Caswell-Massey – Jockey Club

“Uncle Don”

Another big, oval bar of soap, this one a pale green, and again the color “celadon” comes to mind. As soon as you unwrap it from its protective plastic cover it unleashes its scent on the room and dominates like a brash and very present houseguest. My first impression, the first words that come to mind are: 1950s, door-to-door salesman, vaguely inappropriate middle-aged bachelor next door neighbor, mysterious uncle, millionaire playboy, private men's club, rendezvous suite at the Taft Hotel, Mr. Gladstone. This is the soap that started me giving each variety a one, two, or three word “nickname”—for better or for worse. It occurred to me that this one might be something like: “Uncle Don”—everyone has an Uncle Don, or knows one, right? An older, kind of odd guy who seems to exist out of time. I had two Uncle Dons, as well as an older cousin, Don, who would also have been a classic Uncle Don. They may all have used this soap.

I just went in for another “first impression”—ideally trying to clear my mind of baggage and pretend I'm experiencing this for the first time. This time it brought me back to somewhere in childhood. It's possible my parents had this soap, or something similar, because I can't tell you what soap they did have when I was young—the only one that I actually remember, though, was Ivory. It's more likely that one of my relatives had a similar soap, and it could have well been either Uncle Don on my mom's side or Uncle Don on my dad's side.

I'm going to check the Caswell-Massey website and see how they describe it. They claim it's “rumored” to be a favorite of John F. Kennedy—so what does that mean? Nothing confirmed, I guess. His affair with Marilyn Monroe was also rumored—what was her favorite soap? Did she buy this soap for JFK, or did Jackie? The smell of this soap is so distinctive that it would become part of a person's appeal and your impression of them. The Caswell-Massey site calls it fresh and magnificent, and I have to agree—fresh, in spite of associating it with dead guys. They say it has “citrus top notes of grapefruit, lemon, and orange warmed with amber, musk, and patchouli”—meaning what? I'm not going to start using phrases like “top notes” here, or “finish”—just because that whole wine snobbery business puts me off my lunch. When I smell this soap, nothing citrusy comes to mind, though it might be there. It's not overly patchouli-y either, though some is likely—responsible for its appeal to me, as well as musk, which could add to that kind of leather-bound book study, manly English aristocratic vibe. It's funny, my word processing program wants to capitalize Musk, thinking I'm referring to “Elon Musk”—I wonder if he likes this soap, or what his favorite soap is? As far as amber goes, I always think of the hardened resin (like the amber stem of tobacco pipe) but upon looking it up, I guess some form of amber resin is used in perfume and scent-making, its quality being that of trees, woodsy, earthy—so I can see that with this soap. I learned something, which is always a plus, and the best thing about any soap is that it keeps revealing itself, keeps teaching you something.

Soap Review No. 27