I recently received cigar PTBs from the last run and as far as I can recall they are made from the Italian shell. Upon arrival they suffered from excess polish application but after wiping and buffing with a damp cloth they looked much better. I agree with the "softer and more flexible" description, this shell is moreso than any of my Horween shoes (several Aldens and two AEs). The Meermins do not have the glossy topcoat that Aldens come with, the shell is matte and (to me) more natural looking. I am only two wears in so I can't say how the material will stack up in the long run. But for the price paid I am satisfied so far, enough so that I also jumped in on the cigar LWBs Meermin ran a few weeks ago.