Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Liquid Ice Energy Drink Revisited

It has been many years since I was able to try Liquid Ice energy drinks.  I reviewed them back in 2008, and they were a me-too Red Bull wannabe that was endorsed by Ice T.   Well, that could not be further than the new grown-up version of Liquid Ice.  It might look similar, but this fully grown up an unique energy drink had me clamoring for more.  If Liquid Ice was near me in the local convenience store, I would be sorely tempted to go for one of these as opposed to the normal Rockstars or Monsters.

Liquid Ice comes in 3 flavors.  There is a Blue, White and Red flavor.  I know those are colors and not flavors, but also in the energy drink world, Blue is definitely a flavor.   For some reason they did not send along any of the white flavor, but I was able to enjoy both the Blue and the Red, and I have to say that I was very happily surprised with both of them.   Its nice to know that in the six years since I tried Liquid Ice, their flavors have improved this much!

Packaging:8
I love the lushness of the colors of these cans.  I know that is an odd thing to say, but they look so thick and glossy that I could have sworn this was a wrapped plastic can.  The color is laid down thick, and the design is one where even if the can gets knicked or slightly marred you would not be able to tell.  The design pops out with the colors and fonts, and it is all very easy to read and check out.

The only issue I have is that these are still coming in small 8 ounce containers - which consumers have really moved past.  Other than Red Bulls - which also come in 12 and 16 ounce containers, there are really not a whole lot of these tiny 8 ounce drink cans anymore.   I have read there are twelve ounce versions of these drinks out there somewhere - although like the white cans, thats not what I received.

Taste:9
Both the Blue and the Red flavors are really something.  I expected the blue to taste like blue raspberries, as all blue candied substances usually are.   Surprisingly that is not the case.   When you first open the can, you get a whiff of something sour, but also fruity- not a normal smell.  It also does not look normal - pouring out a nice vibrant blue color.  It tastes a whole lot like candied fruity deliciousness - maybe berry and maybe citrus - I can't tell.  What I can tell is that it is super tasty, and I would easily drink through a whole box of them if they were sitting around.

The Red flavor is red flavored, like a fruit punch or some sort of berry.  It is different than the blue, but is also a very hard to distinguish flavor profile.  While I did not like this as much as the blue, the red is an equally impressive flavor.  While I would not say this tastes natural or healthy, hey did a great job making a unique energy drink taste that stands out from the pack.

Buzz:6
The buzz in a small eight ounce can is about what you would expect.  There is 80mg of caffeine in the can - which is very standard for this kind of drink.  There is also the usual overload of B vitamins, taurine and inositol, and both clock in at 130 calories for the small can.   The one interesting ingredient is the addition of coQ-10, which is great for increasing brain function.  For a straight on energy drink this is just about what you would want to see.  I would love to see them kick this up a notch, although they get an extra point from last time for dumping their push of caffeine over guarana angle.

Overall if I found these in a bigger can, less calories or with a stronger formulation I would not hesitate picking up a few cans and enjoying that delicious flavor again!

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Caffeineland energy patches

One of the remarkable things about caffeine is that it can easily get absorbed right through the skin, and never have to ass your lips in order to reach your bloodstream.  In fact, people who are very caffeine sensitive should not even handle pure caffeine, and wear gloves when cooking or preparing items containing it.   That is how caffeine works when it is added to soaps, shampoos, lip balms, and all those cool caffeinated products.

Caffeineland Energy Patches are using this to their advantage by creating patches, just like a nicotine patch, and slowly let you absorb caffeine slowly throughout the day.  You just stick them on your skin and there you have it.  I have tried caffeine patches before, but Caffeineland patches  actually work.

Packaging:8
The thing with this particular patch is that they are selling it as a discount product, something cheaper and more functional than others on the market  That also means they have a sparse package to them, going with basically a logo on a label, then placed in a bag.  I like the idea of going no-frills, as this pushes the functional element of the product over the uniqueness.   Their design says"Of course caffeine patches work - and this way you can have them cheaply too".  

