After a brief hiatus from reviewing due to a new job, I'm back... and this time with a Black Note e-liquid review. This is my first e-liquid review and, to be honest, I found it quite a bit more difficult than my previous hardware reviews. Reviewing hardware is a bit more straightforward - build quality, features, and performance are all tangible, objective criteria by which to create a review.
While there are some fairly objective characteristics of e-liquid by which to form an opinion, the most important, taste, is purely subjective. Okay, now that my quasi-disclaimer is out of the way, let's take a look at what is on offer for review.
Black Note has provided for this review all eight of their e-liquids, all produced from naturally extracted tobacco (NET). I'm hoping they will provide us with a coupon code for the readers of this Black Note e-juice review, but I haven't received one yet.
I've been tobacco free for over a year now and my typical all day vapes are dessert, bakery, cereal, or fruit flavors with only an occasional tobacco e-juice thrown in. When I first began vaping I used tobacco flavors almost exclusively to emulate smoking as closely as I could.
I was a bit apprehensive to embark on a NET e-liquid review as any true basis for comparison I have isn't particularly fresh in my mind. I also wasn't sure how I would take to NETs again being so far removed from regular usage. But, my apprehensions and doubts proved to be unfounded.
I'm going to try very hard not to make this review sound like marketing copy but in order to impart some of the information about Black Note's offerings, I am going to quote some stuff directly from their website (which is very slick, by the way) and provide some links rather than trying to paraphrase. No reason to re-invent the wheel here.
Black Note E-Liquid Overview
An overview of how Black Note e-liquids are produced can be found on the page "How It's Made". In summary, Black Note claims a meticulous and exacting selection criteria for the tobaccos used in their product and employs a cold extraction and maceration process during production.
Most of the "technical" stuff doesn't mean a whole lot to a neophyte such as myself but it certainly sounds impressive. Another characteristic of the Black Note e-liquids which grabbed my attention is the noted absence of any artificial or chemical additives. Here's a blurb from Black Note's site which makes the point nicely:
"Black Note Vapor Liquid does not contain any laboratory conducted synthetic compounds associated with artificial flavors and sweeteners or chemical additives, the likes of Diacetyl, Acetyl Propionyl, Ethylene Glycol, Diethylene Glycol, Acrolein or Acetoin, all of which have been shown to be harmful to health. We do not use any artificial/synthetic flavors, colors, dyes or chemical additives."
In light of recent controversies surrounding unknown effects of some of the compounds listed above, it is nice to know Black Note is free of those chemicals. Black Note commissioned an independent lab study of their products which can be found here.
It is still prudent to consider vaping as "harm reduction" and understand that there may be risks inherent to vaping even when using "clean" e-liquids. I encourage everyone to educate themselves on the e-liquids they use and determine for themselves an acceptable level of risk.
Black Note e-liquids are blended with a 50/50 ratio of propylene glycol (PG) and vegetable glycerin (VG). The 50/50 ratio should work equally well in tanks or drippers. The available nicotine concentrations are 0mg, 3mg, 6mg, 12mg, 18mg, and 24mg. Something for everyone, it seems. I generally vape 6mg, which is the concentration of the e-liquids provided for this Black Note e-liquid review.
The Notebook retails for $58.00, individual 30ml bottles are $29.00.
The Packaging and Presentation
One thing is for certain, Black Note knows how to package a product. From the 7.5ml sample collection, "The Notebook", to the individual 30ml bottles, the packaging and presentation are second to none - not to mention the expertly produced web site.
I've often read comments on message boards from folks who think slick packaging is nothing more than an attempt to hoodwink buyers into thinking they are receiving a premium product - putting lipstick on a pig, I guess. I'm sure there are plenty of instances where that holds true but, regardless, I'm a fan of slick packaging and product presentation - and Black Note has it nailed.
Note the message on the end of the box containing the 30ml bottles - return five empty 30ml tubes and get a 30ml bottle of your choice for free, shipping included. That's a pretty sweet deal in my opinion. So, if Black Note ends up being a go to e-juice for you, every sixth bottle turns out to be free. Not too shabby.
Black Note also offers free label customization. You can add a message of your choice, up to 260 characters, with the caveat that Black Note reserves the right to refuse printing "inappropriate" messages. So, you probably should forgo requesting any dirty limericks. Black Note was thoughtful enough to include an example of a custom label with my shipment.
And, yes, my name is Nathan as well, just like the esteemed owner of Vaping Cheap.
Black Note E-Juice Review
Black Note has eight e-liquids in their catalog, all NET, of course. For each, I'll provide the manufacturer's description and my own brief impressions. All e-liquids used for this review are 6mg (0.6%) nicotine strength.
"Grown in the sandy alluvial plains at the foot of the Italian Alps, Prelude’s Virginia tobacco derives subtle flavors unique to the Verona soils. Once harvested, the leaves are flue-cured to release their natural sugars and resins, resulting in a light, bright taste and aroma."
Prelude carries a very light tobacco flavor, reminiscent perhaps of a "light" cigarette... or at least what I can remember a light cigarette tasting like. Prelude has a pronounced natural sweetness which comes through prominently on the exhale. For sure, no light cigarette ever tasted this good.
