Black Note Commercial Product Reviews
First, as everyone here understands, TIS, = “taste is subjective”. These comments are from the perspective of my taste buds only. Your milage might vary.
FYI, in real life I am a NET tobacco vaper only. I do not, as a matter of personal choice and flavor preference, vape any synthetic flavors whether that be fruits and desserts on the one hand all the way to so-called ‘synthetic-tobacco’ on the other. I prefer to vape leaf tobacco NETs only. Therefore, as in all published papers that attempt to explore a narrow subject matter, you must always look for ‘investigator bias’. I readily admit that there is plenty of that here.
I have no connection with Black Note. The samples were in factory packaged 10ml glass bottles, and appeared genuine. These samples were obtained as distributed from the Black Note warehouse in Irvine California, USA. My tasting notes only cover 6 items in the product line. There are many more, but I did not receive samples of them .
Sampled using two vaporizer methods. 1.) low volume MTL style vaping on an 18mm VandyVape Berserker MTL RDA, (2.5mm 316L SS) and a 2.) Wotofo Lush Plus Dual Coil high wattage DL cloud blower (Dual 3.0mm 316L Claptons 32ga over 24ga)
Since the idea is that the supposed purpose of these products by the manufacturer is to provide tobacco flavor NETs to a wide mass marketed audience across the world of vaping, it seems logical to have an experienced tobacco flavor tester that is very familiar with the real leaf tobacco extracts compare the samples in a quantitative way to “known good samples” previously extracted by accepted DIY NET techniques. The samples will be compared with label identical specific tobacco types to those shown on the bottles as supplied by Black Note.
Relevance to a Tobacco Base Profile (scale 0-10):
A number will be assigned to each sample. The numbers are isolated and normalized to this group of tested items rating one against the others in the overall group . It is important to understand that this is not a global rating system. In other words these numbers in this group of Black Notes reviews can not be directly used in comparison or directly related to other of my numbers mentioned in other reviews of other product types. For example a number 5 here is not the same as a number 5 on some other group of reviews. The number is also weighted to relate to a base group of known good extractions obtained from natural tobacco leaf which scales how close the samples overall character, profile, strength and vaping impression contains elements that an experienced NET vaper readily and commonly identifies as particular and relevant to the nature of real NETs. As a flavor profile is missing elements, or has defects, when compared to the base samples then it becomes less ideal to call the sample “NET tobacco”, and the numerical score is reduced accordingly. Higher numbers are “better”, lower numbers are “poorer”.
There is an important co-related point about incorrect use of the term “tobacco” to be noted here. As the old saying goes “words have meaning”, and the casual and incorrect habit of the vaping community to throw around and attach descriptors like “tobacco”, or in this case “NET Tobacco” to just any flavor profile is doing a great disservice to people that read reviews and comments. As those folks attempt to use recipes posted in the forums, or in this case make buying decisions from vendors that are claiming to be offering “true tobacco NETS” mis direction errors can be made. Misuse of verbiage is just as important to look at in the world of NET providers as it is in the world of synth “tobacco-work-a-likes”.
TASTING NOTES FOLLOW:
FORTE - Burley Tobacco 3mg
I found a very light bodied White Burley most likely from a Single Barn Air Curing process. Undoubtedly the source of this tobacco was at the first level of wholesale, almost direct from the farm. I can detect that the tobacco was not aged or otherwise even minimally processed and is probably very young in age, less than 2 yeas from the farm. I would guess that this was a tobacco offered for sale to large blender houses intended for further processing into cigar or cigarette products. What you have here is almost a raw leaf product. Nothing wrong with that, it is what it is. There are gentle top notes of walnut and lesser secondary and every so slight sweet notes of fig / plum /cherry. I do not detect any defects such as synth casing or added in commercially processed elixirs. My main complaint is that it is mixed at a very low flavor strength profile. This falls short as an MTL because it lacks the necessary flavor strength. If it was 2x or 3x more robust in strength profile I would rate it as high as my rating when used in the DL setup. In contrast to the MTL setup, it works very well in the Dual Coil Cloud DL setup where it would successfully ADV and there I rate it as 8.0 points, but on the MTL setup I can only rate it as 5.9 as it is much too weak to successfully MTL.
