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Spinfuel Choice Award
At the end of last year we made the decision to formally recognize e-Liquid flavors that we believe have an excellent chance to be widely accepted as a terrific “vape”. With five people, all different in their approach to e-cigarettes and with different likes and dislikes for their choices in hardware, e-Juice flavors, and even entire categories of flavors, the odds that a particular flavor would appeal to a wide audience is much higher than having a single person give his or her opinion about an e-Liquid. There is, however, a lot more going into choosing a brand and a flavor to award a Spinfuel Choice Award to.
Below we discuss how we determine what flavors and what brands go through before they can earn a Spinfuel Choice Award. It is a difficult and arduous process but well worth the time and effort that goes into it.
Our favorite part of the e-cigarette experience is the e-Liquids, and it’s also our favorite topic to write about. The reason for this is that despite having only a handful of ingredients, an e-Liquid, in the right hands, can possess such great flavor and provide an amazing experience to the Vaper. Heck, we’ve come to believe that it’s the flavor itself that creates a “pacifier Vaper”, not the need for nicotine.
Taste is primal. Over time mankind learned what to eat and what not to eat based on how something tasted. Today, in the hands of the right chef or baker certain foods can lead to a taste experience that is every bit as passionate as making love with the right person… It is a heavenly experience.
What astounded each of us on the Spinfuel e-Liquid Review Team is that there is a seemingly unlimited number of ‘taste variations’ of e-Liquids we had tried over many months of vaping. One brand’s Pina Colada, for instance, can taste drastically different from another brand’s yet the “basic” ingredients are the same. It’s like that for every flavor of e-Liquid, and the true artistry behind some of the brands is the development of a ‘signature’ flavor profile for the eJuice line they create.
Some of our favorite vendors can be recognized by their signature flavor profile and it’s always an amazing experience to vape something you never had before but can easily determine which vendor created it by a signature that permeates throughout their entire line. Two of my favorite vendors have such a distinctive signature profile that I am absolutely sure I could recognize any new flavor from them blindfolded. (More on the signature factor later)
The first criteria that an e-Liquid must meet in order to be considered for a Spinfuel Choice Award is to have a distinctive, and rewarding flavor. Which brings us to…
Flavor Description and execution – For an e-Liquid to have a chance at being awarded the Choice Award it must fit the description given to it by its creator. In addition, the e-Liquid needs to contain a flavor that lends itself to being vaped. By that I mean, just because some flavoring company makes a flavor concentrate, it doesn’t necessarily mean it would be a wise choice for an e-Liquid. Some flavors are just not meant to be vaped.
The award-winning flavor needs to shine through no matter that the category. For instance, if I don’t like bananas I can still judge whether or not a banana infused e-Liquid possesses the proper flavor for whatever it is supposed to be. While I may not like the idea of inhaling a vapor that tastes like banana pudding, if it does indeed taste like banana pudding then it earns my respect for the flavor its going after and that will help determine the overall score.
Not every e-Liquid is going to have a lot of complexity, and that’s fine. There are some basic flavors that don’t need a complex recipe in order for it to deliver a delicious vape. Nonetheless, when a particular flavor does offer up a complex set of tastes that set off certain taste buds and pleasure centers in the brain, well, it’s going to count for something when we consider it for a Choice Award.
We have awarded a few simple, non-complex e-Liquids, but delicious e-Liquids with complexity also contributes to the overall score.
To the Spinfuel e-Liquid Review Team the actual recipe and the decision of the eJuice artist to use certain ingredients to enhance or ‘tame’ a certain flavor doesn’t matter one iota. It’s not the ingredients that curry favor with us, it’s the outcome of those ingredients, and how they are used, that does.
Fortunately, none of us on the team have any allergies for the ingredients used in e-Liquids. If one team member moves on and another comes in to take his or her place the new member must also be free of allergies. We require this because we always vape the “House Blend”.
The house blend is the “default” or standard recipe used for an e-Liquid by the brand. During their development phase they use a certain ratio, and certain other variables to develop their e-juice flavor. When a customer changes the ratios they can alter the overall experience of vaping that particular e-Liquid. If we reviewed a custom mixed liquid then we’re not reviewing the vendor’s best efforts. By tampering with the recipe with a custom mix we would not be able to deliver to you a fully open and honest review.
Consistency – Most vendors do everything they can to make sure that the “flavor” of a particular e-Liquid comes across the same way no matter what the PG/VG ratio is when the customer orders it, and most succeed to an accuracy of 90-95%. But there is always a chance that the flavor is changed when the ratio is other than the house blend. For that reason, it is always the House Blend for us.
Vapor production is also a consideration when deciding on awarding a Choice Award to a particular flavor. It doesn’t have to produce monster-sized plumes of vapor, or you would see only high VG e-Liquids earning awards, but it should be plentiful.
The aroma of the vapor also plays a part. I know we like to tell non-Vapers that the vapor doesn’t leave an odor in the room, and it doesn’t, but a nicely flavored, good vapor producing e-Liquid will have a nice aroma to it, for a couple of minutes anyway.
Throat Hit and More…
Some e-Liquids, especially at the lower end of the nicotine spectrum or at the high end of the VG ratio, won’t have a big throat hit so although a great throat hit will count we have to take into consideration the physical makeup of the e-Liquid.
Recently some of the e-Liquids we have awarded the Choice Award to had spectacular throat hits, even at 1.2% (12mg) nicotine level. A good, solid, throat hit that leaves the ‘harsh’ factor out of it will sometimes tip the scale in favor of the award. But in order to do that all the other factors would have to come in at 4.5 Stars at least.