In terms of function, this is very serviceable.  They last a long time, don't get stuck together, and there are more than enough in a package that you can wear a couple a day for a good couple weeks before needing more.   They are skin band-aid colored, so you don't need to explain what you are doing to anyone who might see you sporting one, and you can slip a couple into your pocket or wallet without fear of them getting sticky or gummy.

Buzz:8
If you are looking for a rush of energy from wearing a patch you are going to be very disappointed.  Because the caffeine in a patch does not need to go through that whole messy process of being processed in your stomach and can go more easily through the skin, you don't need nearly as much to get your dose of the good stuff.  Each patch only has 30 or so mg of caffeine in it - and this gets absorbed throughout the day, rather than in a big gulp.  This means that you will not get a blast of energy, but instead will feel a nice lift of overall energy for 5-6 hours.  I wore two of them for a couple weeks and the difference in the amount of energy I had was noticeable.  You just slap a couple eon the inside of your arm in the morning, and by noon you feel a bit more alive and perky.


The interesting thing is what happens when you mix this with your favorite caffeinated beverage.  even the more crash-prone energy drinks like the ones high in sugar no longer have the same caffeine crash.  You spend your day feeling more alive and awake, without getting any of that jittery high (although I do like my jittery highs).  I would steer clear of this if you are needing your morning caffeine fix or want something to get you through a drowsy period, but for just a nice little perk up for a good several hours, this is definitely a great way to go.  
If you cant find them in stores yet, they are also sold on their website: http://caffeineland.com/

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Ruckpack nutrition Shot

Ruckpack is one of those energy drinks with a real mission.   It is created by veterans and they give at least 10 percent of profits to several charities, including the Wounded Warrior Project and the MARSOC Foundation.  More than just an energy shot, this was designed as a core wellness nutrition shot. Yes, they put energy all over the bottle, but that is a misnomer. Ruckpack gives you energy the same way a protein bar gives you energy - by supplying the body with a good dose of what it needs to function well, except the sweet sweet caffeine.

Packaging:9
Ruckpack is one of the few energy shots that have decided not to use the standard 5 hour energy bottle, and it is much better for it.  The unique shape gives this character, and it makes the whole product look more... ballistic. You can tell from the colors and logo that this is a serious energy shot made for serious American people - especially when enhanced by the army men and US flag and big callout for the US Special Operations Forces.

Functionally the bottle works too.  It is easy to read, great printing job, packaged neatly in the 5 Hour fashion of having the tear-off label and sealed lid.  It stores well, stacks well, and is all around appealing.  They do advertise in big yellow letters that there is no caffeine in the shot too - just in case you got confused and wanted a rush of energy from it.

Taste:3
I understand that this is loaded with vitamins and minerals and all this other good stuff, so they did not want to weigh this down with sweeteners and such, but they really could have worked on making this taste better. The closest way to describe the flavor is like a Centrum tablet crushed into powder and mixed with prune juice. It really is not pleasant.

The best way to drink this is ice cold.  I don't know if that really improved the flavor or it just makes it faster to get down past your tongue, but either way I would definitely suggest icing this for an hour before slugging down.  They also recommend mixing with cold water - but that is a really bad idea.  Unless you like watered down vitamin crushed prune juice, which in that case go for it.

The absolute best way to drink this is after strenuous exercise - like a big cardio workout or a run.  It still might taste bad, but the minerals and aminos and electrolytes taste to good going down that it does not matter how the flavor is, because it is like Manna from heaven.

Buzz:8
Ruckpack is the highest rated non-caffeinated energy supplement I have tried, and I have to say I am surprised. It does not even give you a burst of energy, but I still found the sustained power that you can get out of a bottle very interesting.

The ingredients list is interesting too. THere is A-GPC, Theobromine, MSM and a bunch of amino acids, which is a combo I have not seen before. On top of that there is a crapload of vitamins, including B complex, C, K and D. All of this with under 20 calories and sweetened with stevia.

