Observations about energy drinks

A long time ago, when I was more enthusiastically reviewing my ridiculous collection of energy drinks, I received an e-mail from someone, asking something along the following lines: "Why do you drink and review energy drinks when you think they all taste like crap?"

Allow me to address this.

I don't think they all taste like crap. I think most of them taste like crap.

Energy drinks, by their nature, have a great tendency to taste terrible. This is because the key ingredients that give energy drinks their energiness taste, with few exceptions, like shit.

Caffeine is a very bitter tasting chemical. That's why most caffeinated beverages are extremely sweet (such as energy drinks), or have their own bitter flavour to mask the caffeine (like coffee or tea).

B-group vitamins, a group that includes our friends thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, folic acid and B12 (among several others) taste horrible. Have you ever been curious enough to chew on a Berocca tablet? That's b-group vitamins. They are not tasty.

Taurine is made from bile. Sorry to spoil that one for you, but it's true. It's mostly synthetic these days, but still. If someone tells you "that's not real vomit, it's synthetic vomit", I don't think you'll be okay with it going into your dinner. Needless to say taurine has a hideously unpleasant flavour, and contributes big time to the unique and apparently desirable flavour of Red Bull.

An example of a good energy drink.

The trick for manufacturers of energy drinks is to create a flavour that either masks or compliments these unpleasant flavours. Most energy drinks take the "overpower it with something sweet and fruity" approach. Some take the "embrace the flavour, enhance it, make it salty and sweet" approach, like Red Bull. Others take a completely different tack, and throw in peculiar Amazonian berries and things you can't pronounce in the hopes of creating a unique flavour they can call their own. Sometimes this works. Most times it doesn't.

Limitations bear creativity. Without a box to think outside of, and envelopes to push, new flavours and concepts can't be created. The fact that energy drinks are made to suffer is what makes them fascinating to me. Sometimes I come across a good one.

It makes me happy.

Exotic beverage review: Red Eye Platinum

Red Eye Platinum in the "old" bottle. They've since changed to all green bottles, and (as of 2013) have gone through two label redesigns. Note, circa 2013: This review from 2005 is interesting, as Red Eye Platinum is my current favourite among energy drinks. It's almost exclusively available at supermarkets only, warm from the "lifestyle drinks" shelves. I have occasionally found it in truck stops and convenience stores, but it's strangely rare for a drink that's got non-exclusive supermarket distribution. Now, back to 2005:

It looks pretty much the same as all the other "mild" types of Red Eye. This particular bottle was slightly warmer than the optimal drinking temperature, resulting in the usual spray of tiny bubbles manifesting themselves as massive bubbles instead.

It smells strongly chemical, even to the extent of reminding me of a cleaning product. Like most Red Eye variations, there's a strong scent of sweetness, but it's hard to put a finger (or nostril) on what the actual smell is.

It's sweet, and slightly fruity. Again, I can't define the actual fruit, but there's a definite fruitiness to it. Possibly peach or apricot, but without the furriness usually associated therewith. It should be noted that this stuff tastes quite vile when it's warm, quite akin to lawn clippings.

Very little aftertaste. It has the same chemical-like residue that Red Eye Extreme displayed, but otherwise it's not totally unpleasant. It should be kept cold, however, as the taste it assumes when it warms up is quite sickening. At least it only tastes this way when it's warm, though. Most energy drinks taste like shredded lawn from the get-go.

Exotic beverage review: Red Eye Power

The can art follows the design of the Red Eye energy drink bottles, it's quite stylish. Red Eye has a fairly good reputation for energy drinks, as far as I'm concerned. All of their drinks are, more or less, entirely drinkable, and Red Eye Power follows suit. It does, unfortunately, suffer from the familiar problem of being absolutely identical to virtually every drink that comes in a 250ml can, with only a scant few exceptions (V, Jugular, Hype, for example).

It smells of sickly-sweet bile, vitamin-B and evil. So, not to put too fine a point on it, it smells like every single other energy drink on the planet. I swear there's a gigantic factory in the jungle somewhere that churns out Red Bull in blank silver cans and farms it off to any company willing to put their catchy title on it.

It doesn't have the weird, immediate "OH DEAR GOD IT'S VOMIT WITH SOAP IN IT" flavour and sensation of Red Bull. It does, however, have the weird chemical flavour. I've never been able to adequately describe the flavour. It's almost like drinking soap, but not as unpleasant. Man, it's hard to come up with a new and exciting description for the SAME FLAVOUR every time. I'd say this one would be, after some consideration, probably 30% on the better side of Red Bull, my benchmark.

The aftertaste is slightly oily, and quite floral. Or (everyone get ready for it).. exactly the same as all the other drinks. The differences between these drinks (if they're even different at all) are so subtle I don't believe it'd be possible to accurately gauge them unless one was to sample them all in sequence. And hell if I'm gonna do that, my stomach lining is questionable enough as it is without adding vast litrage of caffeine and Christ-knows-what into the equation.

