Lick Vapors Interview with Julia
As we like to do with every eliquid brand that appears in Spinfuel for the first time, we like to get to know them, and we want our readers to get to know them. Vaping eLiquids means putting a lot of trust into the people behind the juice, so the more comfortable we are, and you are, the more likely we all are to feel better about ordering from them. Below we present one of the best interviews we’ve done to date. Ashley was very open and forthcoming with the questions we put to her, and I think you’re really going to enjoy it. Don’t forget to read our in-depth Lick Vapors Review – Julia
SPINFUEL: Welcome to Spinfuel. We are really happy to bring your e Liquids to our pages. Would you like to introduce yourselves to our readers?
LICK VAPORS: Ashley – Thank you, we’re honored! I’m Ashley Ciciliano, one of the founders of Lick Brand Vapors. My business partner Cassia was also instrumental in launching the line – she makes the juice!
SPINFUEL: What position(s) do you hold in the company?
LICK VAPORS: Ashley – I have many, many hats at the moment. From marketing to customer service, and even purchasing. My preferred title would certainly be co-founder, however.
SPINFUEL: What inspired you to get into the e-juice business?
LICK VAPORS: Ashley – A couple things, actually. First off, my partner introduced me to some of her flavors, and I was really amazed. Very few juices on the market wow’d me like they did. Second, I had gotten laid-off by my previous employer. So here I was with an open opportunity to help build a brand around this incredible e-juice – I couldn’t say no!
SPINFUEL: Where are you located? What is the local and state level situation there with electronic cigarettes?
LICK VAPORS: Ashley – We’ve just relocated from Long Beach, CA to Vancouver, WA. As I’m sure you’ve heard, Washington has been through quite a bit over the last month! There was a bill proposed that would not only be redefining vaporizers and e-liquids as tobacco products, but tax them unfairly and ban online sales. Luckily, we had an incredible response & got many vapers organized to oppose the bill. It’s been shot down for this year, but there’s talk of taxes being revisited next legislative session.
SPINFUEL: When you launched Lick Vapor how did you decide on your first “set” of flavors? How many flavors did you launch with?
LICK VAPORS: Ashley – Deciding was not easy! Cassia, our mixologist, had stacks of recipes, so we began to really look at what we were vaping most, as well as the juices others were requesting most, and went from there. We were originally going to launch with 10 flavors, but as we began to make little adjustments and perfect the blends, 2 were just not going to cut it. So, 8 flavors it was. We still have 8 today, but have replaced our previous tobacco mix with the current flavor, Carmilla
SPINFUEL: Do you have a “signature” flavor profile? Are you prone to creating fruity flavors, bakery flavors, tobacco flavors?
LICK VAPORS: Ashley – As for having a signature profile, yes and no. See I absolutely love fresh vapes, flavors with mint or citrus, for example. Cassia enjoys almost strictly dessert or cream vapes. Our line wound up covering most pallets, which we really love. You can wake up to bright Calypso, and end your day with the oh so rich Luscious. It’s quite the treat!
SPINFUEL: You indicated that the ejuice we received was pre-steeped and ready to vape. Are all your ejuices sent out pre-steeped? If so, how long are they steeped before shipping out?
LICK VAPORS: Ashley – All of our juice is pre-steeped, yes. It’s crucial to delivering proper flavor in our juices, and we wouldn’t expect that our customers wait to vape! We have different standards per flavor, but our range for steeping is 10-21 days.
SPINFUEL: Let’s talk about your packaging. How are your eLiquids packaged? Not only their physical appearance, but also how are they sealed, then packed and shipped?
LICK VAPORS: Ashley – First, we mix gallon batches of juice using specifically calibrated glass instruments. We then utilize a semi-automated system for bottling, this helps us obtain the accuracy of a machine, but the supervision of a live person. We then screw on a dropper, label the bottle, and seal with a shrink band to create a tamper-proof seal. Our label is a brilliant yellow, & lists ingredients, nicotine strength, as well as which batch it originated from.
