What flavors are made of

and the enigma of "nature identical"

What flavors are made of

and the enigma of "nature identical"
We noticed that the contents of flavors used in vape liquids are unclear to many people. Someone recently asked us whether there’s real mulled wine in our mulled wine-flavored liquid! It is time to dot the i’s and cross the t’s.

How flavors are made

First of all, the simplest and most important thing: vaping liquids use regular food flavors. The same as in sweets, yoghurts — and just about any food, if you carefully read the ingredients.

All food flavors are divided into three types: natural, nature identical, and artificial. Few understand the rather simple difference between them. Natural flavorings are produced on an industrial scale from natural raw materials. Nature identical flavors are achieved by deriving a taste molecule from natural raw materials and then finding a way to recreate this molecule in a lab. Artificial flavors are called that because they don’t have a natural source.
There are many ways to achieve a banana flavor. But so far no one has managed to perfectly reproduce the taste of a slightly overripe banana.
It is important to understand that flavors never consist of just one molecule. One manufacturer by the name Flame Flavour reveals the composition of their (relatively simple) peach flavor on their website: it includes 28 components.

Also, there’s a catch to natural flavors. They are not necessarily made from the flavor that their name indicates. Flame Flavour, again, tells us that the apple flavor can be made up of tens of ingredients, none of which have ever actually been in an apple. However, they must be derived from other natural substances and be present in the flavor exactly as they were in the source.

The most natural of natural flavors are labeled FTNF (From The Named Fruit). This means that the flavor was created exclusively from apples and that no other fruits were harmed. In turn, the WONF (With Other Natural Flavors) marking indicates that other raw materials were used — for example, pears or even potatoes.

Do they pose any health risks? No. Flavor production has a long history, all formulas have been tried and tested. The quality standards are tightened every year, and as such food flavors don’t pose any health risks. At least in the quantities present in liquids. However, one mustn’t forget that flavors are very concentrated, so if you drink a bottle of the stuff, we can’t vouch for your safety.
The oldest way of getting a natural flavor is distillation. The top part of a vat gets filled with flowers or fruits, then water is added to the bottom part. The water is heated to a boil, the resulting steam absorbs fragrant oils and rises through a tube into the cooling chamber. This technology is still used in perfumery. But such flavors can't be used in vaping liquids: essential oils give a strong throat hit, separate and are generally unpredictable.

The contents

In fact, not nearly all food flavors can be used for vaping. There are two criteria for them:

  • the flavor has to withstand high temperatures and not chemically react in unpredictable ways;
  • it must be safe for respiratory organs and mucous membranes.
The flavors most commonly used in vaping are nature identical. This has to do with the fact that natural flavors are fussy, spoil more quickly and behave unpredictably when in liquids (for example, they can leave residue on the coil). In turn, fully artificial flavors can have an unnatural taste. However, in practice all types of flavors are used, depending on the situation.

What are the ingredients? Manufacturers generally don’t disclose the composition of their liquids: it’s a closely kept trade secret. Nevertheless, we will tell you about several of the main components that are used in most popular flavors.

Most confectionery flavors contain acetylpyrazine. It gives the liquid an aroma of fresh pastry and a pleasant texture. Natural acetylpyrazine is found in sesame, cocoa beans and almonds, as well as in pork and beef.

Vanilla notes in confectionery liquids are provided by ordinary vanillin. There’s probably no point in describing its properties and usage. Vanillin can either be natural or synthesized from guaiacol and lignin. There’s also ethylvanillin: it’s synthesized from the same components, but its aroma is three times stronger.

Vanilla can be used to show the difference between types of flavors. Vanilla is a natural flavor, it is obtained from vanilla pods. Vanillin is a nature identical flavor: the composition is the same, but is derived from different components. And ethylvanillin is an artificial flavor. It’s much more tasty and cheaper in production, but differs in composition.

All other spice flavors are usually recreated on the basis of natural spices — those are cinnamon, ginger and sometimes cloves.

Some confectionery flavors contain diacetyl — a substance with a tender creamy taste. It gets added to many flavors like ice cream, cake etc. In nature diacetyl is found in coffee, chicory and grape juice.

For some time diacetyl caused controversy related to its harm to the human body, but at some point everyone agreed that the minuscule amount of it in most liquids doesn’t pose a threat to health. Nevertheless, in order to appease the public, manufacturers are gradually abandoning diacetyl in favor of its analogues.
TPA writes that to create a custard flavor without custard/butter flavor components is just as hard as it would be to bake a cinnamon roll with no cinnamon.
Ethylmaltol is used often as well. It is sometimes referred to as E637 on packaging. Ethylmaltol is found in caramel, milk, chicory and fir-needles. It is used as a flavor enhancer.

To add a little sourness to a fruity liquid, manufacturers usually employ malic acid. It’s one of the most famous natural flavors, first isolated from apple juice back in 1785, and the scope of its application is incredibly wide. In low concentrations, malic acid increases appetite, improves blood circulation, stimulates metabolism and strengthens the immune system. Found in raspberries, rowanberries, grapes, apricots and, oddly enough, in apples.

Refreshing liquids contain a cooling agent. Most often it’s a compound of menthol and lactic acid. It’s practically devoid of taste, but goes wonderfully with berry and fruit flavors. Liquids that contain a cooling agent have one side effect: vapor is hot, but feels cold, so there’s a chance you can get scalded without even knowing it. Be careful!

Tobacco flavors are produced on the basis of taste molecules derived from natural tobacco. We even found one of them, here is its full name: (4E)-4-[(2Z)-But-2-en-1-ylidene]-3,5,5-trimethylcyclohex-2-en-1-one. We didn’t even attempt to decipher this. It’s important to understand that flavors only use the component responsible for taste — so they don’t have any harmful impurities which are inherent to natural tobacco.

That’s basically it. We purposefully omitted the names of specific liquids and flavors, because that wasn’t the goal. But now you know how your favorite flavors are made.
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