This year's Las Vegas VAPExpo was a DIYers liquid dream. Pun intended.
Over 2 days, 7500 attendees from 50+ countries gathered to geek out at the world's leading vape trade show – and this year boasted the largest representation of the DIY community on the mainstream vaping scene!
To celebrate, we teamed up with Flavorah to invite DIYers from around the world to participate in VAPExpo's first ever Live Mixing Competition!
Contestants were put to the ultimate test: go head to head with elite DIYers to showcase their talent, knowledge and experience making tasty juice. Not only were they battling for recognition and the title of best tasting vape, but to receive a cash prize and the chance to have their winning flavor released to the public!
Two challenges were presented: concocting the best "TROPICAL" themed juice LIVE, and BYOM (Bring Your Own Mix), without a theme, to be judged and made available later in our Tastemaker Collection™!
The contestants were able to use any flavors available to them and mix how they saw fit, resulting in an insane amount of delicious, taste-twisting juices to choose from!
In the end, the DIYers who rose to the occasion with the best-in-industry flavors were... Atom McCree (aka Ckemist) for the live-mixing challenge, and Rick Heggie (aka Concrete River) for his BYOM recipe "Gian Swan!" Congratulations to both!
If you weren't there to experience the flavors yourself, don't worry. For a limited time only, GIANT SWAN is available as a part of Liquid Barn's Tastemaker Collection, with Ckemist's flavor coming soon!
Rick Heggie - Concrete River
Liquid Barn asked Vapexpo DIY Competitor Rick Heggie, otherwise know as Concrete or ConcreteRiver (if you want to get formal), about his vaping history, mixing methods, and limited time one shot flavor - Giant Swan.
LB: How did you get into vaping?
RH: I was blissfully chain-smoking my way through life when some of my housemates brought home mods with nautilus tanks. I gave it a shot, dug it, picked up my own, and dual-used for quite a while. I eventually bought my first mech and an rda which was just rowdy enough to convince me to try to actually quit smoking.
LB: How did you get into DIY and mixing your own juice?
RH: I was buying juice in the $20+ per 30ml era and quickly getting pretty tired of it. I followed some links on ECR over to the DIY EJuice subreddit and started lurking really hard. One day I was buying wire from Kidney Puncher and saw they had a DIY section and made a smallish impulse purchase. It was, in fact, just as easy as they said to make juice that was technically vapable. It took me a lot longer, more lurking, mixing a couple published recipes, more flavors, and a bunch of abject failures before I started to get juice I was actually happy with. I joined the Mixer's Club with ID10-T, ExclusiveGirl, and EdibleMalfunction (among others) and got some real feedback which gave me the encouragement to stop just lurking. Somewhere along the line I decided to start adding flavor reviews to the DIY EJuice Subreddit, and got even more involved.
LB: What is your favorite flavor profile?
RH: I love to develop profiles that are interesting, but still relatable. The goal is to take recognizable elements and mash things together at weird angles until something really cool happens. I also enjoy developing more technical recipes, building from the ground up to try to perfect relatively "simple" profiles. My personal "i need a break from development" juices end up being pretty boring when I'm working on something though. Give me all of the mint, please.
LB: What was your mindset/goal when you were designing “Giant Swan”?
RH: Giant Swan was something I'd been kicking around for quite a while but never quite nailing it. I had noticed that combing fruit and champagne flavors had some pretty interesting textual effects, both seeming to add a bit of fizz and sharpening the fruit in a very cool way. I started trying to do a champagne and pop rocks juice just to see how hard I could push "fizz" in vaping and it kind of grew from there. Finally, some newer flavors dropped that had a really good handle on simulating effervescence and it was off to the races.
LB: Why is it named “Giant Swan”?
RH: I think the cool part of this recipe is how it plays with expectations a bit. Cocktail vapes are usually pitched to a very different crowd than candy vapes, but this recipe is an attempt to try to bridge those two different kinds of vaping experiences and come out with something a bit friendly and familiar but with a more exotic and complex finish. It's an objectively ridiculous name, but it's kind of a ridiculous juice. I like the juxtaposition in the name, that "giant" re-contextualizes the "swan" from something graceful and delicate into something alien and kind of terrifying. Also, it is the title of a song by The Blood Brothers. My life is still defined by moderately old and defunct post-hardcore bands and I may as well just admit that now.
LB: What do you think goes into the creation of above average recipes?
RH: For me, it's pretty much just patience, research, and the willingness to screw up 10 times for every step forward. There are a lot of really good options for DIY'ers to make good juice that doesn't require much more than putting liquids in bottles, but the ability to consistently create solid recipes has taken me a whole lot of single flavor testing, documentation, time, and discarded batches. Knowing your concentrates is the single most valuable investment a mixer can make towards getting consistent and enjoyable recipes across profiles.
LB: What is your philosophy behind creating new juice? Do you start by having a concept that you build towards? Or do you let the recipe guide where it goes?
RH: Yes. To all of that. I do a fair amount of developing to profile, which is usually additive. It's starting out with flavors you know will work as the core of the recipe then building out from there. That could mean modifying the underlying flavor, or adding lacking components. Some of the most fun I have comes from when that process goes horribly wrong, and something unexpected happens. If something cool ends up happening, I will totally chase that. Ultimately, I want to make juice I haven't tasted before. If those mistakes are interesting, I'm going after them.
LB: Anything else you want to mention?
RH: If you are interested in or on the fence about DIY you should probably just do it. There are great resources, awesome communities, and eminently affordable options to meet your interest level. Also, huge thank you to Flavorah and Liquid Barn for making Vegas happen. Also, my juice placed higher than ID10-T's.
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