Lead Writer: Jason Little, with Chelsey Laney
About the Graphic: “Never assume that anyone will have the same sense of humor that you do!” – John Manzione 10/7/12 –
As Jon Locke was hard at work on a graphic to illustrate this review he told all of us that there wasn’t a “tag line” for Highbrow Vapor. Our ever-brilliant Julia, in a nano-second, yelled out “The Hoity-Toity eJuice Company”. After we all regained our composure, (we laughed for 10 minutes straight) we decided to go ahead with it, because, hell, it’s brilliant. We tease of course, and mean no disrespect. Hopefully Highbrow Vapor will see this as an obvious attempt at humor. Then again, when you have to explain the joke it kinda loses the funny. Oh well – Jason Little 10/8/12.
This review covers seven (7) flavors from Highbrow Vapor, supplied in 10ML bottles. Not enough to allow the usual number of 5 team members, but certainly enough for two. Chelsey and I were chosen to do this review because of our preferences to the type of flavors that were sent from Highbrow.
The flavors we reviewed were:
Orange de Sangre
(All eLiquids in this review are 80/20 PG/VG & 12mg nicotine, Highbrow’s standard blend.)
Points of Interest
There are a couple of unique features of Highbrow Vapor that are (somewhat) different than we’ve seen from other eLiquid brands. For instance, Highbrow offers only two (2) sizes, 10ML and 30ML.
10ML eLiquids are $7.50, but for $15 you can jump to 30ML, making the 30ML the much preferred size to order once you know what you like. (If you enter HIGHBROW” in the coupon code area you will receive 10% off your order, bringing that expensive 10ML price down a bit. The 30ML price is already a great price structure)
Highbrow Vapor also creates its own extracts for many of the flavors they create. This means that you won’t find any artificial flavorings in their eJuice. Using natural flavorings can prevent the sometimes seen ‘base’ flavor or ‘signature’ flavor we’ve found in some brands. The absence of a base ‘taste’ allows the true flavoring to shine through. Most top-shelf eLiquid companies have gone to natural flavors but few, if any, do what Highbrow has done, creating their own extracts.
Each eLiquid we reviewed were:
- Made with 100% natural flavors, 0% artificial flavors.
- 99.9% pharmaceutical grade nicotine.
- 100% USP Kosher food grade PG/VG.
- Contain No dilution unless requested.
- Come with childproof caps and warning label.
- And were manufactured in the USA with products made in the USA.
The “standard” mix for each flavor is 80% PG and 20% VG. Highbrow Vapor suggests an 80/20 PG/VG mix but they encourage “experimentation”. You can choose the blend you want, and the amount of flavoring you desire. You begin with choosing between three (3) choices for the PG/VG mix; all PG, all VG, or the 80/20. On the order page is a text box for customization, 60/40, 70/30, etc., as well as requesting an extra shot or two of flavoring. Nicotine levels are; 0, 6, 12, 18, 24, and 36mg. (we, Spinfuel, strongly advise staying away from 36mg nicotine levels unless you have permission from your doctor, or if you’re trying to kick a 3-pack a day analog habit. Seriously, 36mg is a lot of nicotine.)
Initial Impressions of Highbrow Vapor – The Company
The very name “Highbrow” suggests a snotty, snobby nature of the company (I mean, come on, right?), so when the eLiquids arrived I expected to see some really fancy packaging, despite the 10ML size. Instead, the 10ML bottles were the everyday 10ML plastic bottles you see everywhere in the ejuice business, and the labels were simple wraparound paper printed on an inkjet printer. The logo, a man in a top hat, was fuzzy and pixelated. I admit I was a bit surprised. Then Julia stepped in and told me that these were ‘sampler’ bottles.
I have not seen a 30ML bottle so I cannot say that they upped their game in packaging for the larger size or simply upped the size of the plastic bottle. Now, this isn’t a criticism, at this point in the review prep I was trying to figure out why they decided to call the company “Highbrow”. Highbrow connotes an upper class society; people who buy Highbrow eLiquids do not stay in steerage when cruising on the ocean in the Titanic.
The Highbrow website (highbrowvapor.com) is packed full of information about the products and the company and the design is well thought out and accessible. Feel free to explore all you want, but don’t miss the “About Us” page. This is where you’ll find out how this family-owned and operated business is run more like a winery than a mom & pop eLiquid company. This page alone will make you want to buy your eLiquids from Highbrow, especially the information on where their eLiquids are made and stored. It does make you wonder if they might have a small line of wine as a side business. And now I am beginning to understand the “Highbrow” name.
