Readers: We present for you the original bull smoke review Tom and I wrote for the Bull Smoke brand. This is a ROUGH DRAFT, therefore there may be some spelling errors, grammar errors, and worse, redundancy. Our reviews are written separately, sometimes 5 reviews are written and then blended into one. Tom and I wrote out own reviews and this draft was our first attempt at blending them together. We are presenting this rough draft as-is so that there can be no confusion in the matter.
Lead Writer: Julia Barnes,
along with Tom McBride
Rating: 2.0 Stars (2 Stars for the hardware, 0 stars for flavors)
The Bull Smoke eCigarette is the brand of the Starter Kit that we are currently giving away during our first Spinfuel eCigs Magazine Weekly Giveaways.
Alarming: We really don’t like to begin a review with a sledgehammer, but sometimes it simply has to be done. We discovered quite a bit of misleading and downright untrue claims throughout the bull smoke website. When faced with such unfortunate statements such as “Bull Smoke is the originator of the 2-piece design”, or “Designed by a team of engineers who have been working over the past 5 years to bring you the most innovative products on the market, the Bull Smoke battery features the world’s only modern micro-air flow sensor, designed specially for vaping”, and “other brands are only available with 3 or more components that take time and effort to assemble”, we were beginning to wonder if anything Bull Smoke was saying and doing had any basis in fact.
We ended up submitting questions to the owner of Bull Smoke about the above statements, and more, and the answers were shocking. They state on their website that it was Bull Smoke that originated the 2-piece battery yet the owner admits that the Chinese factory was actually responsible. Such clear deceptions do not give us confidence in the brand.
What It Is
This branded, prefilled KR808-series cartomizer and battery mini-eCig is not without its problems, but the technology is one of the better ones to hit the market over the past couple of years. The KR808 series has some unique features that set it apart of the standard 510-thread brands that have saturated the market. Generally speaking it’s a high-quality high-tech mini-eCig. Purchasing compatible, blank cartomizers are relatively inexpensive and American Made eLiquids are not only safer, they taste much better than Chinese eJuice which Bull Smoke employs in their prefilled cartomizers. Bull Smoke does not offer blank cartomizers, but they can be found at places like Halo Cigs or Apollo eCigs.
The problem with Bull Smoke is not the technology, it’s the flavored cartomizers offered by Bull Smoke. When you factor in the initial high price for the starter kit ($74.95), the lack of choices when configuring your starter kit (there aren’t any ‘choices’), and the cost of refill cartomizers ($12.95 per 5pc), Bull Smoke doesn’t offer anything ‘unique’. In fact, the flavors are ‘oh hum’ generics you can find at any 7-11 or Cumberland Farms.
New Tech (Overall)
Bull Smoke utilizes the latest version of the KR808D-1 battery, providing a higher than average voltage (4.2 volts), better recharge times (+/- 2 hours), and a higher number of ‘drags’ (250 to 320 drags depending on which size battery you use, depending of course on how ‘you’ vape them). The accompanying KR808-compatible cartomizer holds approximately .7ML of eLiquid and produces the standard amount vapor, pretty much the same vapor that the 510-compatible cartomizers put out. It’s not bad, not at all, its just nothing spectacular.
Bull Smoke offers 3 different sized batteries as ‘accessories’. The Stubby is a 65MM battery, the Original is 79mm and the Kentucky is a 110mm battery. Colors range from white, black, a chrome/stainless steel and yellow. Purchased separately the batteries are a whopping $24.95 each, or a 5-pck for $99.95, which is still twenty bucks apiece.
Unfortunately, when you purchase a starter kit you are not given any choice in the battery configuration. The Ranch Hand ships with ‘The Stubby’ in manual and ‘The Kentucky’ in automatic, in White only. The Kentucky is the longest mini-eCig we’ve ever seen, and just plain heavy. It lasts as much as 50% more than the other, shorter batteries offered by Bull Smoke, but it is extraordinarily long.
