When this question gets asked, a lot of the time people answer with – “the amount of sweetener used”. Well that’s only partially true. A lot of DIY recipes are heavily sweetened too.

*When I’m talking about DIY in this article, I’m referring to one shots or bottle shots.

First of all, it’s important to qualify what premium means. The word (in the context of e-liquid) used to mean something. It was reserved for expensive (often American) brands that really knew how to mix and layer recipes. Imaginative flavours with unusual tastes. A lot of time was put into R and D and it showed in the final products. I think a lot more money is spent on branding these days and less on R and D. The word premium has since been watered down, as cheaper brands try to use it as a selling point. The price tag and packaging does not dictate whether a juice is truly premium or not.

There’s less money in DIY

There is much less money in concentrates than e-liquid. A 50ml short fill costs less than £1 to make and is retailed on average for £10 or more. Boss shots cost a lot more to make and generally retail for less than £10.

Whilst big e-liquid companies can afford to have a panel of mixers and testers, most diy companies will only have one or two mixers and so the quality of their recipes rely heavily on the quality of their mixing. Every man and his dog seem to be getting into the diy scene at the moment but many of the companies don’t have employees with especially good mixing skills. Their skills will get better over time, but the public are paying for that privilege. One company in particular recently opened and closed within 12 months. None of the employees could mix. They relied on a subcontracted flavourist to come up with their flavours and subsequently the flavourist mustn’t have been very good. This is the nature of business I guess – people only in it for some quick cash. The same can also be said for e-liquid brands with new ones popping up every day. Many of them using public recipes or one shots. It’s a real shame to see the industry so heavily focused on money and branding these days with so little given over to content or the community that once was.

Which brands are worth the price tag?

There are plenty of e-liquid brands out there that put out consistently good products. I tend to think that if I have trouble cloning it then they’ve probably put some work in to mixing it. Brands like: Elements, Nasty Juice, Zap, Wick Liquor, Cheap Thrills, Fcukin’ Flavor, Ruthless…. The list goes on.

Of course, the issue is that some of the better brands are charging £10-15 for a 50ml short fill that can be vaped in 2 to 3 days and that level of financial commitment can be difficult to maintain for your average vaper. This is where DIY comes in. You can make 250ml for a similar price to a premium short fill. 400% more juice for the same money! Crazy.

Does DIY taste as good as premium e-liquid?

Well this depends heavily on what you buy, where from and if it’s mixed and steeped correctly but the short answer is yes. In my role, I get to taste a lot of different e-liquid from a lot of different places and for the most part I have to say that Flavour Bosses range holds its own against premium brands. I have no doubt that some of our competitors can say the same too.

DIY relies heavily on premium brands for inspiration. As long as there have been premium e-liquid brands, there have been keen DIYers copying their flavour profiles and styles. After all, what the premium brands sell is a good indication of what is popular with the public. Although the e-liquid market is becoming so heavily saturated with brands, it’s beginning to be quite difficult to tell what is popular and what is just stocked because it’s cheap to buy wholesale.

In conclusion, to me premium juice is like pop music. Palatable to the masses because it’s heavily sweetened. Pretty packaging but the content isn’t always fulfilling. Whilst DIY will always remain more underground and less focused on branding.