Cactus Laboratories: Second Review
It is my pleasure this morning to once again bring you a review of Cactus Laboratories (formerly Cactus Vapor Supply) liquids. You can read my previous review of other offerings from them here.
Today’s review will cover five new liquids from them, two of which have yet to be released. The flavors to be covered are:
From the Twisted Cactus line: Punkin Spice Cheesecake, Smooth Vanilla Blueberry. Uncle Glenn’s Blend and Vape This.
And, finally, from the Big Daddy Vape label: Flesh.
Additionally, this review features a brief interview with Joe Bradley, co-founder of Cactus Laboratories. Finally, there’s a bonus at the end of the review that you’ll want to read to the very end to discover.
A Word With Joe Bradley
Before we dive into the main body of the review, I’d like to share with you a brief Q&A I exchanged with Joe Bradley, the head honcho at Cactus Laboratories. These are points of interest that have lately fascinated me about eliquid creators, and I thought that I’d take the opportunity to satisfy my curiosity, and hopefully yours, as well.
JC: Thanks for taking the time this morning to answer a few questions, Joe. To start with, would you tell us about your own transition from smoking to vaping? Why did you switch, and how did you go from a smoker to a full time vaper?
JB: My transition from smoking to vaping started about 5 years ago. I bought an ego kit online with a tiny little plastic tank that was punctured by the atomizer. It worked great and then. Leaked liquid all over the place and in my mouth. I pretty much gave up on that kit the very next day. About a week later I found the gas station variety with little packs or cartridges and I thought “wow that’s cool”. I actually managed to quit smoking completely with those for a while, along with my wife and a few friends who were heavy smokers. It wasn’t until 6 months later that I discovered a tiny little shop in Ohio that made their own liquid. At the time they sold cartridges that were easily refilled with any liquid they offered. They of course had over 100 flavors they offered and since my taste buds had finally come back, I was hooked!
JC: What was your first attempt at creating a liquid like?
JB: My first attempt at creating a liquid was with by business partner and it went quite well. After a copious amount of research, we used Lorann Flavors in the very beginning and we created the best fruit punch flavor I personally have ever tried. The funny thing was, since we moved away from the DIY flavor providers, we have yet to replicate the wonderful fruit punch. It’s my White Whale at the moment.
JC: What was it like to have another vaper try one of your liquids for the first time, and what was it like to go from that to starting a company dedicated to producing eliquids for the larger market?
JB: The first time we had someone try our liquids was amazing! It was almost as good as when someone enjoys food you cooked on the grill.
Going from a kitchen table creation to dedicated lab space in the house to now having a professional clean room lab space has been surreal. We are still such a small company but every time I go to our lab to mix or bottle I still get that feeling like I’m doing something fun and exciting. It’s a great feeling to know someone enjoys something you make. It was a little rocky in the beginning with securing a loan and all of the business stuff required to start up but it was well worth it.
JC: What kind of plans can you see for the future of your company? How about for the eliquid market as a whole, with things sort of in limbo under the shadow of the FDA right now?
JB: Cactus Vapor Laboratories currently has two brands of eLiquid, Cactus eJuice and Twisted Cactus ELiquids. We also manufacture custom lines for vape shops as well. Our future seems bright to me indeed. I would like to continue taking on more brands along with helping other small eLiquid manufacturers grow their business with our lab space and experience. We currently offer some custom drip tips and in the future I would like to design a few mods as well. We truly want to be a full service manufacturing company in the vapor industry.
As for the eLiquid market in general, I don’t like to speculate on the FDA regulations. I take part in commenting and offering my advice to various forums but right now we are taking it one day at a time. We understand that things are changing and we are preparing to change with them no matter what those changes may be. For instance, we follow all AEMSA guidelines for safe and clean manufacturing standards. We’re trying to stay ahead of the game so that when regulations come down the pipeline it won’t be that devastating.