The City Slicker starter kit ships with the same batteries as above, but in black instead of white. If you want a yellow or stainless steel color you’ll need to purchase them separately.
Refill Cartomizers sell for $12.95 per 5-pc box. Nicotine levels are available in 6MG, 12MG, 18MG, and 24MG. Flavors are also available in Zero nicotine. Bull Smoke does not offer blank cartomizers.
The following flavored Cartomizers are available:
- American Ranger –
- Turkish Tobacco –
- Refined Blend –
- Menthol Breeze –
- Coffee Roast –
- Sweet Vanilla –
- Peppermint Ice –
- Chocolate Treat –
- Grape Escape –
- Cherry Blast
The Point System
Bull Smoke has offers a point system that allows the customer to earn ‘purchase points’ for each purchase you make. It is valued at earning 10% of your non-sale price items. Spend $100 and earn 100 points, which is valued at $10 off your next purchase.
Julia: Point systems can be fun, I have used similar earning systems before on another brand and it came in handy on more than one occasion. I think, however, that with the generic flavors (see below) the average customer won’t redeem their points in any meaningful way because they are certain to discover better tasting flavors pretty quickly.
Jason: Nothing wrong with a point system, you’re right about that. The only negative I can see is that some people may consider it a ploy to get them to reorder, and it basically is, but rather than take that as a negative or a ploy it could very well be a sincere marketing strategy that allows customers to earn enough points to take a good bite out of the cost of their products. Bull Smoke is an expensive brand so any effort to cut the price for the customer has to be seen as a good thing.
We are reviewing both the Ranch Hand and City Slicker Starter Kits. Both starter kits sell for $74.95 and come with the following components:
- Two (2) KR808 batteries – One manual “Stubby” and one extra-long Kentucky.
- CE Certified Wall Adapter (Aren’t they all?)
- USB “Express” Charger
- 10 Cartomizers
- 1 Owners Manual
We’d also like to note the box is a flap down sturdy box, which is a good place to store your batteries and cartomizers, or use as a catchall box on your nightstand.
The Ranch Hand
The Ranch Hand is tailored to those ex-smokers that were loyal to such brands as Marlboro, Winston, Lucky Strike, Pall Mall, etc. It comes with the American Ranger blend and the Turkish Tobacco blend. Bull smoke refers to them as “blue-collar workers” I think that’s an unfair assumption since I know a few professional people (lawyers and such) that smoke or smoked Marlboro and Winston.
The American blend is a, smooth, generic tobacco flavor reminiscent of various low-cost eCigs we’ve tried at various kiosks at the malls. The stronger, Turkish blend definitely has more flavor, but it still has that ‘base’ taste we’ve talked about in other reviews. It’s a chemical taste that you find in eLiquids that come from China.
The Starter Kit comes with 5 cartomizers for each of the two flavors. Bull Smoke has made your choice of nicotine strength for you.
Tom: We all agreed that both tobacco flavors immediately reminded us of the tobacco flavors offered by the likes of cheaper brands. There just isn’t enough uniqueness about the Bull Smoke flavors that they seemed lifeless.
I definitely preferred the Turkish Tobacco blend to the American Ranger, only because the Turkish blend is much stronger. The American Ranger has a very timid flavor. I’m a fan of stronger, American made tobacco blends.
The two batteries seemed somewhat mismatched. The Stubby, a short, fat, manual battery was difficult to use, and I like manual batteries, but this was too short and fat for a button to be used effectively. The Kentucky had to be the longest battery I have ever seen. It lasted quite a while, but it was just too long for me. The disparity between the sizes in the starter kit is greater than I’ve seen in other kits.
Julia: I didn’t enjoy the American Ranger blend at all because it was generic and plain. The Turkish flavor was strong, but at the same time if I were out a club with nothing else to smoke I might pick up one. Like Tom I would want the Stubby to be an automatic as well as the Kentucky. I agree that the Kentucky is a massively long battery, and heavy to boot. It felt weird to use it.