We pack and ship everything inside waterproof bags, to isolate any unfortunate issues of leakage or breakage. They are then bubble-wrapped for added protection, and sent on in an envelope or box to be enjoyed!
SPINFUEL: There is a lot of concern these days about how and where eLiquids are being made. Could you describe your ‘mixing’ facility? Where do you do your mixing?
LICK VAPORS: Ashley – We have a small industrial space where all production is handled. We’ve separated a few distinct areas. In areas where there is mixing or open juice, we’ve established a highly controlled environment. For example, we work on strictly non-porous surfaces, require proper protective equipment at all times, and filter the air in our space.
SPINFUEL: How do you make sure your mixing tools and containers are kept clean and sterile? Would you call your mixing environment a ‘clean room’?
LICK VAPORS: Ashley – We have a cleaning schedule & procedure in place for all tools, surfaces, containers, all the way down to floors. For example, all mixing instruments are cleaned & then sterilized with hot water after each use, while the floor is mopped each day and after spills. I would call our environment a clean room. We are, however, looking to take it a step further by having a modular clean room built inside our facility – much like what you see in the pharmaceutical or electronics industries.
SPINFUEL: What is your “opening” and “closing” procedures? Are there steps taken each morning to get the place open and ready for mixing and again at night when your close down?
LICK VAPORS: Ashley – When we begin the mixing & bottling process, we sanitize all surfaces, wash and sanitize all bottles and closures, and sanitize our tools. Closing procedures are almost identical; we clean & shelve all of our instruments, clean all surfaces, and mop the floors. There are other processes we have on an every-other day, or weekly basis. These would be things like checking the air filters, ensuring all of our tools are properly calibrated, taking inventories, etc. There’s quite a bit that goes into making those little bottles of juice!
SPINFUEL: Safety is on everyone’s minds these days when it comes to eliquids. What kind of measures do you take to make sure that your eJuice is safe to consume? What methods do you use to prevent contamination or other factors that can harm your product?
LICK VAPORS: Ashley – First and foremost, our juice has no unnecessary ingredients. Neither Cassia nor I believe in additives such as sweeteners, artificial colorings, or caffeine. With limited research available to us, we believe the simpler, the better. Also, we’ve built our juices using the purest, safest ingredients we could find. Our PG & VG is 100% pure. Our nicotine, 99.86% pure. Our flavor compounds are made with inhalation safety in mind, and contain no known harmful chemicals. We prevent contamination from square one.
When it comes to the mixing process itself, we take a number of precautions for cleanliness and safety. Most recently, we’ve implemented outside testing of our juices. By taking a small sample of each batch, we can have our liquids tested for contaminants, variance in nicotine content, etc. Once in the bottle, we utilize a tamper evident seal to ensure nothing funky is getting put in the juice. We have no tolerance for dilution, added substances, or anything that doesn’t belong inside a Lick Brand Vapors e-liquid.
SPINFUEL: Tell us about the nicotine you use in your juice.
LICK VAPORS: Ashley – To some of us – it’s the best part! We rely on a domestic supplier based out of North Carolina for all of our nicotine. It is naturally derived from tobacco, & delivered to us in a specified strength propylene glycol solution. That solution is what we use in addition with vegetable glycerin, propylene glycol, and flavorings to make our e-liquid.
SPINFUEL: What is the most effective way to determine the nicotine level in your individual batch/bottle? Can you test nicotine solution for accuracy?
LICK VAPORS: Ashley – We are working on in-house testing methods, but at this time, we use a third-party lab to do testing for us. They are able to provide us with an individual analysis of each sample we send over. We can then determine if the batch is acceptable, or in rare cases, must be disposed of. For nicotine accuracy specifically, we have a tolerance of 0.05% over or above the batch’s intended nicotine content.
SPINFUEL: Does your crew wear any type of special clothing when they are handling nicotine?
LICK VAPORS: Ashley – Standard clean & tight-fitting clothing is worn. However, protective equipment is required at all times when we’re handling juice with or without nicotine. Our gear includes half-face respirators, eye protection, disposable aprons, & nitrile gloves.
