How Your Favorite E-Liquid Is Made
Ever wondered what exactly is behind your e-liquid? First, a lot of love, but also a lot of work. Let's take a look at the typical years-long journey one embarks upon in the hopes of becoming a master mixer.
First, a mixer needs creativity, patience, a bit of an obsessive personality, and the fortitude to vape a lot of really bad juice (particularly at first). A culinary background and a knack for knowing what flavors pair with what doesn't hurt, either.
Even an industrial level mixer begins with a handful of flavor extracts, along with some concentrated nicotine and pure propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin. At first, they'll strike out to balance the proportions needed to make a simple, single-flavor recipe. This process alone can take several attempts. After that, it's time to start mixing two-and-three-flavor blends, usually requiring even more revision.
Of course, getting familiar with these flavors takes time. But it's necessary before using them as the building blocks of more complex recipes. Each new flavor needs to be vaped at varying strengths and ages, with notes taken on how it changes as higher or lower percentages are used, whether it gets weaker (limes) or stronger (anise) with age, whether the flavor is more intense at lower (cinnamon) or higher (creams) wattage.
After many attempts, dozens of pages of tasting notes on hard drives and charts, and at least a few recipes crafted from scratch that are considered consumer friendly. Now it's time to get to beta testing.
At this point most e-liquid companies start passing out their creations out among their employees and associates. The feedback generated by this audience is often whet leads to final revisions of a recipe based on the positives and negatives. In many cases a select group of buyers and consumers is targeted for additional feedback. For example Sugar Hill E-Liquid revised their Morning Glory product seven times based on responses from those who tried their first few batches.
Once you a company receives enough positive feedback on three or four flavors (generally the minimum needed to properly launch a brand)? At this time its now time to start thinking production. First time companies are going to have to register with the FDA as a tobacco manufacturer (we know how ridiculous this is), plus obtain whatever business licensing your state and municipal government may require. Liability insurance when selling a potentially toxic product is also going to be a must-have.
At this point a company shifts to packaging decisions. Who's going to create your logo and bottle art? Are you going for an upscale and classy look that many will consider boring, or do you risk using a cartoonish label that will draw even more criticism from people who say you're marketing to kids? Do you go for the extra cost of glass bottles in the hopes your consumers will pay a premium, or do you use plastic squeeze bottles that some folks will consider cheap? These are all decisions that can make or break a brand and the choices are expensive ones, often times too expensive to backtrack once a product is out in the market.
Now it's time to find a manufacturing facility. While some are ok with the minimal requirements most brands opt for industrial level manufacturing which involves clean rooms, QC check points, expensive ventilation systems. All of these factors play into the quality of the product you vape. Molecule Labs for example has one of the most state of the art facilities where brands like Cuttwood and countless others are crafted. The cost of creating their own lab may be too excessive for a new brand so opting for a middle man is the most cost effective.
Once a lab is selected a brand has their recipes recreated using bulk supplies, due to the cost difference in these supplies being purchased the pricing makes higher quality ingredients more affordable and a natural purchase to make. Every batch of e-liquid that is created at a lab is tested on the premises before it is even bottled, these test include nicotine content volume, as well as additional test for purity, quality, viscosity, and in most cases things like diacetyl.
Once the tests are complete and a batch meets the standards of the laboratory, vats are filled with the batch and spun for a predetermined amount of time before it is fed into the filling machines and the process of the final product truly begins, most of this process is automated with a few checkpoints along the way to ensure the quality remains the same.
When people ask the question about premium versus budget, these are the differences. While the ingredients may generally be of similar quality the benchmark of quality and process are not the same. Those who elect to DIY do so after many hours of research and are consuming what they make. Mass producing e-liquids for sale under those conditions is not possible without cutting corners and quality loss as well as the risk of foreign objects entering at any stage of the process. For most the idea of sitting down to spend time and money mixing themselves does not appeal so they purchase a final product that is already perfected for consumption.