Liquid gold

24 10 2010

Unhealthy as they are, I’m a sucker for energy drinks.

After working at Dunkin’ Donuts for nearly two years, I built up a tolerance to coffee. A daily dosage of caffeine does nothing to wake me up; I need something more along the lines of a complete caffeine assault. This will most likely give me a heart attack someday, and it’s why I rarely drink energy drinks anymore, but when I saw this, I was so amused I had to try it.

I found this baby at the dollar store (99¢ Only, to be exact), which isn’t exactly a conventional supermarket, but half the store is filled with groceries of some sort, so I’m going to say it counts. The store has an entire section of energy drinks, all off-brands I’ve never heard of. What caught my eye with this one was the brilliant packaging.

Exclusive Energy, it announced in a shiny calligraphic font. Three gold bars, emblazoned underneath the logo, also danced around the rest of the can in a smaller format. Now, I’m a journalist and therefore (on principle) know nothing about PR or marketing, but it seems to me that repeating the exact same image around your product in random places isn’t going to do much for its marketability.

I know, I know — the packaging isn’t as important as what’s inside.  This particular packaging, however, was trying to tell me something with all those repeating gold bars.  When I turned the can on its side, it read:

Success…stamina…gold…  I liked the sound of this.  If the price of success is only 99 cents and can be found within a metal can of highly caffeinated sugar-water, I think I’ll go ahead and drop out of college right here and now.

With such (ahem) convincing advertising, I wondered if this inexpensive pot of gold would live up to such the standard it set for itself.  Great-tasting power drink?  There was only one way to find out.

When I opened the can, my nostrils were immediately greeted by the scent of Sweet Tarts.  I got excited.  If someone were able to translate Sweet Tarts into a carbonated, liquid form, I’d probably be in love.

When I took a sip, though, it didn’t really taste like Sweet Tarts. In fact, it didn’t taste like anything at first — just carbonated water.

Then the flavor kicked in. Yep, Sweet Tarts — exactly the way it smelled. Beautiful sugary goodness.

And then came the aftertaste. Not so sweet, not so sugary…decidedly rancid.

It was a strange experience, to be honest. Energy drinks tend to have that affect: each sip brings a myriad of flavors. This was no different, just slightly more drastic than most.  I expected it to be sweeter, but the sweetness only lasted a second before that bitter, metallic aftertaste set in.

I went to the official Exclusive Energy website to find out more about the drink, and one of the things the site advertises is “no aftertaste.” Either I’ve gone entirely bonkers, or whoever taste-tested this had some tongue issues, because there is definitely an aftertaste — as there is with most energy drinks.

In all, though, it wasn’t bad. I can’t say it’s the first thing I’d go out and buy if I were in desperate need of an energy boost, but it’s certainly not a terrible bargain for only 99 cents.

The caffeine content is comparable to most other similar energy drinks: 140 milligrams per 16 fluid ounces compared to 144 milligrams in Full Throttle and 160 mg in both Monster and Rockstar. The entire can has 220 calories (also standard) and 54 grams of sugar, which is about 11 grams less than the sugar content of a 20-ounce bottle of Coca-Cola.

Oh, and as far as the energy aspect of the drink… I was falling asleep all afternoon and I’m wide-awake after drinking about half the can’s contents, so I think it’s safe to assume it’s effective. Whether or not it’ll make me wealthy and successful, however, remains to be seen.

———

Ingredients: Carbonated water, high fructose corn syrup, citric acid, taurine, sodium citrate, natural and artificial flavors, caramel color, caffeine, glucuronolactone, potassium sorbate, sodium benzoate, guarana seed extract, panax, ginseng extract, niacinamide, inositol, l-carnitine, pyridoxine hydrochloride, calcium pantothenate and cyanocobalamin.
Price:
$0.99 at 99¢ Only (which is shocking, I know)
Pros: Inexpensive energy drink compared to others on the market; still effective; tastes like Sweet Tarts — kind of.
Cons: Bad-breath-inducing aftertaste.

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