SPINFUEL: Do you mix everyday?
LICK VAPORS: Ashley – At the moment, not everyday. However it’s getting close, and I hope business will continue! We’re equipped to mix 24/7 if necessary.
SPINFUEL: Do you have a specific audience in mind for your eLiquids? When coming up with new flavors, is demographic data used to determine what flavors would sell to “your base,” or do you come up with flavors that please you, and hope that your audience will like it as well?
LICK VAPORS: Ashley – We focused mainly on direct-to-consumer sales for our first few months to truly discover who our customer base was. As we received feedback, we began to further understand what vapers liked and were looking for in a quality juice. The information we’ve collected has become crucial in the development of our flavors.
Our recent focus hasn’t been constructing juice that will sell to our base, but more rounding off our line-up to be a complete selection of premium juices. That’s why we’ve had the recent flavor replacement – to ensure we’re satisfying every palette, and deliver only the best from the Lick Brand name.
SPINFUEL: What types of hardware (mods, tanks, cartos, etc.) do you use when testing your liquids? Is there any specific hardware that provides the best ‘vape’ for your eLiquids?
LICK VAPORS: Ashley – We personally use genesis style tanks, drip tanks, & cartomizers in the early stages. Other rounds of testing involve just about every device you can think of! We ask all of our ‘testers’ to inform us about what types of device they’re testing with, and it’s quite a list! It’s been important to us that everyone can fully enjoy our juice, even if your tank vs. dripping experiences are slightly different.
I would always point someone towards advanced hardware – RDA’s & RBA’s, on some type of mechanical mod. The depth you’ll experience in our juice is incredible, I highly recommend it.
SPINFUEL: On the whole, your eliquid are very thick. If you can say, what is your suggested PG/VG ratio for your eJuice? Is there a reason for that ratio?
LICK VAPORS: Ashley – Six of our juices are 60% VG & 40% PG. It’s the ratio we found to be best suited for dripping & tank use. Thick, but not too thick. Two of our juices are varied in PG/VG. After tweaking the ratio a bit, we found their flavor was more ‘bright’ with a varied blend of PG & VG. It’s the little things!
SPINFUEL: How do you make sure that your flavors are always consistent, that each batch or bottle delivers the same flavor and nicotine levels time after time?
LICK VAPORS: Ashley – Besides the checks and balances in place by our suppliers, constant instrument calibration on our part, and a system for post-mixing analysis in place, there’s not much room left for error. I also appreciate that my business partner oversees every drop of juice we produce. A founder’s regular involvement creates a high regard for consistency.
SPINFUEL: How long will your eJuice last if properly stored? By the way, how should a customer store their eLiquids before they open them and after they’ve been opened?
LICK VAPORS: Ashley – Always, always keep your juice in a cool place, out of direct sunlight. I also recommend storing juice in glass, or an alternative non-porous bottle. Once you’ve broken the seal and opened your juice, it’s important to always store it with the cap on. There are a million and one particles in the air that you don’t want to wind up in your vape juice!
If proper handling is observed, our juice should be vaped within 12 months. However, we have noticed some slight flavor drop-offs around the 6 month mark – enjoy our liquids within a reasonable time.
SPINFUEL: Were you a smoker before you switched to vaping? If so, what made you decide to quit smoking? Was it difficult to quit?
LICK VAPORS: Ashley – Wow, it’s nearly impossible to remember myself as a smoker, but yes I was. About a pack and a half a day before I switched.
As for quitting, I had no desire to quit at all. Crazy, really, how it happened. A friend of mine recommended I try a vape – just try it. So I did, and I began to hate smoking! I’m very grateful I just started. Honestly, it’s the most persuasive way to get a smoker to quit, by introducing them to vaping.
SPINFUEL: What type (and/or brand) of eCigarette did you use to break away from analogs?