PRELUDE - Virginia Tobacco 3mg
I found a medium light bodied Flue Cured mixture of Yellow and Orange Virginia. Very nicely balanced but more to the Orange side with less sweetness than you might be expecting, as typically Virginia mixes can be sweet to extremely sweet. I appreciate the fact that the sweetness level is dialed back to something reasonable, but that is just my personal taste preference in these mixes, and your milage may vary. In the MTL setup there are top notes of a very light lemon citrus which is balanced with a solid mid level tone of a thick rounded body core that has a chewy yeast quality to it. In the MTL setup i must say that I like this one. I am not detecting any casing, topping, elixirs, synth or other defects. However, in the DL setup the character changes considerably. It looses a good deal of the mid note body core but the sweetness remains, however the delicate citrus notes vanish. In the DL setup it becomes rather dull and monochromatic, in short, not very interesting. I rate this as 8.2 as an MTL, but a 7.0 in DL.
LEGATO - Kentucky Tobacco 3mg
Well we have an unfortunate naming convention issue here. Real Kentucky Tobacco is grown only in Kentucky USA and is in actuality a Burly that is either fire cured or dark air-cured. The curing process gives real Kentucky USA grown a very distinct earthy, woody and solid profile. However Black Note is saying about their Kentucky, and I quote them here: -“This American tobacco cultivar is grown in Tuscany and features an undeniably earthy flair”. They do not say what the curing process is, if in fact there is one. Unless it is fire or dark barn cured then it is just Burley grown outside the proper growing region of Kentucky USA. If not grown in Kentucky USA it really never should be called “Kentucky”. Oh well, this tester found it to be a medium Burley that is not fire or dark cured, and is so similar to the their FORTE, that I can not see why they bothered separately mis-labeling and packaging it. It is possibly a little more earthy than the FORTE, but not in any way that pushes it into the special and wonderful realm of real dark cured Kentuckys. There is a certain very subtle top note of smoldering Oak Wood smoke, and a very minor sand paper like roughness underneath. Unfortunately those two note features are typically found in products that have very (extremely small) additions of Tobacco Absolute, which is of course an added in elixir. I have no proof that they added in this component, and lacking any proof of that, I will give them the benefit of the doubt and simply rate the product as a real NET. However I am deducting points because of the mis-labeling, and also because of the fact that they missed an opportunity to add a real Fire or Dark Cured Kentucky extract to their product line. So the MTL vape gets a 6.5 The DL vape gets a better score because the character changes to a nicely dry (non sweet) vapor which brings up the mentioned Oak wood Smoke / rough TA component, and actually works quite well.and would make a nice ADV. The DL will rate a 7.5
SONATA - Cavendish Tobacco 3mg
On the MTL setup I found a light to medium Virginia Cavendish with a moist slightly sweet solid well rounded smokey core. The top notes are Cavendish typically sweet but not overly sweet. There is an archetypical Cavendish exhale with a faint but but very apparent added in vanilla. Since Cavendish is historically made as a processed tobacco with toppings or flavor additives I am not deducting any points for the added in vanilla component as this is the nature of the beast and here it is well thought out and works perfectly. In the MTL setup i must say that I like this one. In contrast to others in the Black Note lineup, this one can be successfully vaped in MTL, as it is more robust on the flavor strength scale. In the MTL setup this one is very nice and represents itself well as an unmistakable tobacco NET with no identity confusion or elements distracting from a pure tobacco flavor profile. I wish I could say the same for it on the DL cloud setup. There it mutes out the wonderful core Virginia tobacco profile and becomes lackluster, almost flavorless, and the subtle top note vanilla cavendish processing goes away. In DL it becomes much dryer and you loose track of the features that make a Cavendish a Cavendish, a very sad state of affairs. So in the MTL setup I rate it as 8.7. On the DL setup I rate it as a 5.5. This test is living proof that a DL setup can ruin an excellent MTL tobacco vape experience.