Do I believe that this will ever go away? No. Vaping has become a culture. Smoking in my opinion has never been the way this industry is. This is totally new ground and nothing, not even the FDA can stop people from Vaping all together. They can certainly make it much harder for users to get what they need and companies to produce. I do however think that the deeming regulations are a good thing for our industry. We will start to see much better packaging, warning labels and overall quality of ingredients.
If We have to start making liquids in 20’s prohibition style…….I’ll just have to buy an RV and make liquids out in the desert somewhere!
The five liquids under review today were tested in an Indulgence Mutation X rebuildable dripping atomizer sporting a dual coil build of braided 26 gauge Kanthal A-1 wire fitted with organic cotton wick. The resistance of the build measures at 0.24 ohms. Additional testing was undertaken in the HCigar Trident V2 sporting a single 0.45 ohm coil of 24 gauge Kanthal A-1, also packed with organic cotton wick.
Both the Mutation X and Trident V2 were powered by Sony VTC4 and Vamped 18650 batteries inside a Sigelei #13A mechanical mod.
Each of these liquids sports a 40% PG/60% VG ratio at 6mg nicotine strength.
As is the case with most eliquid lines, the following five liquids share many characteristics in common. And as is my custom when reviewing multiple liquids within a lineup that share common characteristics, I’m going to deal with those common characteristics all together, rather than basically repeat myself throughout the review process. I will, as usual, make exceptions insofar as to describe the flavor carriage of the vapor and the subtle difference in character for each liquid’s throat hit.
The first characteristic shared by all five liquids is that of appearance. Though each liquid has a slightly different hue, they all have nearly identical motion attributes, attesting to their PG/VG ratio. The shake test reveals that each liquid leaves a slight film which dissipates quite rapidly, while the rotational test displays a flat, clean horizon with a strong ripple pattern.
The second characteristic common to all five liquids is that of the visual vapor output. It is, in short, excellent. Particularly in a dual coil, sub-ohm build, this is liquid that, in my opinion, could easily satisfy the casual if not the competitive cloud chaser.
The third and final characteristic shared by all five liquids is throat hit. Though the exact character of each liquid’s throat hit varies, all five produce more than satisfactory throat hit when it comes to power and speed of arrival.
Presentation & Specifications
While the presentation of the Cactus e-Juice and Big Daddy Vape lines haven’t undergone any fundamental changes, there have been some cosmetic upgrades to the labels for the Cactus e-Juice line that deserve at least a few words.
First and foremost, my biggest gripe about the previous labels has been addressed more than satisfactorily. Whereas the PG/VG ratio appeared on the previous label as remarkably small white text within a light green rectangle, this is no longer the case. The new labels display the PG/VG ratio prominently beneath the name of the liquid itself, which is easily found by rotating the bottle clockwise from the center of the label.
The logo for the Cactus e-Juice line has also been significantly revised, of course; now, not only is the name of the line new, it is displayed in bigger, more boldly colored text. Additionally, the nicotine strength matrix has been relocated and reoriented. On the old label, it was displayed vertically on the left-hand margin of the label. Now, it is oriented horizontally and located at the bottom of the label, running from left to right beneath the main logo.
The bottling itself has also been upgraded: each clear glass bottle now sports a child-resistant pipette cap which arrives shrink-wrapped to guard against tampering.
This holds true, also, with the Twisted Cactus line, which I am pleased to introduce to you today. The label for the Twisted Cactus lineup is also quite nice:
The sepia color scheme, subtle desert background image (including cactii, naturally!) and choice of typeface for the logo and eliquid name are all strongly evocative of an “Old West” motif, which is a very fine stylistic choice.
That logo appears front and center; beneath it you’ll find the name of the specific liquid in the bottle, with that name bracketed top and bottom by nice “barbed wire” style borders. Turning the bottle clockwise in the hand, we find the nicotine strength matrix oriented vertically. Turning it counterclockwise to bring the left hand margin into view, we find the PG/VG ratio, nicotine warning, and ingredients list oriented vertically and printed in quite small text; yet the text is easy enough to read thanks to its more than adequate contrast against the sepia background.
