Pacha – Pipe Tobacco & Coffee

“Early Shift”

I saw this Pacha soap, Pipe Tobacco & Coffee, at Whole Foods and probably did a theatrical double-take, unable, for a moment, to believe someone would make a soap called Pipe Tobacco & Coffee—well, if it was indeed scented as pipe tobacco, then, why not—it's not like it's cigar and Scotch soap (which... I could see considering that one, actually) or like 7-Eleven Coffee & Merit Menthol soap. I love pipe tobacco, and I smoked a pipe since I was a youth (though have totally given it up now). My friend Peter and I had the idea that we would smoke pipes (occasionally), but only in autumn, which seemed like a good rule. But the last time I tried it, several years back now, it gave me a migraine, so I've totally given it up. Now I'm down to going to the tobacco shop and smelling the tobacco. Milwaukee has a great old smoke shop, downtown, called Uhle's—which you'd better appreciate now because they may be gone soon, like the drug store lunch counter. So I love the smell of pipe tobacco, anyway—I'll follow an old guy smoking a pipe down the street until it gets uncomfortable. This soap does capture the smell of tobacco—which is kind of amazing.

My initial reaction: it has an immediate deep, strong smell, kind of sharp, and also sweet. I'm attracted to it, but I can imagine a lot of people wouldn't be. But a lot of people are just really sensitive about scents—and I guess I'm lucky that I enjoy such a wide variety, and unusual things. Then I think: why not a catchy name, like “Bus Station Ashtray”—though actually, it really does remind me of a public restroom, men's room, where the urinal doesn't flush properly and dudes are always dropping their cigarette butts in (which will be there until some poor bastard, whose job it is, fishes them out). It's that smell exactly—well, not exactly—but it reminds me of that—which sounds really unpleasant, I know, but to me there is a nostalgia thing there. Also, it's got a granular quality, and leaves a lot of residue where it's sitting, so it's like coffee grounds, maybe actual coffee grounds. I wonder if there is real tobacco in it? The Pacha website says: “with exfoliating coffee grounds and swirls of activated charcoal.” Which I can totally see, but sounds a little dangerous—but it's probably safe, right? If I don't totally trust the FDA, I do trust Pacha.

I got a second bar of this because I liked it so much, I guess! Something compelled me to. I quite enjoy this one. Thinking about the smell some more—you know how sometimes, when you're making good coffee, you smell chocolate in there, and it reminds you of tobacco, too—or at least pipe tobacco. There's pipe tobacco that reminds you of coffee, and chocolate, and other things—but overall there is this elusive smell that is so attractive, I guess, because you can't totally put your finger on it. This soap has that quality. And it's big and bold, too, not subtle. Sometimes I appreciate subtle things, but other times I really like things to be forceful, in your face, and undeniable, and this soap is that.

Soap Review No. 54