DIY Bay Rum Aftershave

by Brett & Kate McKay on January 21, 2010 · 96 comments

in Dress & Grooming, Shaving

When we did our post about 15 manly smells a few months ago, several of you chimed in that bay rum should have made the list. For the uninitiated, bay rum is a fragrance that’s often used in aftershave lotion and shaving soaps. West Indies bay leaf, spices, and Jamaican rum, combine to give the bay rum fragrance its distinctive woody, sweet, and spicy scent. Because of its island flavor, bay rum is a great summertime scent, but it’s a fine fragrance to sport year round.

The history of bay rum is as manly as it smells.  Sailors in the 16th century discovered that the West Indies bay leaf made a great perfume to freshen up and mask the stink they acquired while being stuck on a ship for months. To apply the scent to themselves, the sailors would rub the dry leaves on their body, thus leaving the fragrant oil on their skin. While sailors were rubbing leaves on themselves, farmers were cultivating boat loads of sugar to be shipped back to Europe. A few enterprising plantation slaves discovered that molasses, a by-product of sugar, could be fermented into a sweet alcoholic beverage. Brewers on the islands took the slaves’ crude  recipe, distilled it, and made it 10 times stronger, thus creating the rum we know today.

Tired of having to rub bay leaves on himself like a weirdo, some sailor got the idea that rum would make a great liquid to steep the bay leaves in to extract their essential oils and make an easy-to-apply cologne. And with that, bay rum was born.

Islanders took this basic recipe and began adding their own olfactory flourishes by mixing in cloves, citrus rind, and cinnamon.

From the West Indies the scent spread to the rest of the world and became popular among men as an aftershave scent. Barbershops in America developed their own unique version of bay rum aftershave to slather on their patrons so they walked out smelling awesomely manly after getting their straight razor shaves. And if you check the medicine cabinets of men born before 1950, there’s a good chance you’ll find a bottle of bay rum in it.

While bay rum waned in popularity after World War II, the renewed interest in traditional wet shaving has brought it back to its throne as the go-to scent for old-school manly men. You can find bay rum at most drug stores or department stores for about $10. But why buy it, when you can make your own just like the 16th century sailors did? In this article, we’re going to share two recipes for bay rum aftershave. The first comes from a recipe that I’ve seen floating around on various wet shaving communities like Badger and Blade and the second comes from an 1866 barbering guide.  Enjoy!

Bay Rum Aftershave

  • 4 Ounces Vodka
  • 2 Tablespoons Jamaican Rum
  • 2 Dried Bay Leaves (Don’t use the bay leaf they sell at the grocery store. While it’s good for soups,  it’s not good for bay rum. Make sure to use Pimenta racemosa, sometimes available at natural food stores)
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Allspice
  • 1 Stick of Cinnamon, broken in pieces
  • Fresh Zest from a Small Orange

Combine all ingredients in a container such as a bottle or mason jar with a tightly fitting lid. Put the closed container in a dark, cool place (not in the refrigerator) for two weeks. This allows the alcohol to extract the essential oils from the bay leaves. After two weeks, strain the mixture through several layers of coffee filters. If necessary, repeat until no residue remains. Put in a nice bottle and splash on face after shaving.

Bay Rum No. 3 Recipe from Mack’s Barbers Guide

I found this recipe in an old barber’s manual from 1866. This recipe calls for a bay laurel oil. The bay laurel is different from the pimenta racemosa leaf that is traditionally used in bay rum, so this recipe will smell a bit different, but it still smells good. You can buy a bottle of bay laurel oil online or at a aromatherapy store in your area for $20-$30. While a bit pricey, you don’t have to use too much, and it makes several batches.

  • 2 Drams of Oil of Bay Laurel (a dram is 1/16 of an ounce)
  • 4 ounces of Jamaica Rum
  • 24 ounces of alcohol
  • 36 ounces of water
  • 1 ounce of pulverized magnesia

Combine all the ingredients above and strain through several layers of coffee filters or cheesecloth. Store in a bottle. You’ll notice that this recipe doesn’t call for letting the mixture sit for two weeks before using. Since we’re using oil of bay laurel and not the leaves, you don’t have to wait for the oils to be extracted from the bay leaf. You can use this concoction immediately after you make it. Instant gratification!

You can customize your bay rum aftershave to your liking by adding different spices and scents. Some suggested scents to add are juniper, lavender, rosemary, allspice, and cinnamon. Have fun!

