Pass through any small British village and chances are you’ll see a vape store nestled among the usual desultory roster of blue-rinse hairdressers, estate agents and charity shops. But you don‘t need to enter these vapour-filled apothecaries to find the best e juice or e liquid - they’re available online, too.
Vaping is mammoth business and it’s encouraging whole swathes of smokers to jump ship and embrace its new fruity, flavoursome world. According to the World Health Organisation, since 2011 the number of worldwide vapeurs has increased from around seven million to over 35 million today. So if you’re trying to give up the coffin sticks but still find it almost impossible to quell the urge by using nicotine patches and other methods, consider jumping on the e-liquid bandwagon.
• Best Cyber Monday deals worldwide…
According to the NHS website, vaping e-liquid is ‘far safer than smoking and researchers found significantly lower levels of toxic chemicals and cancer-causing substances (carcinogens) in the samples of those of former smokers who had been using e-cigarettes compared to current smokers’.
Vaping e-liquid fulfils the two main prerequisites of a smoker: nicotine grip in the throat and the sight of smoke being exhaled. The clever thing is that the smoke being exhaled isn't actually smoke; it’s nicotine-infused vapour (or steam) which evaporates in a flash leaving no nasty smells or residues in its wake.
What is vape liquid/E-liquid/vape juice/etc?
Most vapes use a suspension called e-liquid (or e-juice) to deliver flavour, nicotine and a decent throat hit. The vast majority of e-liquids are comprised of vegetable glycerin (VG), propylene glycol (PG), nicotine, food flavouring and water.
Vegetable glycerine is a thick, sticky, sweet liquid that produces maximum vapour at the expense of throat grip and flavour. Hence, E-liquids with higher VG concentration are preferred by ardent cloud chasers who tend to use the direct to lung technique (DTL), a method that involves literally sucking in a full lungful of vapour as if breathing through a hosepipe.
Propylene glycol liquid, on the other hand, provides a throat hit similar to that of a tobacco cigarette. E-liquids with a higher PG ratio are therefore usually better suited to those more used to the mouth to lung (MTL) technique of cigarette smoking.
In a nutshell, a PG50/VG50 mix is best for those who are after a good grip in the throat and strong flavour, while a PG20/VG80 provides a much smoother inhale with bigger clouds and a milder flavour.
Nicotine is the final ingredient that indicates the amount of throat grip and overall satisfaction, though nearly all e-juice flavours are also available with zero nicotine content. Most e-liquid suspensions use ‘freebase nicotine’ which sounds a bit dodgy but is in fact the scientific method all tobacco manufacturers use to deliver nicotine in its most purest form.
The problem with most current e-liquid ‘freebase nicotine’ delivery systems is that many users find they don’t get as big a hit of the drug as they did with cigarettes. And when they then try an e-liquid with a higher nicotine content, it’s so harsh it rips the throat apart, causing a major coughing attack in the process.
The new holy grail, it seems, is Nicotine Salts which delivers a much smoother hit on the throat while delivering higher levels of nicotine into the bloodstream. So, if vaping for you is a means to quit smoking cigarettes and roll ups but you haven’t been getting anything like the same levels of nicotine satisfaction, then Nic Salts e-liquid is the way to go.
As a general rule, consider choosing an e-liquid with 3mg of nicotine if you only smoked one or two cigarettes a day, 6mg if you smoked under 10 per day and want a decent throat hit, 12mg if you were up to and above 20 a day and 18mg and higher if you puffed like a chimney.
How is E-liquid sold?
Most e-liquids are dispensed in small 10ml squeezable plastic bottles with tiny plastic spouts. If buying online, there should be a submenu on the purchase page directing you to a selection of various nicotine levels. However, another new trend is to sell larger 50ml of e-liquid without nicotine, presumably for those who vape for taste alone.
If you’re a former smoker, you can then purchase a separate bottle of nicotine and add it to the e-liquid suspension.
This all sounds a bit too much like scary alchemy to us so, unless you know what you’re doing, we’d recommend just buying small 10ml bottles at a time, with or without nicotine. That way if you don’t like the flavour, you’ve only wasted a few quid.