Well, it's an energy drink. There's nothing at all wrong with it. It tastes plenty good. However, it doesn't win any originality points, because it's clearly another out-churning of the standard recipe. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Exotic beverage review: Red Eye Plus

Yellow, much like its label. It's astonishingly yellow. Not to put to fine a point on it, it looks like pee. It's got the traditional Red Eye trait of instantly losing all carbonation as soon as the bottle is opened, also.

It smells quite refreshing, actually. There's a vague aroma I can only describe as "dairy", and a hint of vitamin B.

It's not unpleasant. If it were possible to have managed to get energy drinks right, I'd have to say Red Eye are the ones who've succeeded at it. You can taste the unmaskable vitamin B, which shares a flavour with rotten celery, and the dairy smell somehow manifests itself in a taste which is actually kind of chocolate-like.

There's a noticable aftertaste of vitamin B, although it's more of a chemical flavour than the aforementioned tang of rotten celery.

Again, it's not unpleasant. It's not great, all energy drinks that make a big deal out of including vitamin B either suffer from a deplorable taste of rotten celery or from being overly fruity to try to mask the horrid vitamin. This one's kind of a half-way house between the two flavours.

Exotic beverage review: Red Eye Gold

Brown. My general opinion is that the Red Eye energy drink company tends to make the best energy drinks on the market. This review proves the exception to the rule, as Red Eye Gold is hideously unpleasant. Read on.

It looks like cola. It's a little bit yellower and much less carbonated. Again, as in all Red Eye drinks, the carbonation vanishes once the cap is removed.

It smells vile. It smells like the aroma you get inside an Asian candy store, but where all the candy has spoiled. And mixed together. And it has a strong stink of medicine.

It's ghastly. First sensation is a strong taste of berries, which continues in the aftertaste. On top of the berries are about fourteen layers of shit, including what tastes like I assume bathroom disinfectant would taste like, a strong dusty sensation and the usual vitamin B sensation, which is somewhat odd as this drink contains less vitamin B than the others, according to the label.. It made me cough, also. I was unable to take large sips, as the strength and horridness is quite overpowering. There's an odd medicinal sensation that goes straight up your nose when you drink it.

Still brown.

Strong chemical aftertase. The odd medicinal scent/flavour that goes up your nose remains for an extraordinary length of time. Flavour of rotten celery from the B vitamins also remains. Oddly the initial flavour of the drink is completely gone within seconds.

It tastes like apple and blackcurrant juice with a quart of Dettol in it, sprinkled with rotten celery. It's fucking unpleasant.

Exotic beverage review: Red Eye Extreme

It does indeed feature a large red eye. It looks like cheap champagne. It's tinged slightly yellow, which is actually surprising as in traditional energy drink style it comes housed in a green glass bottle to mask its true appearance.

The beverage is "lightly carbonated", which manifests itself as several squillion tiny bubbles clinging to the inside of the glass, as shown in the next photograph. It should be noted that the stuff loses its carbonation at a rate of knots, and leaving it in the glass for any more than a few minutes renders it flat as a tack.

It smells like...those powdery candy bananas everyone used to eat as a child. The ones that are made from the same substance as musk sticks, but taste of banana instead. It also has a mild aroma of some undefined chemical, although it's an energy drink, so this is to be expected. Removing the cap from the bottle produces a fairly large rush of carbonation to the surface of the drink, probably during which the majority of the carbon dioxide escapes, thus beginning the end of the bubbles as mentioned above.

You can't smell them from where you're sitting, but I swear there are tiny bananas.

It actually tastes like candy bananas. It's quite pleasant, and not overpowering with any of the usual energy drink flavours (i.e. vegetables, medicine, wee). It loses its flavour quite speedily as the product loses its chill, however, so it's best to either drink it in its entirety while it's still as cold as possible, or refrigerate it and ration it into speedily consumed glasses. A lot of effort, perhaps, but a pleasant tasting energy drink is a rarity at best.

The aftertaste is quite mild. It's basically just a residue of whatever produced the slight chemical odour that was present in the sniffing stage, and it fades quite quickly. The only unpleasance is a slight sugary coating it leaves on the lips and teeth.

Without a doubt the most pleasant energy drink available. Tastes basically like an odd-flavoured soft drink. As for its energy inducing powers, I've not felt anything out of the ordinary. Although having sampled it, I don't feel I need to retch. Perhaps that is out of the ordinary after all.

Exotic beverage review: Red Eye Classic

Red Eye Classic. It's similar in colour to V. Dark yellow, lightly carbonated. As in all Red Eye drinks, once the bottle is opened, the carbonation lasts about a nanosecond.

It smells fresh, but decidedly medicinal. It's kinda fruity, but there's a strong smell of vitamin B, which is rarely a good sign.

It's quite pleasant. There's surprisingly little taste of vitamin B, and the fruitiness is strong but not completely overpowering. It tastes a bit like V, really.

After a moment, the vitamin B makes an appearance. A strong herbal aftertaste, but altogether not too unpleasant.

Strong, fruity, and actually not too bad.