A Matter of Taste

Feb 14, 2018

There are approximately 400,000 species of plants on earth yet we only smoke one (or two) of them. Surely they don’t all taste worse than tobacco. Why don’t we smoke more? What about tomato plants? They contain nicotine and smell wonderful. Or potatoes, they’re another member of the same family. Probably best to give Deadly Nightshade a miss.

For better or worse we humans have pretty much settled on tobacco as our smoke of choice. In fact those of us who indulge have usually settled on a specific brand of cigarette, rarely even trying another since our early days of smoking.

Our first cigarettes were probably whatever our friends, or parents, were smoking or simply whatever we could get hold of. Once we were proto-smokers we looked around for what we wanted to say with our choice, what would mark us out as part of our tribe. Did they have to come in a cool soft pack or be a quirky, obscure brand? Maybe we had a few failed experiments with some stinky French things or menthols. Perhaps a few years of roll-ups smoked as cash strapped students.

After those early days we smokers become incredibly brand loyal. There are hundreds of brands of cigarette and yet we have no choice, we buy the same one every time without giving it a second thought. We’ve got our brand and that’s it for life or until we quit. An exception may be the mid life compromise of switching to lites but even then it’s probably the low tar version of our usual brand.

A cigarette of your own brand has no taste unless you think about it very hard, which you almost never do. Try it and the best you can come up with is ‘tobacco’. Think back to the last occasion you were coerced by social convention into accepting a cigarette from someone. It had a strong, acrid taste and was seriously unpleasant. In reality it was probably only very slightly different from your brand, unless it was a menthol in which case more fool you for taking it in the first place. In any event you were probably glad to stub it out as soon as you could.

We taste with our noses. As soon as we get a cold we know it. Researchers have found that humans have around 400 types of scent receptors, many more than previously thought, with which we can detect maybe a trillion different scents. These receptors are incredibly sensitive but also prone to fatigue; after a surprisingly short exposure to a smell they will shutdown, that is they get bored.

There are many flavours of snuff and a few of chewing tobacco but, with the exception of menthol (why?), no flavoured cigarettes. They’re all just slightly different blends of slightly different tobaccos yet we stick with ‘our’ brand like there’s no other possible choice. With eLiquids there’s a very different situation. The first time vaper is faced with an bewildering array of sometimes alarmingly named flavours from a number of unfamiliar brands. Our first reaction is to look for something familiar, as close as possible to what we’ve smoked in the past, however this is a mistake.

When it comes time to switch to vaping there’s no point in even trying to find a match for your existing brand, it’s impossible. Those 400 receptors won’t be fooled. What’s needed is something different enough that we won’t automatically make comparisons with our usual smoke but familiar enough to be comfortable with. It’s time for something new, a flavoured tobacco liquid.

Even then some caution is wise. There are still many of these liquids to choose from but they often have the same failings; too sweet, too strong and not actually tobacco. You need to look for a carefully curated range of bespoke liquids that have been selected for, shall we say, the fussier palette. A range that’s about quality not quantity. AYR, a range that’s a matter of taste.

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