A Brief History of Bay Rum

The scent of bay rum has wafted through history, enchanting innumerable noses in many guises: as a tonic and a talc, as an aftershave, a hair lotion, a deodorant, and a shaving soap—and at every turn its wearers have reeled in admirers and warded off neuralgia. In the beginning, it spruced up the couth of European sailors in the West Indies. The sailors, being sailors, tended to get gamy, and they were intrigued to see the natives giving themselves refreshing rubs with the leaves of the West Indian bay tree (which in Linnaean Latin is Pimenta racemosa and which is not to be confused with the Laurus nobilis in your pasta sauce). Also, the sailors, being sailors, tended to drink like sailors. They had a lot of rum around and, introducing the oil of the leaves to the rum’s pungency, they wrought a classic potion—infused with cloves, sturdy in its cinnamon, light but complex in its earthiness. 

The reputation of St John bay leaf oils continued to grow as one of the best in the world and in 1903 the Danish Plantation Company purchased 237 acres at Cinnamon Bay to cultivate St John bay trees. Their success encouraged other plantations to do the same in Carolina Estate, Maho Bay and Lameshur Bay. The production of bay rum became an important Virgin Island export in the early 1920's. Local small batch distillers blended bay leaf oils and Caribbean rums to make many varieties of Virgin Island bay rums. At its peak, historians estimate that 1,000 gallons of pure St Johns bay leaf oil were blended into over 35,000 gallons of Bay Rum.

In 1921, the national prohibition of alcohol meant Virgin Island bay rum could no longer be exported to the United States.  By adding aspirin to bay rum, manufacturers were able to skirt the prohibition and word spread that drinking bay rum not only made you feel good but also relieved aches and pains. Virgin Island bay rum production reached a peak of over 100,000 gallons annually.

The St Johns Bay Rum company hired a Madison Avenue ad agency in 1957 to promote their bay rum scented aftershave and cologne. The rest is history.

Over the centuries, subtle clouds of bay rum wafted east to London and west to the Oregon Trail, as scalps were smartly salved and skin restoratively smacked. It was the official scent of Madison Avenue during the heady days of the original Mad Men. Surely if Don Draper used anything to mask his Lucky's and three bourbon lunches, it was Bay Rum.

It is delicious, seductive, and masculine, a classic fragrance that can never go out of style. Unlike nausea inducing Axe "body sprays" and "designer" men's fragrances that envelop you in a toxic cloud of expensive stink, Bay Rum is a suggestive and soft scent. Simply put, it makes you smell very very nice. Like a man should.

Our classic Bay Rum fragrance is produced in the traditional manner over a period of months. Leaves, spices, citrus, and rum are married in specially designed casks and left in darkness to infuse for several weeks. When the aromas have fully combined, the fragrant liquid is triple filtered and goes through a process to concentrate the scent and remove any remaining organic sediment. Each batch is then thoroughly tested before being added to our product bases. The final product is a traditionally prepared Bay Rum infused grooming aid and fragrance that will leave you smelling fantastic.

Our first Bay Rum product was a non fussy roll-on style fragrance concentrate. Then we added a hair and body wash. So popular has this scent become, that we will be releasing it as an all natural body spray and after shave balm, along with a classic bar soap and shaving soap.

Now that you know more about bay rum than anyone else you know, it is time to bring the classic fragrance into your life. And when they ask you what you are wearing, you can really tell them.




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