All told, I am extremely pleased with the new labeling on display here, as well as with the consumer safety features.
Twisted Cactus is a new line of eliquids from Cactus Vapor Laboratories that promises awesome new flavors. Let’s see how they deliver!
Pumpkin Spice Cheesecake
No vendor description available at this time.
One thing I suppose I could have added to the “Common Characteristics” section above is that the nose of Cactus Vapor Laboratories liquids is universally intense. No shrinking violets when it comes to potency of scent from any of these liquids.
Punkin Spice Cheesecake delivered a wallop of a reminder of that when I first cracked it open. The pumpkin spice alluded to by the name is right there, immediate and bold. It’s not quite overwhelming, but it is closer to that than you get from almost any other lineup.
The cheesecake component takes a decided back seat to the pumpkin spice. Overall, this liquid smells great just in the bottle, which makes the rest of what we have here quite pleasant and very appropriate to the holiday season we’ll be dealing with in the upcoming months.
Naturally, that scent is in the flavor carriage of the vapor, as well, and how! Flavor carriage is both potent and lingering. Fortunately for any nonsmokers you may happen to enjoy this around, that pumpkin spice and just a ghost of rich cheesecake are completely free of tobacco notes.
The throat hit here delivers a quick slap that’s ever so slightly softened, probably by the cheesecake character. The spices certainly put the oomph to me, and I like it — a throat hit like this means that I can open the throttle all the way when it comes to airflow and bust out the clouds without missing out on a satisfying throat hit.
On the inhale, Punkin Spice Cheesecake is dominated by the pumpkin spice. That’s not to say that the cheesecake isn’t well represented, because it is; it’s simply that the pumpkin spice is strongly at the forefront.
On the exhale, a subtle shift takes place in the other direction, with the cheesecake coming forward and the pumpkin spice stepping back, though not much, before the affair settles into a long, perfectly matched finish.
This is definitely, in my opinion, a seasonal vape for everyone but those who just can’t get enough of pumpkin-spice themed flavors all year ‘round. For me, it’s going to be a definite must-have through the holiday season. It’s further my opinion that this is the very best vapes I’ve had in this flavor category, and I’m comparing it favorably to offerings from much larger companies, such as “Country Bumpkin” from Rocket Fuel Vapes, for example.
Smooth Vanilla Blueberry
No vendor description available at this time.
The first thing I asked Joe Bradley, on taking a whiff of this one, was, “Does this use Silver Blend as the tobacco component?” It does, and if you look back at my previous review of that liquid, you’ll understand why I think that’s just awesome.
Smooth Vanilla Blueberry also announces its namesake components on the nose, as well; what you get when you take a whiff of this is a dry, earthy tobacco smoothed to perfection, with ripe blueberry being the standout note shoulder to shoulder with the tobacco. I could hardly wait to start taking hits of this.
Flavor carriage from the vapor is quite mild, and doesn’t linger long. There is a trace of sweet tobacco in the air after a long vape session — and I do mean only a trace. Nevertheless, for mixed company (by which I mean nonsmokers) you’ll want to exercise due discretion and courtesy before you indulge, because what flavor carriage there is, is identifiable as a tobacco profile.
This liquid has a beautiful throat hit. I’ve tried somewhere over a hundred eliquids since I began vaping over two years ago, and I would put the feel of the throat hit from this one in my personal top ten.
It’s rapid without being abrupt. It’s strong without being harsh. It doesn’t dry the throat. Those are my standards for any good throat it, but it’s actually very rare to find all three of those benchmarks in a vape with a tobacco profile.
Generally, it’s the third criterion where tobacco vapes fall short; they tend to dry the throat after a while; Smooth Vanilla Blueberry doesn’t, which for me is a very pleasant surprise.
The inhale, if you hadn’t taken in the nose of this liquid or seen the name beforehand, would mislead you. On the inhale alone, this is just a very smooth, dry, and velvety tobacco. As the inhale turns to throat hit, that’s when the distinctive flavor of ripe blueberry steps into the picture.