What is it about certain throat hits that make it pleasant and others that make it unpleasant? Where is the throat hit coming from? Is it the high nicotine, or very high PG, or something else? You can only get a sense of it at times because many brands no longer advertise the PG/VG ratio and very few ever comment on the percentage of flavoring concentrate. That’s why it takes 72 hours, at least, to come up with a final score.
Anyone can take a couple of drags from an e-cigarette and determine right away whether or not they like the e-Liquid. You see it in e-Liquid video reviews all the time. But that is probably the worst way for an on-looker or reader to decide if he or she should drop $20 or so on a 30ML bottle of juice being reviewed. To get a true sense of the e-Liquid, to determine its value as a long term flavor a good reviewer needs to live with the e-Liquid for a time. Not to mention that the more people participating in the review the better the odds that you’re going to like it.
We chose 72-hours as our length of time to spend with a company’s e-Liquid before deciding on whether or not the eJuice is worth a high or low score, or is good enough to receive the Choice Award. Questions we ask ourselves include; what does the flavor taste like first thing in the morning? What does it taste like in the middle of the afternoon, or at night, or right before bedtime? As Vapers yourself you know the flavor, or how you are receiving the flavor, changes during the day and the circumstances. These are very important aspects of an e-Liquid’s value.
Only after members of the team get the chance to spend quality time vaping a single e-Liquid flavor or a dozen of them will they know how well the juice performs as an e-Liquid under several conditions.
This is the last factor that goes into determining the true score of an e-Liquid brand. Even the worst vendors can sometimes hit a homerun. We will hardly ever award the Choice Award for a flavor from a vendor who scores low on most of their other e-Liquids. I’m not saying it won’t ever happen, but the chances are slim.
Let’s use the analogy of an amateur photographer. Photography, whether some people want to believe it or not, is an art. That said, you can give someone a camera and a large memory card and send them out anywhere and there’s a decent chance they will come back with one or two excellent photographs. Does that make them a good photographer? No, not at all. Good photographs are a dime a dozen, and they happen by accident quite a bit. Real photographers are trained in the ways the camera works and how aperture and shutter speed, and lens choice, are able to take what they see in their mind’s eye and create a photograph from it. They see things in ways others do not, and it requires talent to conjure the images in the mind’s eye and skill to bring it from the mind to the camera’s film plane.
Talent, in photography or e-Liquids, is real. Just because you have the ingredients in front of you, even if you have the recipe in front of you, without a talent for creating e-Liquid it is only by chance that you’ve created something wonderful. Some artists that work in mediums other than photography insist that photography is a craft, not an art. They are only very slightly right. You cannot create consistently great photographs without knowing how all the tools work and having the talent to combine them in ways that create great photographs over an over. The same can be said for artists working in the e-Liquid medium.
Knowing what PG does to flavor, what VG does to vapor production, and on and on, is necessary in order to mix a good e-Liquid, but it takes a real talent for “flavors” to use those tools and the knowledge of how those tools work to come up with great e-Liquid flavors over and over again.
For these reasons we never review a single bottle of e-Liquid from a brand we’ve never tried before. It is why we turn down e-Liquid vendors that want to send us a bottle of eJuice to try, and then review. We won’t take the chance that the flavor we review, good or bad, is an accident. If we review a single flavor from a company we don’t know, and we love it, we won’t vouch for the company’s e-Liquids, we won’t have a reader think that because we loved X, then there’s a very good chance that Y and Z are also great e-Liquids. We have no way of knowing that. But once we do the brand then we can review a single flavor with confidence.
Putting It All Together
By taking our responsibility seriously we apply the strictest practices when we review a company’s products. It’s the reason we have a minimum number of 10 flavors for any new vendor, or a vendor we haven’t reviewed before. Once we’ve learned their signature, their skill and talent levels, we will review a new flavor by itself and if it’s good enough to earn a Choice Award we’ll award it. We will know if a new flavor is an accident or the product of talented artists getting the new flavor to the best possible level before releasing it to the public.
We understand that many Vapers look at the Choice Award as a strong recommendation by Spinfuel, and it is. The decision to award that e-Liquid with a Choice Award is never taken lightly because of that.
Will you love every Spinfuel Choice Award pick? Probably not. You may not like tobacco flavors, or fruity flavors, so despite earning a Choice Award any particular e-Liquid must be evaluated by what you like in an e-Liquid.
If we’ve awarded an e-Liquid that touts itself as a great banana pudding e-Liquid, and we love it enough, based on the criteria above, to award it the Choice Award then, yes, I would say that the chance that you too will love the e-Liquid is in the neighborhood of 95% if you like banana pudding. Of course, if you hate banana vapes it doesn’t matter if the e-Liquid was awarded the Choice Award or not…you’re probably not going to like it.
Not A Competition
Unlike most awards, the Spinfuel Choice Award isn’t something earned by comparing it to other e-Liquids. A Choice Award may be given to half a dozen similar flavors, all of which we found to be wonderful. It’s not a competition; it is recognition for outstanding e-Liquid.
I hope you come away from this article with a better understanding of the Spinfuel Choice Awards and how they work. As we get closer to the awesome celebration in July; the 2nd annual July is eJuice Month, there may be Choice Awards earned by several new flavors we are only now getting a chance to evaluate. We hope that this year there are many e-Liquids worthy of the Choice Award because that would mean that you, and us, are in for some great vaping experiences.
There is only a week to go before the celebrations begin. We hope you are as excited as we are to read all about the brands that will be featured in the July Celebration. We hope they bring with them some great new flavors and great new experiences! We’re looking forward to sharing them all with you!