I was slowly, but surely, getting colleagues who were smokers to try vaping and consider ditching the death sticks. Some people I'd give entire kits to, others I'd recommend a setup or pass on a link to a few places where you could get some good vape gear. However, it wasn't until a few years later that I wondered: "What if I could run my own vape business? What would that be like? How could I even do that?"
In reality, as anyone who owns a small business will tell you, shop rental space is not only limited but extremely expensive at the moment. I considered a small market stall, but knew I wanted more. I built a business plan and prepared to go to the bank armed with how this venture of mine could make millions! Except the banks are not interested in giving loans unless you have significant investment of your own money upfront. Of course, I had no such thing. Setting up a high-street store, from scratch, as well as developing a brand, outfitting the store, paying all the bills, etc., would have cost around £35k (here in Plymouth anyway).
So, back down to reality: I had a chat with a marketing and branding guy who was a friend of a friend who really knew his stuff when it came to launching a business, marketing it and everything else you'd need to know as a startup. It was a humbling but extremely useful experience as I was informed: this brand won't work, these images and designs are no good, this logo isn't right and why the hell are you looking at the high-street?
The first flavour we fully developed was Black Rice. I'm not entirely sure what the inspiration for this was: I had tried a few pure liquorice flavours before, including an excellent flavour inspired by Finland from ecigwizard, called: Salmiakki. As for mixing liquorice with blackcurrant, instinct told me this would work. Both are dark flavours and so offsetting that balance with a hint of refreshing lime just settles the juice with a light note. I genuinely feel that Black Rice is a great all day vape. No three of the elements in Black Rice outstay their welcome. It took approximately two months of samples back and forth with testing notes before the final version was chosen.
In between all these samples and flavour developments, I was sourcing glass bottles, cardboard tubes and web services. I chose Weebly in the end, though Squarespace and Wix were both considered. I slowly built up some branding ideas as well as developing a framework for the site. Initially, I was fairly low on content. I didn't have bottles, labels or anything, yet really wanted to occupy my time working on the site just so I could keep busy. I made up dummy versions of my labels and played around with sticker paper and the printer, as well as pestering my brother for 3D renders of bottles with labels to give an idea how the brand might look.
Next up was Kernow Tales. As I'm from Cornwall originally and now residing in Devon, cream tea is a subject close to my heart! It simply had to be right! Turns out though, getting a 'scone' flavour, a plain scone flavour, in an e-liquid is not easy thing. The strawberry jam and the creamy consistency of clotted cream were relatively easy with a little practice though. I really like Kernow Tales. It is probably Tokenvape's most subtle, delicate flavour. There's a thick, sweet cream with a little strawberry on the high notes before that sweetness is beautifully offset with an Earl Grey tea.
From the start, not only did I want to create a fantastic scone element, but I really wanted to add the tea flavour to the liquid too. Some early sample batches had the tea a little too strong; tea, especially Earl Grey, can be rather overpowering and bitter in an e-liquid. The balance is everything here. Vape this one on fairly low watts, maybe in a tank and you should get every element in a delicate soft blend. Kernow Tales took around 2 - 4 months before a final version was chosen.
Back at this time, I was considering doing ten flavours, some of which were a bit strange, in hindsight (including one called: Marsh Gingilla, marshmallow, ginger and vanilla, anyone?) but in the end, given how long it was taking to develop and fully perfect some of these flavours, I pulled back to five, selecting only the best five flavour profiles that we'd developed.
The next e-liquid to work on was Tatin Anglaise. I had a number of influences on this, from Gambit by Five Pawns to other, simple custard blends from a variety of vendors, including Grant's Vanilla Custard and Digby's Mum's Custard. Tarte Tatin, like a lot of French desserts is a very buttery rich decadent thing. You want to feel special when eating this dessert and you want to feel much the same when vaping it. Early versions were very pastry strong, other samples were a bit too custard rich and others were, yes, too apple dominate! It took us months to get a perfect tasting Tarte Tatin with an English custard flavour. The final version which you can buy today is a wonderfully balanced, decadent dessert. It smells quite strongly of green apple, but when vaped, you'll get varied elements with every draw. Different watts also bring out this complex vape. Sometimes the buttery pastry is quite evident, other times it's a thick, luxurious custard heavy mix with apple and cinnamon sweetness on the high points.
I started to vape most of the Tatin Anglaise samples Mick was sending me all the time and it got to the point I could vape literally any variation he sent over until the bottle was dry! If that isn't the sign of a great vape, I'm not sure what is!
Join me next week for part 2 of 'A Nine Month Journey' where I will talk about two of Tokenvape's most complex and hard to achieve flavours to date: Sweet Salt and Samic Berry.
You must be aged 18 or over to use these products.
Tokenvape e-liquid may contain nicotine.
Nicotine is classed as toxic.
Very toxic if swallowed.
Very toxic in contact with skin.
Keep locked up and out of the reach of children.
If you feel unwell when using these products, stop and seek medical advice immediately.
May contain traces of nuts.
Only to be used with e-cigarettes.