After that smooth throat hit, in the exhale, and through the medium finish, that’s when the ripe blueberry and rich vanilla rise to the level of that dry tobacco.
I’m sure I’ve mentioned this somewhere before, but blueberry, vanilla, and tobacco is my favorite flavor profile — Smooth Vanilla Blueberry, for my tastes, just nails it. This is the perfect vape to accompany breakfast, or a walk in the country with crisp spring breezes. (Well, that last part is more something I could imagine myself doing while vaping this — you don’t find much country, or too many crisp spring breezes, in the greater Phoenix area.)
If you like sweetened tobacco, but are a little weary of the standard RY4 Vanilla-Caramel mix, then this is definitely something you want to try.
Uncle Glenn’s Blend
Cactus Laboraties Says: “It don’t take a genius to spot a goat in a flock of sheep. You want one of the best Tobacco blends of E-Liquid….you got it. Of course we know everyone says their E-liquid is the best so you’re gonna have to man up and see if we’re lying. Uncle Glenn aint got no time for bullsh*t.”
The first whiff of this blew me away. I was expecting tobacco, but I didn’t know what kind of tobacco to expect. True to the description, what I smell here is a straight-up no-bullshit tobacco that reminds me of un-flavor-dipped cigarillos.
Because this is a pure tobacco vape, the flavor carriage here is going to be instantly identifiable and, as much as smokers will approve and ex-smokers will get a nostalgic look in their eyes, nonsmokers are almost certainly going to howl to high heaven about it. So vape this with all due discretion in mixed company.
The throat hit on this isn’t harsh, but only by a shaving. It’s immediate, and it’s powerful, and over long vaping sessions, you’ll want to keep your whistle wet to avoid dryness.
The flavor here is true to the nose, but it does bring along a little sweetness that the nose doesn’t really hint at. I’m not sure what it is — or even if it’s really there, because I might just be imagining it — but the ghost of sweetness I get here reminds me of cognac. That could be an actual ingredient, or it could be my mind and memory playing tricks on me, because what this flavor reminds me of, most strongly of all, is Al Capone brand cognac-dipped little cigars.
The inhale is rich with a very earthy loose-leaf tobacco. After the throat hit, the exhale brings that sweet trace in that speaks of coumarin and cognac. (For those who don’t know, coumarin is found in most varieties of grass and hay, and comes out naturally after a rainstorm or a cutting. It’s the “sweet smell” you pick up the morning after a rainy night, or right after a lawn has been mowed. It’s also an ingredient often added to sweeten tobacco, particularly cigar and pipe tobaccos.)
If you’re the kind of fella or lady who likes a rock solid, no-kidding loose-leaf or cigarillo flavor profile, this one is right up your alley. It’s been in my after dinner rotation for a couple months steady, and I foresee it continuing to be so for a long time to come.
Cactus Laboratories says: “What starts out with a familiar gummy flavor turns into an amazing vaping experience. Lemon, Lime, Gummy and a bit of fruit fusion make this an all day vape.”
When I inhale the scent of Vape This, I get a big jolt of the citrus the description speaks of; it almost (but not quite) overshadows the Gummi note.
The flavor carriage from this vapor is potent and quite distinctive, but also quite fleeting. You won’t hear any complaints from nonsmokers, but you very well might see looks of profound confusion, because while everybody will have some idea of what they’re smelling, they won’t have any idea why they’re smelling it. (Since although Gummi candies have plenty of flavor, they don’t really have much of a scent to them.)
The throat hit here is about standard in potency and rapidity for this line — which is to say that both are excellent — and is plenty satisfying.
I’ll be up front about this: I didn’t expect to like this flavor. Candy flavors aren’t really my thing, after all. But I do like citrus flavors quite a lot, and the citrus notes in Vape This really do put it over the line for me.
It’s lemon-line on the inhale, with the Gummi trailing a moderately distant third. On the exhale, the Gummi speaks more clearly, and serves to keep the citrus notes from overwhelming the entire hit. I reiterate that candy flavors aren’t high on my personal favorites list, but this one is really very well rounded, and I give it a thumbs up.