{ 94 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Nate @ Practical Manliness January 21, 2010 at 11:15 pm

Sounds neat!
Does anyone know of a similar recipe without the alcohol?
Thanks for the great article!

2 DownTown Andrew January 22, 2010 at 12:00 am

Do you think that Absolut Pear would be a good substitute? Since I bought a large bottle of it…and I cant stand drinking it.

3 John Sherrill January 22, 2010 at 12:58 am

How funny that you posted this now. I just made some a few weeks ago.

Here’s my recipe:

8 oz. dark rum
2 cups of bay leaves (I used laurel from the grocery store. I know it’s not traditional, but whatever)
10 cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
Entire peel from 1 orange
10 drops vitamin E

Combine all ingredients in a mason jar and seal it. Keep in a cool, dark place for 2-4 weeks. Filter liquid through a coffee filter. Add 2-3 ounces of witch hazel to the filtered liquid. Enjoy!

4 Greg Ausman January 22, 2010 at 3:30 am


The alcohol in aftershave provides the astringent effect(closing of pores), so you need to keep it in. Otherwise, you don’t have an aftershave, you have perfume.

5 Richard | January 22, 2010 at 4:15 am

That looks like it should smell really nice. I’m gonna give that a go. Cheers guys.

6 IrishTony January 22, 2010 at 5:32 am

This may be a dumb question, but if you are using oil instead of leaves can you still throw in orange peel, cinnamon etc and let it steep for a few weeks?
I am taking it that you can, but I don’t know if you should add in the oil last or throw it all in together and let it brew.

Thanks in advance for your thoughts guys.

7 Jonathan Cunningham January 22, 2010 at 7:42 am

If you don’t wish to purchase drinking alcohol for whatever reason, you can substitute rubbing alcohol (also called isopropanol) instead. Both drinking alcohol and rubbing alcohol have roughly the same astringent and anti-bacterial properties. Isopropanol is a slightly better solvent so the aftershave might come out a tad strong.

8 Bruce Williamson January 22, 2010 at 8:02 am

I’m saving this recipe with the others that I’ve found. The alcohol normally used is SD-40 which is a fancy name for denatured ethanol. It can be hard to find for an individual. So many recipes use vodka. So, if anyone has a good source for SD-40 let me know. I don’t like using isopropanol or witch hazel because they have very distinctive odors that are associated with a medical setting.

9 Ray January 22, 2010 at 9:31 am

This is cool. Thanks for posting it.

10 Maxwelll January 22, 2010 at 9:53 am

I swear, officer, I haven’t been drinking…It’s my aftershave!

11 Koley January 22, 2010 at 10:36 am

Thanks for this post! I am a big fan of Bay Rum, and was considering just the other day to try and make a batch of my own now that Burt’s Bees no longer makes their Bay Rum aftershave and cologne.

12 Doctuh January 22, 2010 at 11:05 am


Take heart! Responding to someone about wet shaving in the forums I found that Bert’s Bay Rum made a comeback:

Although when I heard they were discontinuing the line I bought cases of it. Set for life here.

13 Shmikey January 22, 2010 at 11:29 am

I just got done watching “Gettysburg” and recognize Chamberlain as your Avatar. WOW, What a guy. I haven’t seen Gods and Generals yet, but hope to in the future. Nice Touch!!

14 Tyler Logan January 22, 2010 at 12:23 pm

Sounds utterly manly. Never tasted nor heard of it but that will change.

15 Nate @ Practical Manliness January 22, 2010 at 12:51 pm

@ Greg Ausman & Jonathan Cunningham

Thank you both for your help! I think I will go with the rubbing alcohol substitute.

16 Chemical Erik January 22, 2010 at 1:57 pm

You can get denatured alcohol at most hardware and home improvement stores in the painting section and at many outdoor outfitters as a camp stove fuel.

17 Dennard January 22, 2010 at 2:00 pm

Cool. I’ve enjoyed the couple of bay rum fragrances I’ve tried. I’m definitely going to try making my own.

18 Brent January 22, 2010 at 3:55 pm

I’d love to give this a try. Does anyone know where I can get the bay leaves?

19 Brent January 22, 2010 at 3:55 pm

Where can I get the leaves?

