Ambroley only offers one shaving brush through its website, but that brush has clearly been marketed to within an inch of its life. The company is clearly putting all of its shaving brush eggs into one basket with the Ambroley best badger men’s shaving brush, and what they’ve come up with is a mixed blessing for somewhat experienced wet-shavers looking to step up from their entry-level pure badger brushes.
The first thing you’re likely to notice about the Ambroley brush is that it seems to have been designed by committee. The wood (teak?) handle is beautifully carved and capped underneath with a gleaming silver-colored pedestal, but there’s no retaining ring on the other end and the knot just disappears into a large gap in the front that leaves several millimeters of wide-open space between the edge and the loft. The stark black packaging was clearly designed by a gentleman of the old school, but opening the lightweight and, frankly, insubstantial container leaves you with an undistinguished paper-and-cardboard box that’s only fit for throwing out.
The odd combination of high-class and bargain-bin aesthetics doesn’t stop with the box this brush comes in. Amberly has designed this brush with a 1.75-inch handle that’s just a little too long for a comfortable fit in the palm, but just a shade shorter than the heftier 2-inch models that really grind up the flakes in your shaving bowl. With a slight change of grip, it’s pretty easy to get used to the compromised length, but it can take some getting used to if your experience has been with 1.5- or 2-inch brushes.
Apart from its intermediate length, the Ambroley best badger men’s shaving brush’s handle is a work of art. The wooden shaft bows out to the sides as if it was crafted from a miniature rain barrel. The metallic base shines like chrome on a muscle car, and a slightly stepped gradient cinches in the joint between the two with a wasp-waisted effect that makes hanging this brush on a stand as easy as slipping a wineglass onto an overhead rack. The handle’s walls are a bit thick, so it has more heft than a plastic or horn handle, which just feels natural for such a stout design.
The loft on this brush extends forward from the handle for a good, comfortable 2 inches. It’s hard to tell how deeply set the bristles are in the handle because the tight knot does funny things to the loft’s backbone, but the bristles definitely have enough bend in them to lay on a thick head of cream without multiple passes or pinching the base to squeeze a bit more out of the hairs. The bristles splay out near the top into a broad dome that is clearly intended for covering a lot of face in very little time. In keeping with the slightly too-long-to-palm handle, detail work is challenging with such a rounded tip.
Ambroley has chosen to bind this brush very tightly with a narrow 19.5mm knot. It’s just possible that this was done to stiffen the backbone and recreate the feel of the pure badger brush you were probably using before getting this one, or it might have been a deliberate choice to get a bigger top with less material. Whatever the reason, the Ambroley best badger men’s shaving brush keeps things really narrow near the base of the loft, but lets the whole knot open up as it goes until the top of the loft is wider than the handle below it. This configuration certainly has advantages; it gives you all the space in the world for whipping and retaining cream, and a single pass should cover your cheeks and neck with lather.
In choosing an intermediate grade of badger hair, Ambroley’s design team again seems to be hammering out a compromise. “Best” is the company’s in-house name for super- or fine-grade badger hair, which puts it exactly between the high-end silvertip brushes and the much more affordable pure badger hair models that other manufacturers offer. For fans of soft bristles and short break-in periods, Ambroley’s choice of middle-grade badger hair was a good one. Between the long loft, tight knot, and naturally soft bristles, an intermediate hair grade is perfectly appropriate for giving your face a nice, soft sponging.
The best-grade hairs do more than just feel soft – they’re flexible enough to describe really large circles in the bowl and whip up some lather in seconds. They also transfer noticeably more heat and water to your face than a pure-grade brush. Being a bit stiffer than silvertip bristles, they also transfer more of the taken-up cream to your face than a more expensive brush usually does, and shedding is minimal to nonexistent. All of which makes it odd and somewhat disappointing that the brush has been dyed with light tips over a dark band, as if in imitation of a silvertip, which promises very different performance characteristics. Caveat emptor, as it were.
You have your choice of lather with the Ambroley shaving brush. Aerosol works fine if you can stand it, but the quirky compromises inherent to this brush make it a champion soap mixer that’s good for both powder and flakes. Don’t skimp on the stand, though. The open handle front and lack of a metal retaining ring near the knot creates a perfect water trap that will take forever to dry if you’re setting this brush on its pedestal. Get a stand that fits, which is pretty easy for that stepped/fluted base, and hang this brush where there’s sunshine and a draft. If nothing else, a thorough drying between uses will greatly extend the brush’s life.
As befits an intermediate-grade brush, you have two perfectly respectable alternatives to using it. The first is to stick with the somewhat-stiffer pure badger brushes that you probably got started on, and the second is to really take the leap and get yourself a high-end silvertip model, neither of which are offered by Ambroley, unfortunately.