We always rave about Castle Forbes, and for a good reason! We managed to pin down the man behind it all, Andrew French, for an exclusive interview so you can find out more about what makes it so special.
Q. What made you start the Castle Forbes brand?
A. Before starting Castle Forbes we ran a small Fragrance Creation and Filling House supporting niche and inhouse brands for 12 years but we became frustrated wanting to be able to work with fine pure quality Essential Oils, and our clients, at the time, considered it to be unnecessary (all bar one very special company in Leamington Spa). In 1996 we founded the company, working with our friends Lord and Lady Forbes at Castle Forbes. This allowed us the opportunity to use the finest quality materials and the creative freedom to produce excellence in our products showcasing British refinement. Scotland has an enviable reputation of upholding high standards of distinction in Cashmere, Tweeds, Food and Whisky for which we have great admiration and affinity.
Q. How long has Castle Forbes been producing shaving creams and balms?
A. In 1996 Jinny and Malcolm converted the former dairy into ‘The World’s Smallest Perfumery’ and we began with alcoholic scents and perfumery along with Pot Pourri gathered from the estate. The Perfumery has recently been used as a film set.
Q. Is it true you are a perfumer by profession?
A. I believe I would be called a Fragrance Creator nowadays. I didn’t formally train as a perfumer but my career has been entirely in fragrance and fragrance houses, I worked with, and shared our lab facilities with our own inhouse perfumer so, I believe my training was more by long term osmosis. Our Eau de Parfum and Special Reserve scents use as many Essential Oils as possible and are made through passion not fashion.
Q. Why do you use essential oils in your products?
A. Supplying fragrance compounds for skincare served to scent our client’s lotions but without bringing any physical benefit. At the same time, I was treating my own shaving irritation with tinctures of pure Essential Oils with remarkable success. It was my naiveté that caused the long 4 year development period, as it was an immensely difficult task to stabilise pure oils in our bases. We didn’t want off the shelf bases, we wanted to create what we considered to be the best while incorporating sufficient oil to be soothing rather than just providing a scent.
Q. Do Castle Forbes shaving creams and aftershave balms contain artificial colourants, sulphates, alcohol and parebens?
A. From the outset our skincare was colour, fragrance and sulphate free with no animal products or testing. We became paraben-free early on when the scales tipped in that direction. Alcohol free was important to us from inception as we began as very much a Solution-Based brand for problem shavers, like myself who often had to shave twice a day resulting in skin irritation and problems. Actually, our Balm is water-based as opposed to strictly Alcohol-Free as the soothing Witch Hazel element has trace amounts of alcohol present from the distillation process. We keep a watchful eye on our products and materials. We switched our cartons from rigid to lighter gauge board many years ago and similarly, we swapped our glass jars and bottles for the skincare to PET, the transportation weight and energy required for recycling being our driver and black PET is nowadays made with non-carbon black so can be identified for recycling. Using fully recyclable, natural and sustainable materials may be ‘on trend’ now but we did it out of conviction, it has always been our ethos. We have re-used every bit of packaging material and void fill delivered to us for our own deliveries from day 1.
Q. Is it true that climate change / harvest failures have affected supplies of lavender to you?
A. Annual weather changes always affect the precise balance, composition and fragrance of Essential Oil crops, climate change and harvest failures have emphasised this. Castle Forbes has never intended to take every shaver as its customer, mass brands fulfil this role and for this they need to have identical products for every production. Using our Essential Oil based products can be immensely frustrating, not just for us but for Executive and your customers because we are dependent on nature and timing, which can cause added product delays. Unless every batch is perfect it will not leave our factory.
Q. What makes Castle Forbes products different from say Geo F Trumper, Taylor of Old Bond Street and others? Do you have any plans to expand the Castle Forbes product range?
A. We will only produce new products that we are entirely and completely happy with so our product development process is rigorous and very time consuming. We are currently putting together a box for our scent collection with 2ml vials to enable people to try when buying online. We have been trying to perfect a Sandalwood Fragrance for our Special Reserve Eau de Parfum range but have not yet had our Eureka moment. Our philosophy has been to remain strong in our own beliefs and standards. For this reason, we are looking at bringing back our 1445 hand soap, a popular product that we made in the early days but discontinued due to the rise in popularity of liquid soaps and accompanying added packaging components.
Q. Do you have a message to our customers who are already committed buyers of Castle Forbes products?
A. Our message to existing committed Castle Forbes’s buyers remains the same today as it has always been: Thank you for your immense loyalty and input. As a small family-owned brand trying to address issues with shaving, our customers have been the greatest contributors and helpers to our products. We received so much common-sense as well as professional input from our users it really helped us during the development stages.
Q. Do you have a message to our customers who have never bought any Castle Forbes products?
A. To potential customers who have not yet tried Castle Forbes our message would be; We strive to make efficacious, thoughtful products where quality isn’t limited by-product manufacturing costs. Our quality brings value, as on average, our shaving products last approx 6 months. We aim to help you to enjoy a sense of pleasure and satisfaction with a comfortable Castle Forbes shave.
Shop our full Castle Forbes range here.
Interview conducted by Brian Mulreany
30th March 2021