We both agreed that the Ranch Hand was a starter kit geared more for the Male smoker/Vaper. The batteries were thick, white, and…. Stubby or too long. No frilly or fruity flavors in the Ranch Hand. Lastly, we agreed that after a while the Turkish Tobacco flavor became our favorite of the two, using ‘favorite’ as loosely as you can.
The City Slicker:
The City Slicker is so named because of the different flavors offered, and the black batteries. And since Bull Smoke considers the users of the Ranch Hand to be “blue-collar workers” then perhaps the City Slicker is so named for being attractive to those “white collar” workers that live in the city. Who knows?
Your choices of batteries are identical to the Ranch Hand, the Stubby in manual and the Kentucky in automatic. The only difference is the color; instead of white the batteries in the City Slicker are black.
The 10 cartomizers are all different; you receive a single cartomizer for each flavor offered by Bull Smoke. Once again, the nicotine choices are made for you, in a variety of strengths.
Julia: There are some things I like about the City Slicker and some things I didn’t. I liked the black battery better than the white ones in the Ranch Hand, but I want to choose my battery. Bull Smoke offers 3 sizes in 3 colors, I would imagine that it would be a matter of writing in more choices into their software in order to offer these choices, or perhaps it’s a manpower issue, but I know I would have been happier as a customer if I had the choice.
Additionally, one cartomizer for each flavor doesn’t seem like the best idea. Say I really liked the Grape (which I didn’t), but didn’t like the peppermint ice or menthol breeze. My $75 seems somewhat wasted on the flavors I choose not to use. Again, there needs to be more choice here, let me choose the flavors. If I want 10 Grape let me have 10 Grape, ya know?
Tom: I love black batteries, and I agree that it would have been nice to order them the way I wanted. I don’t like the length of the Kentucky so why can I order it with 2 Stubby’s instead?
The 10 flavors are all pretty bland, the Refined Tobacco blend was identical to South Beach Smoke’s Tobacco blend.
Perhaps down the road Bull Smoke will allow more choices to be made. Right now I think they would be wise to rename the 10 flavors to a “Variety Pack” and add another 5 cartomizers in whatever flavor you wanted, and in the nicotine level you wanted. Lord knows the profit is there to give away another 5 cartomizers.
Flavors: Some flavors are better than others. None of them were very good simply because of the China-made base taste.
(Note; we may write a paragraph on each flavor, but at this point it might do more harm than good. The truth is none of the flavors were good, some were tolerable, so I don’t see the need to describe each one.)
A Word About The Flavors
It’s no secret that when a company buys a starter kit to resell under their brand they have a myriad of choices. Bull Smoke’s eLiquid come from China, and a couple of the flavors have been slightly tweaked to bring some uniqueness to Bull Smoke.
We understand that most of the popular branded eCigs, from Green Smoke to South Beach, from V2 to Bull Smoke, all come from 1 or 2 Chinese manufacturers. Sometimes a formula can be tweaked a little bit for a particular brand and our understanding is that Bull Smoke did tweak a couple of the flavors in order to offer a unique taste.
Final Words and Real World Experience
Bull Smoke is in the same category as South Beach Smoke, Green Smoke, V2 Cigs, FiftyOne, and 500 more. These starter kits all feature Chinese eLiquid and they all taste relatively the same, with some variation on occasion. Bull Smoke is no different.
Other starter kits offered by other companies like Blu Cigs and Halo Cigs, may buy their batteries and empty cartomizers from China, as everyone certainly does, but their eLiquid is American Made. Halo makes their (see our review on their 100% American Made eJuice) eJuice and Blu’s eLiquids are made by the 100% American Made Johnson Creek. There are others out there that use eLiquid that does not come from China, and that is a trend we like to see.
Every brand of Starter Kit except for Bull Smoke, allows the customer to choose their flavors and the nicotine levels before they buy. Bull Smoke has taken the choice away from the customer in an effort to streamline things and to offer the customer a ‘variety’ of flavors and strengths.