20 Adam Snider January 22, 2010 at 5:00 pm

Tyler – It’s aftershave, not a drink. Of course, I suppose there’s no reason that you couldn’t drink the resulting concoction, if you really wanted to.

21 Koley January 22, 2010 at 5:21 pm

Doctuh: Thanks for letting me know that the Burt’s Bees Bay Rum is back!

Brent: Leaves are available here:

It seems to be much easier to find the essential oil than the leaves.

22 Brent January 22, 2010 at 6:07 pm

Thanks a bunch, Koley

23 Angelia Sparrow January 22, 2010 at 7:57 pm

This post is terrific. My husband doesn’t shave, but I may make some of this for my son…who is about to start. It should be ready by the time he needs it.

Bay Rum is an interesting scent. Thanks for posting this.
If you are just looking to smell good instead of as aftershave (such as for the gentlement with beards), there’s an online shop called Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab that has several scents with Bay Rum in them. Baron Samedi is the basic Bay Rum scent. Jazz Funeral, Jolly Roger, Isaac the Living Skeleton, Knucklebones, The Sailor’s Den, and Santo Domingo all have it as one of the notes. In most of these, it’s combined with tobacco as well.
(I do not work nor am I associated with Black Phoenix in any way. Just a devoted customer)

24 Brent January 22, 2010 at 9:44 pm

Koley, thanks for the link for the leaves. They are a bit on the pricey side, though. $35 for 4oz. I’m sure in the long run it would pay for itself.

I also priced some basic bayrum aftershave from various sources, The Burts Bees brand wasn’t too bad. About $12. Colonel Conks Shave shop had a bottle of Bayrum for about $20.

For some really good bayrum shave soap, Col. Conk also sells a cake of bayrum scented shave soap for $3.50 each. I’ve been getting all my shave soap from them for a while now. They are really reliable and get your order to you lickety-split, about 2 days.

I might pick up the leaves just for the fun of making the stuff.

25 Herr Doktor January 22, 2010 at 10:01 pm

The Doktor likes this recipe. At some point I’ll have to share my wife’s recipes for thyme head wash for dandruff.

26 matthew January 22, 2010 at 11:32 pm

I’ve worn the CO Bigelow Bay Rum for a few years. Extremely good scent for a man without being an “old man smell”.
My wife loves it too. (wink wink)

Just ran out and Bath and Body Works, which is where I got it originally, still carries CO Bigelow, but not the Bay Rum cologne.

Regarding using rubbing alcohol or denatured alcohol, wouldn’t that produce a sharper, possibly unpleasant scent?

The rum, being a sweeter concoction, both in taste and smell, would impart it’s own warmth to the overall bouquet. While the harsh odor of the denatured or rubbing alcohol would have all of the unpleasantness with little of the benefit.

27 Jonathan January 23, 2010 at 10:07 am

@ Matthew
For a while, I used rubbing alcohol in place of aftershave. No one ever commented on it, though I do work in a chemistry lab so that may have something to do with it.

You can always water down the alcohol to reduce to strength of the alcohol scent. Rubbing alcohol is usually sold at 95% alcohol by volume (ABV) Rum can run anywhere from 40% (light rum) to 75% (overproof rum) ABV, so dilute the rubbing alcohol down to something more your liking.

28 Gus January 23, 2010 at 7:45 pm

Adam – You can drink it. From what I have been told it was not unusual when my Father was in the Navy for those who had drinking problems to drink the Mennen aftershave sold onboard. They would filter it through a loaf of bread to remove additives.I cannot imagine it being very good, but, that is not why someone drinks aftershave in the first place.

29 Jogi January 24, 2010 at 12:30 am

Great recipes, I can imagine the amazing aromas of all three concoctions. A question though, Jonathan mentioned rum being 40-75% ABV. Suppose I get rubbing alcohol from say, a chemist, and dilute it to roughly this ABV level, will it work? I think the problem of distinct smell and stronger solvent action?

Also, what do I do if i want to use rubbing alcohol in the first Bay Rum Aftershave recipe? Simply use 6tbsp of alcohol instead of the rum and vodka? Thanks guys.

30 Darrell January 24, 2010 at 8:07 am

You don’t want to use rubbing alcohol. Go online and search for “Perfumer’s Alcohol.” Also, there are a number of witch hazel aftershave recipes that do not use alcohol of any kind.

31 Jonathan January 24, 2010 at 9:19 am

You can buy rubbing alcohol from nearly any pharmacy or grocery store, usually in the first-aid section. It usually comes about 90% ABV.