Aside from the nicotine hit and voluminous clouds of vapour, the best thing about vaping is the sheer amount of great tasting e-liquid flavours available. Walk passed any vaping area and it’s like you’ve just stepped into a Haribo factory. However, settling on a specific flavour usually involves a lot of experimentation and that means buying bottles of e-liquid you might dislike and never use.
The best place to buy e-liquid is a local store where you can try before you buy. Alternatively, take a punt and purchase a blend from a website. If you don’t like the flavour or you find it’s too harsh a puff then you’ll only have lost a fiver or so.
Or you could just carry on reading this article because we’ve called in a tranche of fine flavours from a load of lead players and selected some of the most aromatic, flavoursome and smoothest e-liquids currently on the market, so you don’t have to. Read on for the lowdown, ladies and gentlemen, and start puffing the magic dragon.
T3's 10 favourite E-liquid flavours, in order
There’s a shedload of tobacco flavours on the market but this exceptional 70% VG/30% PG caramel blend (opens in new tab) is way smoother and a lot more aromatic than most. The faint toffee-like smell it emits on exhale is especially agreeable. If you’ve been searching for a very decent caramel-infused tobacco-flavoured e-liquid that produces huge volumes of vapour without being harsh on the throat, then put this in your pipe and smoke it.
This blend is 50% VG and 50% PG and uses the Nic Salts method of nicotine delivery so it’s extremely smooth on the throat while leaving very decent vapour trails in its wake. If you like a subtle but accurate taste of strawberry then this one’s like scoffing a punnet of Wimbledon’s finest. Highly recommended. (opens in new tab)
AquaVape’s superb 50/50 menthol blend (opens in new tab) is available in five flavour conglomerations: Cherry, Fruit, Ice Mint, Raspberry and Fresh Menthol. We recommend the Fresh Menthol or Ice Mint varieties which dance on the palette like Torvill & Dean doing the Bolero on steroids.
If you like lemon meringue pie with a rich buttery biscuit base, lemon drizzle cake or even lemon fruit loops, then get your lips around this tangy but undeniably sweet Nic Salts blend from the Dinner Lady. Available in nicotine strengths of 3mg and 6mg (as well as zero), Lemon Tart (opens in new tab) has a perfectly balanced flavour that just keeps on giving.
This Malaysian blend comes in a 50ml bottle and you order a 3mg nicotine shot separately. Bad Blood (opens in new tab) may sound gross but it's actually a highly sophisticated flavour. It takes the humble blackcurrant and whips its little ass with the leaves of a mint plant to create a stupendous tasting e-liquid that emits a whiff so bewitchingly charismatic it draws people over for a closer sniff.
This VG-heavy e-liquid produces a wonderfully refreshing, pallet-smacking zing that’s both smooth on the throat and deliciously berry like, with faint following notes of wild mint, which I expect was probably freshly plucked by nymphs and centaurs. It's an effect that's only very slightly undercut by the packaging's resemblance to pound shop nail polish remover.
Despite its less than promising name, Nasty Juice actually produces some of the most imaginative blends on the market. This high concentrate VG blend is quite opposite to what the name suggests and more akin to having a fresh melon breakfast on a Cote d’Azure sun terrace. It’s exceedingly fruity and really does taste of honeydew melon; the very light menthol aftertaste can be considered a nice finishing touch. Available as a five-pack in 3mg and 6mg nicotine strengths.
If you're after a great tobacco alternative to the all-conquering Cuttwood Tobacco Trail, try this hugely popular blend from Apollo. Infused with a light toffee flavour, it’s gentle on the throat and has a pleasant, lingeringly sweet aftertaste. A very similar Classique RY4 blend is also available for the excellent French Bo Vape pod system. Pack this one for a day out and you won’t be yearning for anything else.
Bryn’s apricot blend comes as a pack of three and fuses the taste of mum’s home-made custard with other fruits like apple, grape and plum to produce an appealingly smooth puff that clouts the palette with a zesty hit reminiscent of sticking your face in a fruit salad. This is a very high VG blend (80%) that produces huge plumes of vapour without searing the throat.
Puffing on this biscuit flavoured e-liquid is like chewing on an American-style cookie topped with a dollop of thick vanilla-flavoured cream. However, it’s best used in small quantities since it can become quite sickly after several puffs. Available in nicotine strengths of 3mg, 6mg and 12mg.