QUARTET - Latakia Tobacco 3mg
The description from Black Note begins ..”A rare blend with a remarkable flavor, Syrian Latakia tobacco”.. Well that is not very helpful. To make any sense of this taste experience. we need to know what the tobaccos are that comprised the “rare blend” underneath the Latakia I find it to be a base of the missing dark fired Kentucky that I was looking for in their LEGATO. I wish the Latakia was either a stronger example of the breed or much more of it blended in. To put my impressions on this one in a frame of reference, please understand I am used to seeing Latakia in traditional English Pipe Shop Blends from the old line blending houses. In that context the QUARTET falls far short in flavor intensity, flavor complexity, or pure punch. I have never seen Latakia blended with only a single profile base tobacco. In all cases the traditional blending of Latakia heads towards complexity, multi-layers, and power. But, in fairness to Black Note, the way they have done this is very consistent with the general approach they have used in their entire product line. So for that they get a “pass” on this one, but it is just not to my tastes or preference for anything labeled as Latakia. Of course, a purest must mention that real Syrian Latakia has not been produced or available since the year 2013, so, again, we give top marks to Black Note for “marketing”. Interestingly enough, there is very little difference in flavor profile between vaping this on either the MTL or the DL setups. I will give a slight edge to the MTL setup with a rating of 7.3 and the DL as 7.0
SOLO - Menthol 3mg
I am including this because it came shipped to me in the same box as the items listed above. I have no idea why. It is not a tobacco or a menthol vape. I dripped a few drops on an old seldom used Wasp Nano and attempted to vape it at 15 watts. I got a peppermint / dry hit like experience that I do not care to repeat ever again. So no numerical rating number for this one, please see my comments at the top of this post regarding “use of the term tobacco”... ‘nuff said.
Because of the approach taken by Black Note, it brings many things to light about the world of tobacco NETS that deserve comment.
First Black Note has made two major decisions.
1.) One is to offer only single varietal pure leaf extractions. This means, like for example in the case of their Burley, they chose a light grown leaf, not flu cured, not fermented or processed, you might say it is “au natural” and extracted soon after harvest and in its natural state. In contrast in the world of professional tobacco blending, whether it be for high quality cigars, pipe tobacco, snuff, or even cigarettes, invariably the person in charge of the blending process will choose to minimally process Burley tobacco in ways using some curing that alters, fills out, and rounds its flavor profile so that it better fits the later use of the Burley in the final product. What you have with the Black Note Burley, for example, is an un processed, uncured pure just harvested leaf sample. There is nothing wrong with that, but, if all you have access to is the Black Note product then this limits your exposure and experience of the possible rainbow of flavor profiles that Burley is capable of.
2.) The second decision they made was to offer only one strength level, and that level just barely makes it over the fence for use in low wattage MTL setups. This means that they threw the MTL vaper under the bus flavor strength wise. I would guess that they did this as a marketing business decision, as DL vapers outnumber MTL vapers 50:1. Generally, it seems, that this group of products were intentionally designed to be vapable on DL setups, and I think they did this as part of a business plan, as DL vape juice outsells MTL juice by a wide margin. There is nothing wrong with making business decisions, after all it costs a fortune to keep alive a vape juice business in the face of ever increasing regulation and competition from closed pod systems. I applaud the fact that they are there at all. More power to them !
1.) The product is packaged in Glass. This is a huge PRO !
2.) Black Note has brought an increased awareness in the general vaping community of the wonderful experience of tobacco NETs. This is a huge PRO !
3.) Black Note has a spectacular Customer Service policy. They have very rapid shipping and a 100% return policy. If you do not like it just email them and they take it back while offering a full refund including your shipping. It does not get any better than that. a Huge PRO !
4.) This pro is a little technical in nature and really deserves a detailed separate discussion other than this review. As many of you know my background is in industrial chemistry and I understand the technical issues with minimizing the “gunk” build up on coils when vaping tobacco NETs. It is clear that Black Note spent considerable effort to work with the compounding of the product to minimize the “gunk effect”. This is not a trivial technical effort, and it is a huge PRO because it takes away the fear many vapors have (especially those using factory coil setups), of having to deal with endless re-wicking and dry burns. Coil gunk becomes one less thing for the vaper to worry about.