32 Christopher January 24, 2010 at 6:02 pm

Man, I am searching online and I am having a very difficult time finding out where I can purchase some Pimenta racemosa leaves! I live in Los Angeles, and you’d think it would be easy to find an herbalist shop that would carry it, but so far I am having difficulty. It’s easy to find Chinese herbs here, but they wouldn’t carry it. I did, however, find that an aromatherapy company, Aura Cacia, does make an essential oil of Pimenta racemosa (it’s simply called “Bay” but it’s indeed the Pimenta genus and not the Laurus nobilis one you cook with), and it only costs abt $7, and so I might have to settle for that. Do a Google search, several places sell it online if you can’t find it in a store. But still, if someone finds a not-too-expensive distributor of the actual leaves, let us know! (Even if I buy the oil, I’m still going to process it the recipe #1 way, so that I can add other spices to it and distill them into the mix.)

Oh, and BTW, I found out that the oil of Pimenta r. is toxic if ingested, so avoid the temptation to drink your new aftershave, haha

33 CiderMonkey January 24, 2010 at 11:51 pm

I use 99% Isopropanol alcohol, about $3 a bottle, and yes it smells crazy, but only for about 10 seconds, then it evaporates and the smell is gone, leaving just the oils.

34 Eric January 26, 2010 at 7:58 am

Tyler – Adam – Others

I wouldn’t advise drinking anything that has the bay rum leaves. From what I read the extracted oils are toxic. Like mentioned, these are not the bay leaves you cook with.

35 Allen January 26, 2010 at 1:21 pm

I have made the Bay rum recipe (the first one listed here) and it works very well. I didn’t have the required type of bay leaves, but I did use FRESH “regular” bay leaves, and it works very, very well. I never strained it, but just left the spices in.

Also, Domenica Double-Distilled Bay Rum is very nice as well, if you want to go the premade route.

36 Ken Z January 27, 2010 at 12:41 pm

My barber in SA uses Clubman Bay Rum. You can get it on Amazon for $11 or from my barber for $13. It goes on a lot cleaner that Burt Bees which is more of a lotion.

37 Benjamin January 28, 2010 at 4:58 am

I can’t seem to find an easy way of getting the actual Pimenta Racemosa leaves- but they do sell Pimenta Racemosa Essential Oil- is this a worthy substitute? Also if I was to make the first aftershave; how much oil would be needed to cater for the absence of two Bay leaves?

38 HB January 28, 2010 at 4:38 pm

j peterman on-line Dominica Bay Rum $18.00

39 Drew February 2, 2010 at 12:46 am

WItch Hazel is a good substitute if you don’t want to use that much alcohol

40 Rick Ramos February 5, 2010 at 2:19 pm

I just tried my first batch. It’s different, I like it. Now I just need to wait for the comments.

41 Jon February 7, 2010 at 10:10 pm

Giving a shot myself! i combined all three of the recipies above we will see how it turns out!

42 Rick Ramos February 10, 2010 at 1:21 pm


It came out great! It has a strong liquor sinus burn in the jar, but when you wear it, it smells like orange, ginger (I added a couple tbsp. of grated ginger) and heavy spice. It smells awesome. It is more mild on your face than any aftershave I’ve used. There is no alcohol burn and it leaves your skin soft; not dry and stretched.

I’m never using commercial aftershave again.

43 danaman February 12, 2010 at 12:59 pm

Like manufactured products, home-made cologne has almost unlimited possibilities. It’s really about having an alcohol base and then adding whatever will give it fragrance.
* For a warmer scent, try substituting Southern Comfort for rum and toss add a soup spoon of pipe tobacco. (Result is great for evenings, Fall/Winter all day).
* For a cooler (mornings, Spring/Summer all day) fragrance, use gin instead of rum, then add clean, crushed eucalyptus leaves and lime peel.
No kidding – these things turn out very nice.

44 G. Alphonse Menard February 14, 2010 at 9:57 pm

Danaman, I love the idea of using pipe tobacco to add aroma to aftershave! I can’t wait to make some of my own.

45 Oreo February 20, 2010 at 5:08 pm

This looks promising. I might try this one when I have the time.

46 Ron Butts February 20, 2010 at 10:49 pm

I read above that some used grocery bay leaves, in place of the pimenta racemosa. Even though the recipe cautions against it, does it still produce a decent smell? I am having a really hard time finding the leaves hereabouts.