It's like this: Sometimes when driving you need a big burst of speed to get you where you need to go - and you need to be able to maneuver past obstacles and have that immediate power. But there is a special kind of feeling when you drive a car that just had it's fluid changed and has a tank of ultra-premium gas - like your car is in peak optimal driving conditions. Ruckpack is like that premium gas. It wont get you moving in the morning or past that afternoon slump or do any of the awesome things we love with caffeine. However, once you are up and moving it can help restore you to optimal conditions.

Because of the lack of caffeine, I tried Ruckpack out in two other conditions, and both worked admirably. My son and I were needing something as a post-workout drink. I am in a grueling cardio routine in the mornings, and find that by the end I am wiped out and dehydrated. Ruckpack is amazing at almost immediately refueling me with electrolytes and good stuff to bring me right out of it (although a bit more caffeine in it would have accelerated the process). Ruckpack wins over all those sports drinks and recovery smoothies - hands down. I also found that on heavy coding days when my brain wants to turn off but I need to finish a bit of development I am working on, this gives me the focus to go further than if I just tried to muscle my way through.  Chasing this down with a Diet Mountain Dew provided a great way to both give me the caffeine charge, plus helps get the taste out of my mouth as well.

While I definitely would not recommend this as a replacement for your morning coffee or energy drink, Ruckpack surprised me by just how potent and beneficial a non-caffeine energy drink can be.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Casa Del Sol Iced Coffee

Casa Del Sol Iced Coffee is possibly one of the worst canned coffee drinks I have ever had the displeasure of drinking, or at least the worst in the past 3 or 4 years.  From the expensive price for the little badly illustrated can to the taste of burned hell and chemicals, this is the worst way to get your caffeine fix in a liquor store I have seen.

I mention the liquor store because that is just about the only place you will see this - either as a freebie attached to a  Rumchata gift pack, or hidden away next to the sodas and mixers.   It is put out by a liquor import company in the midwest  ( the people behind the Chata line of drinks), and is about has about as close a connection to Spain as Vultaggio &Sons of Brooklyn have to do with Arizona Tea.

Packaging:3
Its a cheap illustration printed badly and cheaply on a thin 8 ounce can.  The design is muddled because of the crappy printing job, so you can not quite make out that it is supposed to be printed on a distressed yellow wall, cutting to a blue bottom for no apparent reason.   The only thing that makes this look even remotely spanish is the top of the can's cutaway Spanish-style roof and ridiculous stock illustration drawings of a town and a sun.  It is hard to make out exactly what is going on because of the cheap printing job, but you can read that this coffee has no sugar, only 10 calories and 100% arabica.

Besides the printing quality and the bad art, there are functional problems too.  They did not double face the can, the lid isn't fitted for the drink to face a certain way or is any way special to the drink, and the art flakes off easily from the can.   The only good thing is that they do print the caffeine content right in the ingredients list so it is easy to find.

Taste:1
The person who thought this drink was OK to be sold to the public for a price should be fired and find a different industry.   I can not believe there is not someone who had a hand in bringing this drink to market who tasted this and found it acceptable.  At what point is something like this OK?

By sugar free, they meant just that - a bunch of cold burned drip coffee served black.  I don't think there is much more to say about this other than its the worst canned coffee I have ever had in my entire life - and I have had some really scary bad coffee things in my past.  I guess this is mostly a throwaway attached to their rum drinks, or mixed so heavily that it is OK that it tastes so bad - because no one will ever taste it through all the alcohol.

If you are going to be brave and try this one out - I do advise you get Casa del Sol ice cold - it helps mask the acrid burned non-sweet baking soda flavored taste.

Buzz:5
Yes, for a small 8 ounce drink, the 120mg of caffeine is  nice thing.   Other than that,the only other ingredients in here are burned coffee and baking soda.   I am sure the baking soda was to add some shelf life, which on the one hand is good - because these are going to be going rotten on liquor store shelves, but also makes a bad tasting coffee even worse ( Arm & Hammer Lattes - don't recommend it).  Being just coffee and chemicals also keeps your calories to a minimum, but you would be better off getting a black coffee from a fresh pot of Folgers Crystals than you would opening a can of Casa del Sol.