LICK VAPORS: Ashley – I started vaping with Volcano e-cigs, their Inferno starter kit. It was a basic little ego style battery with a carto tank, but I thought it was just the best! I remember being so amazed there was an alternative to cig-a-likes… As if the technology had been born that day! My go-to flavor was a mix of vanilla & RY-4.
SPINFUEL: How long did it take to completely leave analogs behind?
LICK VAPORS: Ashley – Hmm, I would say about a month’s time. To be honest though, I smoked 3-4 more cigarettes over the first 6 months, but was able to kick the habit completely thereafter.
SPINFUEL: How often do you vape? How many hours per day? Do you vape more than you smoked?
LICK VAPORS: Ashley – I vape a lot! Much more than I ever smoked. Vaping is so easy on the lungs. You can vape for 15 minutes straight, but three cigarettes back to back would’ve been rough.
For 20-30 minutes of every hour, you can find me with a vape in my hand. So let’s say, 5-6 hours a day .The experience is just that enjoyable; I love everything from the flavor varieties, to the hit, and the nicotine fix it provides. Vape on!
SPINFUEL: Do you have a “favorite” flavor right now?
LICK VAPORS: Ashley – I am on a real kick with our Pink Mist flavor at the moment, it’s a cool dragonfruit flavor. Just love how clean it vapes. I’m always interested in vapers’ favorite flavors. Any feedback, send it my way!
SPINFUEL: Do you have a favorite mod or APV that you use or do you use more than one?
LICK VAPORS: Ashley – I haven’t upgraded my hardware in over a year, which is a bit embarrassing, but hey, it works great! I use a K100 with a genesis style tank, almost exclusively. About the only time I switch it up is when we’re doing testing, then I’ll also drip or use another option.
SPINFUEL: What makes a good eliquid? In other words, what order of importance are flavor, vapor, and throat hit in a Lick Vapor e Liquid?
LICK VAPORS: Ashley – Great question! In our book, the biggest factor is flavor. As e-liquid makers, we have a unique opportunity to deliver a flavor experience like no other. This isn’t chewing gum, or a snack food, this is something people will be tasting all day long. Something they should enjoy tasting all day long. It must be complex, yet palatable. Sweet, smooth, and full all at the same time. We take a very discerning approach to flavor development.
Throat hit & vapor are crucial to delivering that ‘perfect equation’. It all comes back to understanding why we smoked, and creating a juice that can fill all the desires one met by smoking cigarettes. As manufacturers, we can’t overlook anything. I wouldn’t want anyone to be unfulfilled.
SPINFUEL: Are you concerned about the FDA ruling coming soon?
LICK VAPORS: Ashley – Quite frankly, I am a bit concerned. There’s been a lot of talk about excessive restrictions- things like forbidding different forms of advertising, or even banning flavor entirely. See, to most vapers, there’s no sense in that. I can only hope they get a clear understanding before labeling our devices or liquids as “tobacco products”, and treating them in way that will only reduce their effectiveness or popularity amongst people trying to quit smoking.
SPINFUEL: Lastly, why should our readers buy their e-juice from Lick Vapor?
LICK VAPORS: Ashley – The support we receive from the vaping community helps us to continue to grow and develop as a company and a juice line. Every bottle that we produce has been delivered with love, contains a unique flavor experience, and will be just as excellent as the last bottle you received. As a person, and as representing Lick Brand Vapors, I never skip a beat. We deliver a quality vaping experience, and I welcome your readers to indulge!
SPINFUEL: Is there anything else you’d like to say to our readers while you have their complete attention?
LICK VAPORS: Ashley – Yes, please! Thank you for taking the time to learn more about the companies and juices you’re buying from them. We especially appreciate the time you’ve spent with Lick Brand Vapors – whether reading about us, or enjoying our juice! I welcome anyone with any questions or concerns to reach out to us personally, through www.lickbrandvapors.com.
Thank you for connecting with us Julia!
SPINFUEL: I cannot thank you enough for talking with us today, we are looking forward to doing a sequel review with you down the road.
Julia Hartley-Barnes – March 20, 2014