The stick looks just like it does in the photos on line, one of which is displayed at right. The packaging is exclusively a foil-paper wrapper, enclosing a short candle-like stub of shave soap, which I carefully unfolded at the ends and separated the mild adhesive along where the long edges of the wrapper were glued together. This will allow me to use the stick sans paper, and then when dry, wrap it back in its paper wrapper and secure with a thin rubber band -- ready for packing if I choose it when I'm traveling.
The first thing that I wanted to experience was the fragrance, which some like and some clearly don't. Some say it smells like soap, and others claim it imitates the aroma of a urinal cake.
As you may know, I make my own shave soap, which is currently formulated for sensitive, dry skin (as mine is) and a fairly challenging beard (as mine also is), so it has no added fragrance whatsoever to avoid possible irritation from those additives. As a result, I can assure you that plain, natural soap without added fragrance has hardly any scent at all. All commercial soap, unless unscented, has added fragrance, which is what gives the various brands their different characteristic bouquets.
Arko is scented to smell like a common, traditional bath soap. I found it not the least bit offensive, perhaps because I wasn't used to using a shave soap that smells like a spice rack or an expensive mens' cologne, and, from reading various reviews of the Arko brand, my expectations were therefore appropriate.
For this maiden shave, I used my Frankenrazor, with the Lord-brand blade that is not my favorite -- but which is adequate in this particular razor. On this day, I chose to use the Arko stick as it is intended, which is to rub the soft soap directly on one's wet beard, and then use a shaving brush to face lather. In a subsequent shave, I'll try the uber-minimalist traveler's option of making lather with my damp fingers rather than a brush.
Because I'm a frugal shaver, I tend to dislike the idea of daily use of a shave stick; I generally reject the idea of washing perfectly good lather down the drain, and tend to squeeze clean, unused lather out of my brush and back into my puck container, where I set it to drain and dry for the next day's use. But if traveling, the shave stick seems like a reasonable compromise of packing less gear at the price of having no puck container to hold previously-made lather as it dries overnight. If I were to use at home a shave soap packaged as a shave stick, I would be inclined to press it into a lathering bowl and use it as one uses a normal puck of shaving soap.
So I gave it a go -- a minimalist shave as has been my habit lately -- to really evaluate the capability of the Arko without any warm water or added pre- or post-shave-product assistance.