47 Havely Taylor March 8, 2010 at 11:18 am

Help! I can not find Pimenta Racemosa leaves anywhere, and I’ve already bought lots of bottles etc. to make bay rum gifts. Does anybody know where I can find these? The local natural food store can only get the regular kind of bay leaf.

48 Marcel March 15, 2010 at 7:36 pm

I think I have called every natural food store in Los Angeles, and no one has this leaf. Also, no luck on line. Would the author of this article please let the readers know the name of a vendor that sells these leaves? It would be much appreciated.

49 RJ T March 24, 2010 at 6:00 pm

My barber makes his own Bay Rum. Manliest scent ever.

Shout out to Patsy’s Barbershop ( ).

50 gnugear April 3, 2010 at 10:11 pm

I just made a batch using pimenta racemosa essential oil. the pimenta racemosa smells a lot like allspice. I used orange zest for the first batch and want to try lime for the second batch. So far it smells a lot like the Clubman Bay Rum aftershave that I have.

51 Sharon Igoe von Behren April 15, 2010 at 8:36 am

Snowdrift Farms has perfumer’s alcohol—you can’t drink it, but there is no sharp smell. It’s great for putting together your own essential oil blends, or even their phthalate-free fragrance oils. I’d give them a try for supplies.

52 BonzoGal April 16, 2010 at 6:45 pm

The Vermont Country Store has a couple of bay rum aftershaves, Dominica and Tropical Royall. A friend of mine swears by the Dominica, especially the lime version.

I’m going to make a batch of this for my husband and see what he thinks! He hasn’t used an aftershave in many years, just cold water.

53 Milt Zuroff April 17, 2010 at 12:19 am

These comments are beginnin to worry me. Be very careful with alcohol!
Hardware store – “denatured alcohol” – paint-solvent alcohol – methyl alcohol (1 carbon atom long) is POISONOUS and should not be consumed or applied to skin. Do not use mehanol in anything which will be used on skin or consumed! It is used to denature ethanol so that ethanol cannot be consumed. You will never find methanol used in rubbing alcohol.
Drinking alcohol is ethanol (2 carbon atoms long) It is not as poisonous as methanol. It is used in rubbing alcohol usually denatured with acetone so that the ethanol-based rubbing alcohol cannot be consumed. Probably the most convenient source of ehanol for after shave is Everclear Grain Alcohol (180 proof, 90% ethanol) – has a picture of an ear of corn on the label. It’s available in most grocery-store liquor departments I’ve checked and it’s cheap.
Isopropyl alcohol (3 carbon atoms long). It’s too poisonous to drink and is commonly sold as rubbing alcohol in pharmacies.
Amazon has Gabel’s Bay Rum aftershave for $20/gallon (yes, gallon).

54 Milt Zuroff April 17, 2010 at 12:30 am

I took another look at the comments. Don’t use tobacco in any anything applied to skin or ingested. The nicotine in tobacco is very poisonous. I vaguely recall recipes for making pesticides for home garden use by soaking tobacco in a solvent.
By the way, all the cusomer reviews for Gabel’s Bay Rum seem to be positive, although the nostalgia factor seems to be high.
Ethanol is the only alcohol which can be safely consumed in moderate amounts. Drink anything else or ethanol tainted with anything else (denatured) and you risk blindness and death. No filter can remove denaturants.

55 s May 22, 2010 at 4:03 pm

Okay, I just stumbled across this article and I am in love with it! I definitely want to try making a bottle for my man as a gift.

I have just one question: does the rum have to be “Jamaican rum”?

56 Dan May 25, 2010 at 10:00 am

I just made some using some lime-flavored gin I already had that didn’t taste very good. I got soup-type bay leaves from a friend who dries leaves herself and orange oil from her too. It came out smelling mild but familiar. I put it in an empty flask and drilled a hole through a wine cork and put it in there so it won’t gush out when the cap is off. It came out smelling good and looking so good in that bottle I’m thinking of making some for my brothers as gifts.

57 Alex June 5, 2010 at 5:52 pm

Made some Bay Rum scent a few years back using food grade cloves and bey leaves. Added a bit of the following: lemon, vanilla and orange extracts, a touch of sandalwood, cinnamon and patchouli oils and extracted in a matrix spiced rum.

