Thursday, June 16, 2016

Review: Vaportini Alcohol Inhaler

The first time I saw an alcohol inhaler, it was on some TV show set in a very trendy bar that was also serving appetizers that were merely smears of their foamed essence - and I was sure they'd made that whole thing up for pretentious effect.

Turns out that culinary gastronomy really is a thing, and inhaling alcohol via an attractive and simple bit of barware called the Vaportini is not only real - it's based on a concept that is not even new!

According to the Vaportini's inventor, Julie Palmer,
"A few years ago, I was visiting a friend in Helsinki. I was there during the Winter Solstice (The Season of Ghosts); he shared with me an unconfirmed tradition that happens on that date. We headed to his outdoor sauna with a group of friends and a bottle of vodka, he poured the vodka over the coals and we breathed in the vapors until we were sufficiently inebriated. We then went outside and rolled in the snow to “sober up” and headed back to the house to partake in the smorgasbord. About an hour or so later we headed back to the sauna with another bottle of vodka. The rest of the afternoon followed this cycle."

My husband and I were very curious to give this a try. I spent a good bit of time on their website, intrigued by the good sized collection of Vaportini infusion recipes that allow you to create inhaled 'cocktails' with interesting flavor combinations.  But I also wanted to try some of our preferred fine spirits 'straight up' to see how the experience differed from drinking them neat.

The Vaportini set I received is the Complete Classic Vaportini, available on their site for $44.99.  This comes with a standard pint glass etched with the Vaportini logo, the Vaportini glass orb, the stainless steel orb mount, a stainless steel mini-straw, a tiny funnel, and a tea light - everything you need to get started except the spirits.

Waiting for it to heat up.
One of my concerns before trying this was just how likely it was that a tipsy person would knock the whole thing over, resulting in shattered glass and fire?

Well, obviously,  that sort of thing can happen, so maybe keep this away if you or your friends are likely to get physically boisterous - but the product itself is very stable. The glass is bottom heavy and sturdy, and the stainless orb mount sits securely on the rim of the glass and keeps the ball in place.

Instructions for use are simple and pretty hard to get wrong, I think.

You drop a tea light down into the bottom of the glass and then light it. (we used long matches to do so)  The stainless orb mount sits on the rim.

The orb is meant to hold 1 to 1.5 oz of spirits (in the 70-100 proof range - less will not provide adequate vapor), which is inserted by using the supplied funnel.  The orb is then placed on top of the metal rim.

After it's warmed for 4-5 minutes,  the instructions say you would begin to see a clear vapor - we never actually saw much vapor, but evidence of condensation inside the orb showed that it was there.

At that point, you insert the straw - not submerging it into the liquid! - and inhale the vapors.

I was surprised the first time by how flavorful it was - I was very afraid that this would feel akin to breathing battery acid or at the other end of the scale, simply be like inhaling nothing at all.

Thankfully, neither was  the case - the vapor softened the raw alcohol taste and brought out all those tasting notes.  With the gin we tried, the juniper was lush and prominent, and when we tried one of the infusions, each aspect was clearly definable.

As we continued to share, the flavors got even more fullbodied and very 'true' to themselves. Eventually, the alcohol vapors were used up, leaving the liquid behind.  All together, we spent about 15-20 minutes relaxing and sharing in this one session.

So - of course, everyone wants to know if we got drunk or what, right?  Well - no.  Keep in mind this is a one ounce shot and we shared it, doing the equivalent of nursing it for at least a quarter of an hour (close to a half hour if you include set up time).  I am not particularly sure how you'd over do this simply for that reason alone.

However there was a pretty fast acting (and quickly dissipating) sensation of being lightly stoned - it didn't feel the same to either of us as the early stages of an alcohol buzz. Instead it was a lot more relaxing and meditative.

Why that is, I don't know - although it may simply have to do with mindfully breathing for several minutes, and getting some good oxygen flow mixed in with your vapor cocktail!

By the time we got to the end, we were ready to stop, and switch to a liquid based refreshment, and just for fun, we tasted some of the gin infusion we'd used in the Vaportini.

This was based on their VaporTea  recipe, which calls for infusing a bit of lemon rind and jasmine tea in gin.
I had no jasmine tea, so I used an herbal blend that included several herbs and flowers (and almost all of them were definable through the vapor).

While it was soft, lemony and luscious as vapor - as a drink it was harsh and basically undrinkable.  I was amazed at how differently the flavors played out as vapor!