5.) I am going to list as a PRO their decision to offer the product line as pure leaf non blended extracts. They could have offered exotic blended NET extracted from professional blending houses with formulas created by superstar names like Russ Ouellette, but I think they made a wise decision not to do that. They have given you the opportunity to start your first steps into the world of tobacco NET with the building blocks. As you get your feet wet, you can take careful steps into the deep end of the pool. There are many vendors like Want2Vape, Naturally-Extracted-Tobacco, LLC and others that will take you deep into the woods. And, of course, you can start yourself on that part of the DIY mixologist hobby, by making your own extractions. It is fun and rewarding.
1.) Price and Product Line Issues: There is confusion for the customer to the extent that the product line quality and pricing and distribution is all over the map. I feel that the Irvine USA warehouse list pricing on the “Note” line is pushed to the top limits of what the market will bear. There is a confusing and unaccounted for discount pricing on the same products when sourced through the China distribution where the asking price is much more reasonable. For information on the China distribution see this other post here on the forum. (CLICK for LINK). Presumably the Original “Note Type” Black Note product is the premium line and held to exacting quality control standards. But there are at least two other product lines sold under the Black Note Moniker. One is a line called “V”, and the other is a line that is distributed out of China. These two other lines are offered at various discount levels, some very steep. I wish Black Note Inc was more forthcoming about what the plan is here. It would help the consumer make better buying decisions. It is worth noting that control of Black Note Inc has gone through a rather tumultuous chain of CEOs, presidents and personal since its inception. I did a quick check of public records and find that they have incorporated in California as well as Nevada and also have a corporate identity called “California grown e-liquids”. So in a business sense, there is a lot going on. LinkedIn records indicate that many of the principles have strong corporate marketing backgrounds. The gross sales are now listed as in the tens of millions of dollars yearly, so if those reports are true we can say two things: First we wish to convey them congratulations on their success, second we can say that the “little small batch artisan marketing” is getting pretty thin.
2.) Strength Levels: I want to comment on what I think could have been done to lower product price and at the same time repair issues with product strength levels. They could have offered the product line in two forms. One line could have been offered in high profile strength MTL and another labeled and formulated for the DL vaper. Of course this would have cost more capital business dollars to make this happen. Where would that money come from? Because substantial money was allocated to the over the top graphics, packaging and presentation of the product it probably stressed whatever money was available and decisions had to be made. Again, and this is just a personal perspective, I could do without the gorgeous art work and fancy boxes. If there could have been a choice between fine tuning the product line with specific MTL / DL items versus the expenditures on marketing and packaging, I certainly would vote for the former. Additionally, if there had been an MTL version of these products they would have found immediate use in the exploding refillable pod device category.
3.) Since those of you that are reading this on the forum.e-liquid-recipes.com site are DIY mixologists and experienced recipe creators and mixers I want to clear away something that is misunderstood in the general vaping community. Because of the well crafted marketing, and over the top product presentation, it is assumed by the general vape shop customer that these Black Note products are some sort of “magic” in flavor profile and vape quality that can only be crafted by a few artisans. Even many professional reviewers that should know better repeat this misinformation. They want you to believe that mixing and making this type of product is impossible and out of reach for anyone other than Black Note. Nothing could be further from the truth. There are available providers of very similar hexane solvent precision steam distillation leaf tobaccos precursors of the type that Black Note themselves use. You have access to INW, a commercial supplier that sells in small qualities to us mixologists, and there are other small shops as well, not to mention DIY NET types like myself that are happy to supply small samples. It is entirely possible to exactly flavor profile 1to1 the entire Black Note line with readily available precursors. There is no “magic” here.
If you want to get another perspective on the Black Note Product line there is an interesting review at ecigarettereviewed.com/. I do not agree with everything posted by its author Lindsay Fox, but each item listed on the first page has a hyperlink to its related expanded review, so be sure to check those hyperlinks. With the caveat that I am not a huge YouTube fan, as most of what appears there is total garbage, there is one interesting review over there of the Black Note Products by Vaping With Vic: here is the link to that.
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