While I was not impressed with the packaging I think it’s fair to say that when buying eLiquids the important part is the juice itself anyway. Nice packaging is a great thing, but even the coolest, most expensive packaging cannot hide bad juice. On the other hand, even the best ejuice can lose something if it’s packaged in, say; old prescription bottles and identified with a magic marker. Okay, enough about packaging!
Does natural flavoring enhance the vaping experience? Does the standard 80/20-mix work best, and can this family-owned business create good juice? These are the important questions, and while most, if not all, of these questions can be answered in a review, the relatively small number of flavors and small amounts of each do place certain limits on what we can definitively say about Highbrow Vapor. Highbrow currently offers more than 45 flavors. We are reviewing about a 1/8 of their line, so it’s worth keeping that in mind. We can review the individual flavors, but we cannot say that you can expect the same quality, or lack thereof, from the majority of the line.
Chelsey and I spent a total of 80 hours vaping Highbrow Vapor. We used a variety of hardware, from Variable Voltage to mini-eCigs and cartomizers. We wanted to see how much, if any, the flavors would change when using a cartomizer filled with polyfill stuffing, (Halo G6 burn-resistance cartos); Clearomizers CE2’s and CE4+ (wicks), as well as 3ML tanks filled half way. We even vaped with Totally Wicked Triple Coil 510 Cartomizers on an Apollo VTube and a Lambo 4 from MyVaporStore. We think we covered most of the ways you might vape these eLiquids, if not, let us know in the comments below.
Characteristics of the eJuice
Naturally, an 80/20 mix is going to produce a thin eLiquid. I prefer thin juices for those times when I simply want to use the needle bottle to fill a cartomizer and be done with it. Especially Apollo eCigs cartomizers and Totally Wicked cartomizers. Both brands, in our opinion, are far superior to Boge and absorb the liquid much faster and saturate the material much faster. That means a lot when you are confronted by a heavy VG-based eLiquid.
A Word about Aroma
The Aromas of every flavor from we received from Highbrow were marvelous. Because of the natural flavorings each flavor has a bouquet of its own and none of them were chemical or artificial. Admit it, you know an ejuice that smells good is more appetizing than one that smells of glycerin. Most of the time it means a better vaping experience as well. Sadly, some eLiquid makers don’t think about this very important part of the whole experience.
We employed the standard 1 through 5 star rating system we’ve used in every eLiquid review. 1 is the lowest score and it means the eLiquid is unvapable. A rating of 5 means we love everything about it. Any number in-between 1 and 5 speak for themselves but are always accompanied by our thoughts on the flavor. You won’t have a hard time figuring out where we stand on each one.
Customer or “Home” Steeping
Highbrow Vapor will need a little Customer/Home Steeping to fully realize the eLiquids flavor. We don’t know why this is, but the eLiquids we received from Highbrow took longer to “home steep” than any other we’ve ever reviewed.
“Home steeping is when you open the bottle of juice and allow the juice to breathe. The way we do it here, for reviews, is that we open the bottle, fill our tanks, cartos, Clearomizers, etc., and store them overnight in a cool, dry place, usually the stockroom. “
Most eJuice blends require some time for all the ingredients to merge or ‘marry’ into one. Sometimes it can take a few hours and sometimes it can take much longer.
Julia (Barnes) and I are notorious for “cheating” when it comes to trying out ejuice early when they come in for review. We will often take half a milliliter and insert it into a clearomizer and vape it straight away. On rare occasions this works out okay, but the majority of times we find out that the juice needs further steeping.
For instance, the Crème Brule flavor was the one I chose to vape immediately because I had high hopes for it. I’m glad I cheated because there was almost no flavor whatsoever when I took it straight from the bottle and inserted it into a CE2.
Experiencing this total lack of flavor caused me to grab a pack of CE2’s from the stockroom and “lift” half a milliliter from the remaining six, without telling Chelsey. After trying out each flavor I came to the conclusion that each of them needed to steep for 24 hours at least, rather than just overnight. So, without transferring them to their final resting place (cartos, clearos, tanks) I screwed the caps back on, shook them up vigorously and let them sit overnight. Then, the next morning I filled what I was going to use, Chelsey filled hers, and then we put them back in the stockroom again until that evening, allowing another 12 hours to pass. That did the trick.
The difference this additional home steeping made was almost miraculous. During my initial vaping with the “new” juices I was worried that this review was going to score very low. After the steeping each of the flavors came alive like I’d never seen before. They improved dramatically. My suggestion is that if you do order from them, and you should, it would be a good idea to allow extra home steeping to bring out the entire flavor these eLiquids have to offer.