It was a typically British day when we popped along to see the men of Apothecary 87. Grey, windy and of course it wouldn’t be the Britain unless it was absolutely chucking it down non-stop, all day.
The growth of the brand is spearheaded by the emphatically cool and down to earth chief, Sam Martin. Driving the business from Doncaster start-up to a global brand in 5 years, Sam has been the underdog in the ring, competing in the early day with global brands while still operating as a small business, taking small jabs at the market. Now Apothecary 87 have the opposite challenge; they operate as the box office hit, and in a market saturated with small batch artisan products driven by consumer demand, the real headache comes from showing consumers that Apothecary 87 aren’t just a global brand but still have that raw start-up passion that delivers knockout products.
Nestled in the unassuming grounds of an old NHS estate, it’s easy to miss the shop and barbers tucked away in a cul-de-sac. The only hint of the grooming brilliance within is the monochrome Apothecary 87 sign adorned to the red brick. It’s almost speakeasy-esque – you only know if you know but when you do then you’re in for a treat; exposed brick, wood panelling and chesterfields to suit. This is the heart of the operation.
When we first met A87 back in 2014 the brand was a mere sparkle in it’s father’s eye compared to the man that it is today and it’s critical to point out, Apothecary 87 aren’t just beards. The range now integrates beard, shaving, hair, clothing, some unique oddities and having caught a glimpse of what’s to come, they’re going to dip their toes into more – exciting times to come. There’s passion in Sam’s voice, he knows the market, he know’s the products and attention to detail across the brand is in every corner, this is a premium brand that’s rejected the high-street market on more than one occasion to ensure they stay true to their roots and true to the customers.
“Intelligence is a very valuable thing, innit, my friend?”
That prohibition era is very on-trend right now courtesy of or should we say by order of the Peaky Blinders. However that influence was running through Apothecary 87 before it caught the mainstream attention, their branding stands out but there’s product to back it up, they’re an intelligent brand to in the words of Alfie Solomons “Intelligence is a very valuable thing, innit, my friend? “. Sam reminisced about a trip to Italy to one of Europe’s biggest cosmetic shows, the whole team piled into a van and drove across the Continent to attend the show, sofas and all. The show was wall-to-wall white monochrome stands with brands epitomising minimalist trend. A87 on the other hand had the chesterfields, a wallpapered stand and of course, whiskey. They stole the show with crowds busting to get a glimpse of what was going on, it was no surprise that a year later brands had followed suit.
Sam and the team put out product that goes through rigorous testing, not just from a safety perspective but to ensure it’s exactly right, almost the antithesis of prohibition but given that cosmetic and grooming goods aren’t illegal there’s no need to smuggle illicit products via hollow walking canes.
We’ve used most of the Apothecary 87 range, the original blend beard oil, the vanilla and mango oil and their moustache wax. Since our last catch-up the range has grown, it now includes a maple smoked “Muskoka” beard balm. Muskoka, located in central Ontario, is famous for producing sweet maple syrup and worked to combine that infamous sweet maple with a manly smokiness to deliver an amazing balm. It hits you with the smokiness but pulls through with sweet undertones and does a fantastic job of not being oily, greasy or tacky – a light hold but conditioning balm.
Working hand-in-hand with their barbering shop, A87 have used the barbering experts to create a range of hair products to finish off that fresh trim. We tried out the matte paste, a soft a light paste but it gives a medium hold that is still re-workable. The one downside, the smell, it smells amazing and it takes all that manly strength to not take a scoop and pop it in your mouth. Vanilla combined with the sweetness of marshmallow – honestly it smells epic.
If you’re local to South Yorkshire and want that A87 experience then book yourself into the Doncaster based barbers. They’re so convinced you’l love it that your first trim is on them – get online and book in using the code “FIRSTFREE”.