Barnaby Black, Into the Woods

 jars of dried herbs

Wild, woodsy, rugged, yet refined — all of these form the signature of Barnaby Black, a mythical, mysterious man’s man whose strength equals his sophistication.

These sequences of alliteration are the ultimate personification of a local brand whose unusual soaps, toiletries, candles and bath products are already on the path to meteoric success. A collection of handcrafted, small-batch, limited-quantity artisan skin-care and specialized products, creator Mathew Sabatino takes to the woods of his native Long Island to forage the old fashioned way for inspiration and ingredients alike.

“I grew up in the woods, hiking, and my whole family was made up of nature people,” says Sabatino. “I started making my own products from scratch when I was young, using things grown in the garden. I moved on to collecting pine sap and other natural ingredients that I knew were good for you and all natural and started experimenting.”

This adventurous approach has definitely paid off; his products are flying off the shelves. Consumers are falling fast for Barnaby Black’s fragrant candles, one of which is made with heirloom tomatoes, and eco-friendly outdoorsmen are snapping up low-sudsing, fully biodegradable cedar and lavender camp soaps. For more nautically inclined gentlemen, seaweeds from the Great South Bay are incorporated into his sea salt soap, bringing the scents of summer home, and the hard and liquid soaps are perennial sellers, namely, the black bar, whose startling hue emerges from a charcoal powder base “great for the skin.”

Mathew Sabatino making soap in a laboratory

Most popular is his Bergamot Tobacco scent, featuring a core derived from orange oil layered intricately with the grassy smokiness of vetiver grass for a profile that is clean, yet masculine and complex. And although not technically edible, Barnaby Black’s products are classified by Sabatino as “flavors,” influenced by his love of cooking, apparent in his liberal use of mint, rosemary, fennel, lemongrass, sage and other tantalizing kitchen scents. The inspiration and artistry come into play when Sabatino pairs “things that smell great” with “things that are a little weird.” Wryly, he admits that “some things fail big time”…but these experiments are all a part of the process.

Like any good chef, Sabatino’s current products are often seasonally influenced because they are gathered directly from the wild.

“We use a ton of spruce, pine and cedar pitch sap and oil. Hops, oakmoss, juniper, staghorn sumac,” — also known as the “lemonade tree” for its tea-brewing capabilities — “and bayberry are some of the other things we use a lot of as well,” he says.

Recently, he spent two hours a day outside of his workshop in the historical Bluepoints Company in West Sayville — formerly an oyster and shellfish company’s key facility — literally sniffing out ingredients such as black walnuts and goldenrod.

“I take things that you’ve probably smelled a million times, along the roads, in the pine barrens and in upstate New York, where I own some land, and design my flavors from these familiar experiences,” says Sabatino, bringing his strong olfactory memories into the creation process. Passionate about local history and deeply connected to the small towns he’d grown up in, he relives his childhood in the gardens and woods of the island with every new scent.

In another homage to his hometown, he also aspires to teach the community about the wealth our woods shelter, from indigenous plants and herbs to invasive greenery like common European mugwort, whose uses can be adapted for good. A new blog, sharing the many benefits of ingredients used in Barnaby Black products, and full disclosure and transparency with FDA-accepted labeling practices, help to educate consumers on usable greenery. Also of note is the company’s stance on environmentally conscious manufacturing; many products are minimally packaged or elegantly housed in glass vessels. Shipping materials are also diligently recycled, and repurposing occurs whenever possible, making Barnaby Black a poignant, thoughtful way for us to give one another a little piece of the island while at the same time, giving back to it.

Buy Barnaby Black at Sayville General Store; Urban Outfitters, online and in stores.