For that reason, I expect to continue to use my Vaportini in a similar way that one might do a wine tasting or a flight of a particular fine spirit - as a method of really getting to know the personal flavor notes of a quality spirit.

This also means that I'm already composing a gift list for holidays and birthdays for people I know who would appreciate this addition to their bar.

I do not think the Vaportini is for someone looking to get buzzed in the most efficient possible way - you might think it would be good for that, but you'd hyperventilate trying to huff the vapors any faster than a reasonable pace long before you'd get significantly inebriated.  I did find the mild stoned sensation to be very pleasurable, but it isn't at all like being intoxicated.

But if you are at all hard liquor curious and would like to really get to know the flavor notes of a fine tequila, bourbon, whisky, gin or rum in a way that you simply can't by drinking them, try this! You're bound to find a few favorites you never expected to like.

I think it's main appeal is as a novelty and as a tool for taste testing fine spirits, but it isn't a replacement for drinking a cocktail, nor can I see someone making a night of it.  It's a fun thing to do, but consider it as you would a rich confection - a little goes a long way.

I have seen concerns in various places online that it could lead to illicit consumption by minors or create a risk of alcohol poisoning because it bypasses the liver - but I think this would prove to be extremely unsatisfying to anyone trying to get drunk enough that that would be a likely problem.  I think the more realistic concern is  that someone striving to get drunk would switch from this to drinks, or doing both at the same time, and forgetting to count the alcohol they inhaled in their grand total.

(In other words, don't do that)

In addition to the Complete Classic Vaportini that I received for review, you can also purchase the Basic Vaportini Kit without the pint glass ($34.99), extra metal or glass straws for sharing (you could also use mini 'coffee stirrer' straws as a disposable option), a replacement glass orb, and a cleaning kit specifically designed to keep everything spotless and ready for your next session.

The Deluxe Kit ($74.99) comes with everything in my set, along with extra candles, straws, an additional orb, and the cleaning kit.

Nature Vaportini ($149), designed by Charley Ryan. I LOVE THIS!!

Finally - and I have to point these out especially, there is a small but growing collection of Artist Series renditions of the basic set that elevate the entire thing to something you'll want to display. These range from $119-$149, and are just gorgeous!

Vaportini will ship internationally, although all liability for customs confiscation is on the buyer, so do know the laws of the country where you live.  In  the US, these are legal to ship to buyers over the age of 21.

Vaportini offers free shipping on all orders over $90.

 If you'd like to try a Vaportini, or plan ahead for your own giftgiving, Vaportini is currently offering 10% off to our readers.

Use the code RCHREVIEWS at check out for 10% off your order!

Have fun with it, and inhale responsibly!


  1. That is really cool! Was it hard to get the remaining alcohol out of the orb and get it cleaned? Did you end up with any soot or smoke smudging on the outside of the orb?

    1. It wasn't hard to get it out and I drizzled hot water into it to swish and clean and then let it drain in a dish drainer with the hole side down - they do have that cleaner for it, and I'll probably get for future use to keep it sanitized. No soot or smoke at all, which is pretty surprising, but the pint glass keeps a good distance from the tea light - which is soy, I think. It really is a fun conversation piece!

  2. What the heck is that?? I've never heard of such a thing! But it sounds really cool. Would be great at parties! #ProductReviewParty

  3. How cool! I've never herd of these before! #ProductReviewParty #112

  4. Hmm, interesting! Never heard of a alcohol inhaler before. #ProductReviewParty

  5. Looks and sounds interesting! I think this is the only way I would ever be able to do a shot of straight alcohol! ha ha

  6. This sounds really interesting and fun. I really enjoyed your detailed description of it. Have never seen anything like this before. I know vap stores are popping upall over by me. I guess this is the next generation in vaping.

  7. I am really not sure how I feel about this. Interesting yes, strange, yes. You wonder who thinks up these things. I'd hate to get this in the hands of a bunch of frat boys! Thanks for enlightening my senses today.

  8. I have been a bartender for many years and I love creating new cocktails. It's my favorite part of the job. And of course, the test tasting. This would be really interesting to be able to get a true taste of all the ingredients. Pretty interesting. As you said, it's not a tool used for over doing it. And if that's what the person is wanting then I'm sure they can do it on their own by downing a few shots. But it would be really cool to truly taste the different ingredients! How fun.