Strangely enough it smelled sort of like Burt’s Bees Bay Rum. Not bad at all. Gotten a lot of compliments. It lasts a long time & a little goes a loooong way… and it better had, since I have not the foggiest idea how to make more.

58 Mike June 11, 2010 at 7:37 pm

Is the magnesia in the second recipe necessary? I can’t find it anywhere.

59 Richard Rivers June 30, 2010 at 4:10 pm

For the first recipe, you specifically state not to use the sweet bay leaf sold for cooking, because it calls for Pimenta leaf, which is a different plant. That’s all well and good.

However, the second recipe actually DOES call for the sweet bay leaf sold for cooking. That’s what “bay laurel” is. You could have pointed this out.

Also, in response to a few comments, while replacing the vodka with isopropyl alcohol is fine, nevertheless:

a) omitting the rum takes away one of the most important parts of the fragrance, and

b) to reiterate what Milt already said, absolutely DO NOT use denatured alcohol of any sort in aftershave, or for that matter in anything you intend to apply to your face. Not all denatured alcohol is denatured with methanol, but the other denaturing agents (like denatonium benzoate) are still not something you want lingering on your face, even if they won’t make you go blind.

Also never use an alcohol that claims to be over 191.2 proof. The only way to achieve an alcohol potency higher than this is by adding a bunch of chemicals you don’t want on your face. Everclear (or generic “grain alcohol” — NOT “wood alcohol”) is the highest proof alcohol that can physically be distilled, more or less. It’s nominally 190 proof, or 95% ethanol by volume. 95.6% is the highest which distillation can produce.

60 DanH. August 6, 2010 at 2:06 pm

I was told about Bay Rum years ago by my mother she said it smelled really good, knowing I’m afan of good smelling colone she thought I might be interested. One day I smelled what Bay Rum is and became hooked, now thanks to this I will try to make my own as far as being all natural and smelling good if a woman loves it enough maybe she will become submissive to you, HA HA….Never know! Thanks Guys.

61 DanH. August 6, 2010 at 2:08 pm

I was told about Bay Rum years ago by my mother she said it smelled really good, knowing I’m a fan of good smelling colone she thought I might be interested. One day I smelled what Bay Rum is and became hooked, now thanks to this I will try to make my own as far as being all natural and smelling good if a woman loves it enough maybe she will become submissive to you, HA HA….Never know! Thanks Guys.

62 Dave W. October 2, 2012 at 11:04 pm

had to comment. substituting isopropanol for ethanol (alcohol) is a bad idea. not only does it have a strange smell, but unlike ethanol, it is NOT safe if you accidentally get some in your eyes.

63 Jeremiah Johnston October 15, 2012 at 7:25 am
64 kiran October 16, 2012 at 1:34 pm

for that second recipe, it just says 24 oz alcohol….can i still use vodka??

65 Conner October 18, 2012 at 9:36 pm

In the second recipe, what is pulverized magnesia? I read somewhere that its talc, is that true?
Is there something I can use to sub for it if it is hard to find?

66 Meagan October 31, 2012 at 11:40 pm

What is the shelf life for something like this?

67 Meagan October 31, 2012 at 11:42 pm

Also Instead of Vitamin e oil can I use coconut oil?

68 Gary Klein January 9, 2013 at 12:08 pm

I would think using a sandlewood essential oil instead of the oil of bay laurel would create a nice result

69 Steve January 9, 2013 at 2:00 pm

If you want to find a good bay rum with a traditional scent, look into Ogalalla Bay Rum. They have aftershave, deoderant, shave soap, etc..
They’re worth the look.

70 Kerry Maxwell January 27, 2013 at 10:21 pm

Been pondering making my own Bay Rum for some time, so picked up a bottle of Humco for reference. Richard Rivers above cautions against denatonium (bitrex), which this contains as a denaturant, but I can find nothing that indicates a health risk. It did get me thinking about incorporating gentian root or bitters into any home recipe I arrive at. In a addition to ginger, some of the more off-the-wall ideas I have are for celery root, kelp , dried shiitakes and Lapsang Souchong. Probably not all at once.

71 Corry Geale March 8, 2013 at 3:48 am

I came across Bay Rum when it was recommended by the cat breeder for my (quite hairless) Devon Rex cat – so it is harmless, and smells wonderful. I now want to make Bay Rum soap – I’ll be hunting for the essential oil in Brisbane, Australia.
Great fun and some science lessons in the comments above. Love it.

