and strength that an oil like Williamsburg by Brooklyn Grooming (an all time favorite that I still use regularly) might, but just doesn't quite cross that threshold. I find that this oil works best when paired with a stiff, hearty balm (I recommend Night Owl by Vintage Grooming as it wont interfere with the downright brilliant scent of this oil). Staying power is good, and can hold up to the elements up to a point, but I do find that on colder, more high-impact days a touchup may be in order in the afternoon.
The bottom line
With a scent accurate enough to have you hearing a balalaika being played somewhere off in the distance as you comb it through your beard, this oil has instantly earned a place in my winter rotation. Performance is good, but lacking in that "little something extra" category that would surely have turned this stuff into something truly epic. As it stands, it is a solid adition to any lineup, and only serves to have me more intreagued as to what else Ruddy Man Grooming has to offer.
Ingredients: Fractionated Coconut Oil, Moroccan Argan Oil, Golden Jojoba Oil, Grapeseed Oil, Essential and Fragrance Oils
$18 at ruddymangrooming.com