Throat hit with this one is very mild. I'd venture to guess Prelude would appeal to a broad spectrum of vapers, even those not particularly fond of tobacco flavors. This could very easily find a spot in my daily rotation.
"Originating in the 17th century, Cavendish uses a unique process of cutting and curing designed to bring out the natural sweetness of the tobacco leaf. Sonata uses only fire-cured dark Virginia tobacco, steamed and cured under pressure to allow the rich, robust flavors to fully develop."
Again, as with Prelude, we have a mild tobacco taste with a lighter sweetness. Throat hit is negligible, at least with the 6mg e-juice I'm reviewing. There also seems to be a light fruit undertone. I don't get much "rich" or "robust" as described... but, hey, it's pretty damn good.
"Adagio offers the uniquely sweet, mildly spicy, aromatic flavor of Havana tobacco, complemented by rich, smoky undertones to create a flavor that’s recognized around the globe. Grown for centuries in Cuba’s moist, tropical climate, Havana is regarded as one of the world’s most flavorful tobaccos."
Adagio definitely has a more pronounced throat hit and lesser level of sweetness than Prelude or Sonata. There is also an almost nutty aftertaste. Very nice, overall.
"Planted on the sun-drenched slopes of Tuscany, Italian Kentucky tobacco has an American name and an Italian heart. Flue-cured to release the tobacco's natural resins for a rich-bodied vaping experience, Legato offers a mildly nutty and aromatic flavor with a finish that's both earthy and smooth."
I'm beginning to have trouble differentiating between the flavors... largely because I was never a huge tobacco aficionado. I smoked Marlboro Reds and the occasional cigar. However, Legato really hits it for me. It has a very "earthy" flavor and is clean from inhale to exhale. Throat hit is mild.
"Cultivated in the fertile volcanic soils around Naples, our burley is ripened by the warm Italian sun before being shade dried and light-air cured. Offering a subtle, slightly sweet flavor, Forte offers the full-bodied flavor and rich vaping experience typical of burley tobacco."
Forte seems to have a very light spice note; noticeable but extremely pleasant. Sweetness is not as pronounced as the other liquids but overall flavor is extremely well balanced. There also seems to be a citrus note on the exhale. Throat hit is super mild. Another winner, for sure.
"Solo begins with a fine, ultra-smooth Virginia tobacco to provide a rich, flavorful base, then incorporates a layer of natural menthol oils derived through a special extraction process. The result is a refreshing mint flavor without any harsh bite for a bright, cool vaping experience."
Um, okay... here is where it comes off the rails for me. In all fairness, I can't stand mint or menthol flavors. So, Solo doesn't really curry my favor. I will say though, the flavor, like all the other liquids, is super clean and has no artificial notes at all. The menthol notes are pure mint rather than being the particularly medicinal, artificial menthol found in some liquids.
I'm guessing menthol fans will absolutely *adore* Solo.
"Sun-cured, highly aromatic and mildly spicy, basma tobacco is considered by some tobacco experts to be the finest aromatic tobacco in the world. Grown exclusively in the mountainous area of Northeastern Greece known as Xanthi, basma has earned a reputation as the “king of tobaccos.”
Cadenza, to me, has a sharper throat hit than the other Black Note juices. It also has a very "woodsy" flavor profile. I love this e-liquid, I really do. The tobacco notes are strong and any NET fan will love this e-liquid, without a doubt.
"Air-cured and naturally fermented, Bravura begins with the smooth, rich undertones of the finest red burley, using a centuries-old process to achieve deep, earthy notes with a subtle hints of fruit. The result is a complex, full-bodied vaping experience reminiscent of the world's premium tobaccos."
Bravura is perhaps my least favorite of the Black Note line. While it maintains the super clean, all natural flavor profile of its brethren, there isn't a lot of character here... at least, not for me. There is a medium throat hit and a mild sweetness but the overall flavor profile is very neutral.
The Black Note line should have something to offer for almost any vaper except perhaps those who are adamantly averse to tobacco flavors. While I don't vape tobacco juices nearly as frequently as I used to, it is nice to have a few in the mix for those occasions when the tobacco cravings hit.
The Black Note NETs also make terrific companion vapes when indulging in an adult beverage or three (for example, I found Cadenza to pair exceptionally well with Highland Park 12 year old Scotch).
The one characteristic consistent across the Black Note line are the super clean, natural flavors. It doesn't take an aficionado to immediately identify the quality of the Black Note e-juice. It's obvious this juice is crafted with great care and attention.
However, a few of the e-juices tasted remarkably similar to my neophyte palate. Again, taste is subjective, but I'd have a hard time differentiating between a few of Black Note's offerings if subjected to a blind vape test.
- Amazingly clean flavors and consistent quality
- Superb packaging and presentation
- May be cost prohibitive for some users
- Some flavors taste too similar
Sure, the packaging and presentation are slick but, make no mistake, the e-liquid inside each bottle is more than worthy of the fancy clothes. Is Black Note worth nearly $1/ml? I can't judge that for anyone other than myself - but, yes, I'd have no issue paying the price of admission for the level of quality and clean flavors on offer from Black Note.
Certainly, not everyone is in a position to drop almost $30 on a 30ml bottle of juice but, if you are and enjoy NET liquids, do yourself a favor and add some Black Note to your juice cabinet. You'll be glad you did.