72 Joseph March 8, 2013 at 4:27 pm

After commenting to Burt’s Bees that they were nuts for discontinuing their Bay Rum products, I took matters into my own hands.
I am researching various recipes and approaches and have started my first batches. First of all gents, it is virtually impossible to find the fresh or dried leaf. None of the natural foods stores or herbalists around my area have them…or have even heard of pimenta racemosa. I’ve tried contacting natural foods stores and herbalists in Florida thinking that the trees actually grow there but nobody seems to have any idea of how to get the leaves- although nurseries sell small trees at reasonable cost…if you’re ever driving around down there and want to pick one up- they are available. Maybe you want to start a farm to supply all this pent-up demand? (they won’t grow anywhere north of southern Florida- Southern California though).

The bay laurel leaf sold for cooking, to my mind, just does not smell right for this application. The word “bay” is the only similarity as far as I can tell. Maybe because I use it in soups and cooking; it just smells like “where’s the chicken?!” So that’s out for me.

I did find one online source for the leaves but $22.50 for 30 leaves (PLUS shipping) is just a bit crazy for something that’s legal. Also, although they say “30 leaves, they also call it 20 tea bags in the same description. So go figure. Link below.
(Thummim Farms)

Anyway, unless you’re in the Dominican Republic, Jamaica or at least Florida, and have a tree field guide and some time to explore, you ain’t gonna get leaves. So next on the list for me is Aura Cacia Bay Oil (pimenta racemosa). Pretty affordable. Check amazon. Also, if yo ugo into a whole foods store/coop, they often have a little display rack of tiny bottles of essential oil from this (and other ) companies. The big benefit is obviously that you can crack them open and smell them. Some possibilities on my list for various blends are (aside from bay oil):
Cedar Oil (yes!)
Sandalwood (pricey)
Frankincense (nice…PRICEY!)
Clary Oil
Balsam Fir Needle Oil
Clove Oil

Plus: Grated Ginger, Juniper Berries, whole cinnamon, whole allspice…

good enough to eat!

Everclear (about 190 proof alcohol) is available in liquor stores in some states. I know in Rhode Island it is just sold off the shelf. In Vermont it is semi-legal. As long as you claim you are not using it to drink, and fill out a form stating this, you can purchase for around $11/liter I think.

Recipes call for varying proportions of alcohol/rum/water. Or just alcohol:water if you’re dealing with other fragrances. Seems you want a good base of alcohol for blending the oils and then thin it back with distilled water. Adding a few drops of glycerine is supposed to “fix” the essence and preserve the shelf life.

Disappointing that there’s really no leaf available but there are several manufacturer’s of bay oil out there so don’t despair

I’m also going to try to replicate the “lotion” quality of Burt’s Bees Aftershave Balm. I’ll report back after I’ve made some progress..

73 Gilbert Henry March 24, 2013 at 9:13 pm

Essential oils are definitely the preferred ingredient for a consistent (natural) product. Otherwise, there is no way to know exactly how much of each ingredient is making its way into the finished product.

74 Lisa March 31, 2013 at 1:20 am

Oils, such as essential oils, coconut oil, even cooking oils, can oxidize or go rancid when exposed to air, light, heat, metal ions, and enzymes called lipoxygenases.
Vitamin E acts as an antioxidant, which will keep the oils in your aftershave from going bad and help extend shelf-life. Check out the .pdf on Lipid Oxidation from Ohio State’s Food Science department for more info.

75 jayne April 5, 2013 at 7:24 am

Just ordered my 30 leaves from Thummim Farms down in Barbados. Should take about one month to arrive here in the north. Had to try the real thing before going the essential oil route. Was told by the owner (manager?) that adding glycerine would “fix” the sc ent. Loss of scent is an issue with soap, so I do not doubt what he says. The cost was $28.50 with shipping included. Also was advised to add the essential oil at the end of the process to adjust the scent to my liking. Both glycerine and essental oil can be purchased readily through or Very excited for product to arrive. Regarding the addition of tobacco, this, too, can be purchased as a fragrance oil or maybe even a n essential oil. Try

76 Kelly April 14, 2013 at 8:24 pm

I sell bay leaves. And bay essential oil at super affordable prices. How’ 4 oz of bay leaves for $4.50 sound. :) The real deal and this is not a scam. I am a soap maker and I sell supplies to soapers. Email to riverhousebotanicals we can do paypal. My soap page on facebook is Riverhouse Bath and Body.