If you’re someone who loves fruit candy flavors, citrus flavors, or both, this one is a solid contender for your must-try list.
Big Daddy Vape
No vendor description available at this time.
What I get from the nose here is a fusion of Apple, Strawberry, and Watermelon. It took some hard thinking for me to settle on those notes, for two reasons: It’s a completely new flavor combination for me, and these three notes blend almost seamlessly.
Flavor carriage on Flesh is more pronounced and longer-lasting than on its nearest sibling in this review, Vape This. The fruit scent lasts in a 500 square foot space for a good ten minutes after, say, fifteen minutes of vaping. You should be fine vaping this in mixed company, since the scent it leaves is very pleasant and contains no hint of anything other than fruit fusion.
The interesting thing about the throat hit on Flesh, for me at least, is that I perceive a cooling sensation. Now, there’s no cooling agent in Flesh; I think what’s going on is that my brain is playing tricks on me, interpreting the watermelon and strawberry components from the flavor as cooling — this is probably down to the fact that most people eat watermelon and strawberries from cool to chilled.
Regardless of the reason, the best way I can describe the throat hit from Flesh is not just “satisfying” but “refreshing.”
The strawberry and watermelon, as I just hinted, dominate the inhale on Flesh. After the throat hit, the exhale brings the apple forward, but only a little. You really have to think about it; it does, though, add a certain otherwise-undefinable color to the shoulder-to-shoulder blending of the other two notes.
Flesh, in my opinion, is going to be a staple in my future summer rotation. The flavor is juicy, the throat hit is refreshing — and by itself that throat hit makes this an outstanding hot weather vape — but put the whole package together and you have a really excellent vape.
Bonus: Cactus Laboratories Brand Saguaro Series Drip Tip
As you can see from the above photo, this is a really good looking drip tip. The black chrome finish on the stainless steel portion compliments the black delrin mouthpiece quite nicely, and the logo in white script provides good contrast to the matte black and black chrome.
Additionally, the stainless steel portion has a “finned” texture to aid in heat dissipation; this is further reinforced by the delrin mouthpiece, so you can vape it nice and hot without discomfort.
Fit & Finish
So far, the tolerances of both the stainless steel and delrin portions are excellent. The delrin mouthpiece fits snugly into the stainless steel portion, while the stainless steel portion fits into every rebuildable atomizer I’ve got with nary a wobble or wiggle.
Oh, did I mention that? This is actually a two-piece drip tip. The delrin mouthpiece is removable for use as a “shorty” drip tip all on its own, while the stainless steel extender portion can accommodate most other 510-compatible drip tips, as well.
The delrin portion is wide-bore at the top, but has a sharply angled “funnel” shape about midway down on the inside, while the stainless steel portion mirrors this internal shape.
Real World Experience
One thing I learned in short order with this drip tip: Just because the top is wide bore, you don’t want to drip into it crazy fast, particularly with liquids that have a higher VG content than 50/50. You can and will cause congestion in this drip tip if you don’t take it slow.
Once you figure out the ideal pace for dripping, though, this drip tip is a joy to use. With both parts together, this drip tip dissipates, ehhh, I’d ballpark it and say 99.5% of the heat generated by your atomizer. If you’re using an atomizer with heat dissipation fins in the top cap, as is the case with the Mutation X, your lips will stay nice and comfy even for extended sub-ohm vape sessions. (Depending on your mod, of course, your firing-button finger might be a different story.)
If you’re looking for a stylish, configurable, and comfortable drip tip for under $20, this is the one. For Cactus Laboratories’ first foray into hardware accessories, this may not exactly be a grand slam, but it’s a solid hit.
Overall Recommendation & Conclusion
Cactus Laboratories are making some big strides, and they’re doing it in a big hurry. These liquids are showing that they are committed to delivering excellent vaping experiences for just about every palate, and at very friendly prices.
Check them out today at their web site.
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