They tell us this because in their past experience many of their customers, especially the ones coming directly off analog cigarettes are confused as to what they want and need, so by reducing the choices they allow the customer to experiment some, and when they come back to reorder they usually know what they want.
We are prepared to take Bull Smoke at their word on this. We have no doubt that when it comes to nicotine strength in particular someone coming from analog cigarettes might not know what they need. While we might not want this kind of restriction others may welcome it.
Expensive Cartomizer Refills
The cost of prefilled cartomizers among all the branded mini-eCigs is all over the board, especially when the eLiquid comes from China. Green Smoke sells them at $16.99 for a 5-pack, South Beach Smoke sells theirs in packs of 15 for $39.99 ($13.33 per 5-pack) and V2 Cigs sells theirs for $9.95 per 5-pack.
American Made eLiquid Cartomizers from Blu Cigs sell for $12 and $13 (prices comes down considerably when buying 4 packs or more to $9.60 and $10.40 per 5 pack) while Halo Cigs sells their 5-pack cartomizers and cartridges for $9.99. Remember, these two sell their prefilled cartomizers with American made, safer, and better tasting eLiquids.
Bull Smoke sells their 5-pack cartomizers for $12.95. As you can see, there are more expensive and less expensive cartomizers out there. Why Chinese eLiquid cartomizers are more expensive than American made eLiquid cartomizers is beyond us.
Expensive Starter Kit
At $74.95 for a 2-battery, 10-cartomizer starter kit Bull Smoke is on the expensive side. For instance, Halo Cigs has a KR808 branded battery and cartomizer along with American made eLiquid prefilled cartomizers and have the same number of components (except they offer 5 prefilled and 2 blank cartomizers for a total of 7) for $54.99, a huge $20 difference.
Shopping Cart Confusion
Bull Smoke would do well to tell their customers upfront that they do not choose the nicotine level when they buy a starter kit. Sure, there is a graphic that shows in tiny lettering that your starter kit will come with X number of X strength nicotine, but that is hardly sufficient.
We posed the question of this limited choice of nicotine to Bull Smoke, their reply was:
“We offer static starter kits for a simple reason: customer service. So many people are so new to the idea of smoking electronically that in the past we spent hours trying to help people build orders…””that way people can re-order as they desire…“ – Martin Giles
Fine, we can accept that. But make it clear on the ordering page, and on the Product page, that this is the case.
Batteries Are Expensive
If we buy into the simplicity argument then whatever Bull Smoke offers for their batteries is whatever they feel their customers would want. But, when it comes time to purchase additional batteries the cost is extraordinarily high. $24.95 for a KR808 battery is more than twice the average cost on the retail side. Halo Cigs sells the same technology (KR808D-1), same voltage batteries is a myriad of bright colors with a rubberized paint job for $14.99 in either 65mm or 75mm. That’s $10 less than Bull Smoke.
The KR808D-1 batteries and cartomizers are excellent choices for a starter kit. Batteries are dependable and long lasting. Manual batteries offer more vapor and more vaping time over automatic. 4.2 volts is powerful, meaning a cleaner burn and a more vibrant flavor, if your eLiquid is any good. No matter how good the battery is a bad tasting eJuice isn’t going to taste any better.
Flavors are, on the whole, just average for Chinese made eJuice. They all have a similar taste.
There is nothing cheap about Bull Smoke, except the flavorless generic Chinese eLiquid. The price for a starter kit is too high, the overall quality of the batteries and the cartomizers are top-notch. But Bull Smoke simply wants too much for them.
Buying into a “brand” means depending on that brand to live up to its claims. Although no one is ever truly “stuck” living with a brand’s flavors, there are always blank cartomizers and other eLiquid brands to try; it should be noted that you can get more bang for your buck by skipping Bull Smoke altogether and buy a starter kit from a company like Halo Cigs, take that $20 saving and buy a few bottles of eLiquid from any of the American made eJuice companies we reviewed during the month of July.