77 HOWARD STEEL May 10, 2013 at 10:28 am


78 Lawrence Wright June 4, 2013 at 6:40 pm

How could you call your recipe “Bay Rum” if you don’t use those 2 important ingredients.although I’m sure there are a lot of combinations for after shave recipes that will smell great. Rum has a unique flavor and odor of its own. Try this test at a bar or party some. Get 4 people to help you. Have one person drink slowly a shot of rum, one person a shot of whiskey, one person a shot of vodka, and one person a swig of beer. (Now this is before theyve had any drinks) then smell there will be able to tell the difference I obtained my first bottle of Bay Rum in the early 70′s, and have always wanted more. It was in a short brown bottle, shaped like a rum barrel. I do not remember the brand. But now I’m going to making some.

79 Evan July 1, 2013 at 8:38 pm

Made the recipe with puerto rican rum. Researched the difference between jamaican and puerto rican rum. Is using “light” rum still acceptable?

80 Don July 7, 2013 at 6:16 am

I have always liked Old Spice. Dad wore it and I inherited his taste. Now he had the Burley, the Lime, the Musk scented varieties and I believe a Leather as well.
Now with that being said, the question is Could I use Old Spice as a base for my Bay Rum Recipe? I am definitely going to experiment and give it a go.

81 Dave July 14, 2013 at 6:17 pm

From the internet, magnesium seems to function like an anti bacterial astringent. For an aftershave drying and protecting nics from infection…dirty razor, face, razor bacteria, perhaps. Speculation, however. Appears non-pink Milk of Magnesia might work. I’ll open a few Cal-Mag vitamin caps and dump powder in, to experiment.

82 Don July 30, 2013 at 6:24 pm

I have always liked Old Spice. Could I add Old Spice to this recipe and get I would say Old Spice Bay Rum?

83 Annel September 25, 2013 at 1:50 pm

I found pimenta racemosa on for $10.99 the description says “Each bag is approximately 30 grams, which equates to over 50 leaves per bags.” It seems like a good deal. I’m ordering!

84 Gene September 26, 2013 at 11:36 am

This old pharmacist says that one dram is not 1/16 of an ounce. 8 drams = one ounce. Hence it is .125 of an ounce or 1/8th of an ounce.
20 grains = one scruple
3 scruple = one dram
8 drams = one fl. ounce

85 petelk October 21, 2013 at 1:00 pm

I tried the first receipy. It smelt great at the start, then after about 2 weeks it just turned in to cinnamon.

Trying again with hardly any cinnamon

86 Jefcephus November 27, 2013 at 8:42 am

Anybody try just rum and bay leaves?

87 palemazy December 11, 2013 at 5:58 am

I can’t find the leaves, can i substitute the oil for the leaves and if so do you know how many drops? Thanks

88 erthangl December 19, 2013 at 9:09 am

Do you HAVE to use pulverized magnesia?

89 Stephen December 23, 2013 at 3:57 pm

It appears that denatured alcohol has many additional chemicals added that may not be a good choice for your aftershave. However, after researching on the web, it appears that Everclear 190 proof grain alcohol would be the solution.

90 SuM February 3, 2014 at 8:41 pm

Any reports back on the magnesia? Either sources or substitutes? I bought a 5″ plant which, if it dies will provide the leaves and if it happens to live (indoors), it will still provide the leaves.

91 Max February 16, 2014 at 11:34 pm

I’m considering making the bay rum no. 3. Multiple conversion websites are showing that a dram is actually 1/8 oz. this probably makes a huge difference in the final product.

92 Jamie March 4, 2014 at 6:41 am

I would like to use bay essential oil (pimenta racemosa) and glycerin to the mix. How much would you use?

93 Carlos March 4, 2014 at 9:17 am

The 2:3 ratio of alcohol to water in the No. 3 recipe just happens to be the same proportions as 80 proof vodka. By all means go with the cheap stuff, or whatever old bottle you might have sitting around. I’ve been using vodka & distilled water for years to dilute other “too-strong-smelling” colognes and aftershaves.

94 Carlito April 8, 2014 at 10:48 am

I found some bay rum soap on I’ve been looking for ORIGINAL bay rum cologne though, any advice??

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