|The Lexington ~ Source: geograph.org.uk|
So last weekend I found myself in the curious position of having booked a train and a hotel to London to go and see a gig for which my friend and I had no tickets, owing to an early sell out some months previously. We were resigned to an evening of disconsolate loitering outside the Victorian pub where the gig was being held, when we got a lucky break an hour before the doors opened - a friend in one of the bands, The Would-be-goods, had managed to squeeze us both onto their guest list! They shared the bill with The Clientele and Birdie, who appear to be the regrouped remnants of Saint-Etienne.
I enjoyed all three bands' sets, but an unexpected highlight was watching - and smelling - the cloud of smoke (or vapour, to be technically correct) that swirled around a man standing diagonally in front of me. He was nonchalantly brandishing and puffing on a 'portable vaporiser' (as opposed to a 'vaping stick', the simpler style of e-cigarette). It was the first time I had seen one of the ones that look a bit like a fountain pen and come with an illuminated tip, like the lantern room of a lighthouse. Actually, the array of devices is even more complicated than I suggest - there are about half a dozen types of e-cigarette, to wit: rechargeable electronic cigarettes, disposable electronic cigarettes, E-Go electronic cigarettes, personal vaporisers and electronic cigars. The really fancy personal vaporisers may also be known as 'Advanced Personal Vaporisers' ('APVs'), of which I suspect the one I saw was an example.
And for anyone not familiar with the mechanics of vaping, it involves a battery-powered atomiser which vaporises a mixture of distilled water, propylene glycol, vegetable glycerin, nicotine and flavouring. Nicotine is addictive of course, but the manufacturers of e-cigarettes market their wares as safer alternatives to inhaling the myriad of toxins contained in conventional tobacco products. I have never been and don't plan to become a smoker, but for anyone interested in the health aspects of vaping versus tobacco smoking, here is the NHS take on this whole e-cig phenomenon.
The following week, while walking to the supermarket, I passed a shop-cum-'cafe'-cum-'smoking shelter' I had never noticed before: Colls Vapour Lounge. It was closed, but I peered in the window, which was covered in adverts for e-cigarettes and all the associated tackle. People would obviously go to such a place to buy their supplies and hang out with like-minded vapers in a comfy seating area. There were also drinks available, though to call it a full service 'cafe' might be stretching a point. But here was a lounge where vapers could congregate and not bother anyone - how very thoughtful!
Intrigued by the market gap that Colls Vapour Lounge had spotted, I rang them up a few days later, and chatted to the manager, Gez. I was especially curious to learn more about the range of different flavours available. I also asked which were the most popular. 'Strawberry and Sex on The Beach' he answered, quick as a flash. That's a flavour based on the cocktail, Sex on The Beach, I should perhaps clarify - not on the scent of marram grass, brine and gritty bits of sand in every bodily nook and cranny.
Then Gez proceeded to rattle off a whole clatter of other flavours of e-liquid (ie the juice you vaporise - my list may not be exhaustive!). These could broadly be grouped in a number of sub-categories:
Tobacco ie similar in aroma to the brands Tropical Gold, Virginia and Benson & Hedges, as well as out-and-out cigar.
Menthol eg cherry
Fruits eg watermelon, blackcurrant, blueberry, elderflower, passionfruit etc.
Confectionery/desserts eg candyfloss, pecan pie, Love Hearts(!), pear drops, rhubarb & custard sweets, chocolate orange, mint chocolate, mint humbugs, marshmallow mocha.
Alcohol eg beer, whisky, rum
In another amusing twist (as noted earlier), one of the key components of an portable vaporiser is its atomiser, which brings us back to perfume again...But this aspect is also a semantic minefield. For the hardcore subset who might be curious, I will just point you in the direction of an article explaining the difference between 'atomisers', 'clearomisers' and 'cartomisers'....;)
Gez said there are some 200 flavours of e-liquid in all, plus people may mix them to create a custom vaping blend. Then as I was googling 'mocha marshmallow', I came across The Flavorist Section of the Perfumer's Apprentice website, where customers can buy flavours for their own vaping concoctions. So there is another unexpected crossover between the worlds of smoking and perfumery! Actually, although nicotine features in his recipe, the commenter, Todd, says he is trying to wean himself off coffee. It confirms the popularity of mocha-caramel-marshmallow blends though.
So yes...'per fumum' - I bet the Egyptians didn't see this trend coming....? ;)
PS Oh...the keen-eyed reader may have clocked my stubborn refusal to use a 'z' instead of an 's' in '-iser' suffixes.throughout this post.