Monday, October 14, 2013

The 2013 Jones Soda Halloween Collection!

The Seasonal Favorites Return, But Are the Latest Halloween Offerings from Jones Soda Frighteningly Good, or Just Plain Frightening?

I love soda. I love Halloween. Therefore, it only makes sense that the idea of Halloween-themed sodas really appeals to me. Odds are, you've probably heard of Jones Soda before -- if not for their bizarre holiday stunts involving mashed potatoes flavored cola, than the fact that they managed to outbid Coca-Cola for an exclusive in-stadium partnership with the Seattle Seahawks. Well, for awhile, anyway.

Jones Soda's hook, I suppose, is two-fold; first, it relies upon really hip and anti-conglomerate packaging to sell its products, and of course, it occasionally trots out some fairly unusually flavored beverages. And so, I found myself marching through Target recently, when what did my little peepers envision?

Why, it wasn't just ONE all new Jones Soda offering with an All Hallow's Eve bent, it was FOUR OF THEM. In my neck of the woods, products of the like haven't been available in almost five years, so spotting them on the shelves made me do a spit take. A spit-take, I might add, that also entailed me spending about 12 dollars American to buy all of them, in individual four-pack form.

Ever the consumer advocate, I decided to review each and every one of the new-ish Jones Soda offerings, ultimately ranking them in taste, texture, aesthetic and overall experience. So, what should you expect if you pick up any of the Hallow-sodas released by America's number one hypocritically corporate anti-corporate beverage manufacturer? Well, read on, fellow cola aficionados...

Soda Flavor Number One: 

I suppose "blood orange" probably wouldn't be the most orthodox of potential Halloween soda flavors, but I guess that's what gives it it's appeal. The packaging here looks quite nice, with lots of purple going on -- not really the sort of hue you would normally associate with something that has the word "orange" on it, but what the hell ever, I suppose.

The can design looks really good, with a threatening -- but not too menacing -- looking Dracula facsimile looking all fang-y and what not. In hindsight, I wonder if the company knew what it was doing by making the vampire purple -- not that my natural instinct was to say "hey, it's like a pissed-off version of The Count on this one!" or anything at all like that. 

Not surprisingly, the soda itself was orange, despite all of the purple on the can's exterior. As far a taste goes, it was pretty decent -- there was a noticeable orange kick, off course, but I ultimately thought that it tasted more like a high octane fruit punch -- a'la the Mountain Dew Kickstart beverages -- than a normal orange soda. All in all, it's not a bad little cola, although, traditionally, I've never really been one for orange soda or fruit-flavored colas, in general. 

Soda Flavor Number Two: 

Probably the most daring of the quartet -- I really don't think I've ever tasted "red licorice" in anything other than it's solid, Twizzler state before, and neither have you, most likely. Out of all of the colas, I think the packaging on this one is my absolute favorite -- that combination of red and green just makes it feel like the poster art for a really shitty 1960s horror movie, and that's never a negative kind of aesthetic around my household.

Warhol would no doubt be proud of this one. The Frankenstein on the can has this really great stylized look, which is part Rat Fink and part Boris Karloff in a Ski-Doo accident. The artwork here is really defined, and the overall aesthetic, as already stated, is just tremendous. If Jones Soda sold lithographs of this one, it would probably be hanging over my mantle place by now. 

The cola was a nice claret hue, and it had a really strong lime scent. Despite the red licorice nomenclature, it really didn't taste like a liquefied 8 ounce can of Red Vines, which was kinda' what I was expecting/hoping for. Instead, it has a really unexpected blueberry-citrus flavor going on, that, while nice, doesn't really live up to the product's namesake. In terms of pure taste and texture, it's probably one of the better -- if not the best -- colas in the quartet, but in terms of accurate marketing? Prepare to be disappointed, amigos y amigas. 

Soda Flavor Number Three: 

While I'm not really a huge fan of the zombie aesthetic (too much orange for my liking), the packaging here is decent enough, I suppose. While I've had apple sodas before, I don't think I have ever had a caramel apple flavored liquid before, so I had really high expectations heading into this one.

As before...yeah, not too big a fan of the can artwork here. I'll give the artist some bonus points for the skull/dangling eyeball thing, but other than that, the zombie just looks really basic and undefined. The light yellow/gold on orange is also something of an eyesore, and makes the thing look about as pretty as...well, an orange and yellow zombie soda can, I guess.

In terms of both flavor and hue, this is probably the most traditional of the four colas, which is both a positive and a drawback. You get a nice brown color for the liquid itself, and it also has a nice fizz to it -- it appears to be the most carbonated of the four, if that'll earn it any extra favors for you. It was probably the most tart of the beverages as well, tasting sorta' like a cherry-flavored root beer. Admittedly, it's an acquired taste for most, but it isn't too bad. As with the Red Licorice soda, I really can't say that it tastes all that much like it's namesake, however -- well, unless caramel apples these days taste like tangy strawberries. 

Soda Flavor Number Four: 

I actually had Jones' Candy Corn flavored soda way back in 2008, so of the four beverages, this is really the only brand that I've had previous experiences with. From what I recollect, it had both a strong maple syrup scent and taste -- needless to say, it wasn't one of my more pleasurable cola experiences over the last half decade or so.

As far as the packaging for the product, I'm not really sure what the hell is supposed to be on the can, which both helps it and hurts at aesthetically. Judging from the orange and green color scheme, I am guessing that the monster on the can is supposed to be a werewolf of some kind, but the orangutan-orange hue is kinda' throwing me for a loop a little. Then again, seeing as how Jones Soda is headquartered in the Pacific Northwest, who knows? Maybe the beast on the aluminum is supposed to be a Sasquatch of some kind. Hopefully, one that isn't of the "Suburban" variety, of course

The big surprise of this year's offerings had to have been the clearly redesigned formula for the candy corn soda. With its bright amber/beer piss hue, it certainly looks like the candy corn cola of yore, but it tastes quite a bit different from what I recollect. The maple smell and flavor is still there, to some capacity, but it's definitely muted, and nowhere near as sugary as I remember. That light modification ends up turning the soda into something that's truly refreshing and unique, and the end product actually tastes more like candy corn than the offering from 2008. It's a really good soda, with a decent texture -- behind the Red Licorice stuff, it's probably the best of the cola set, although I will definitely give the candy corn cola proper dap for actually tasting (somewhat) what it's supposed to taste like. 

You know that one part in "Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday," when the coroner is performing Jason's autopsy, and he's totally hypnotized by Mr. Voorhees' still-beating heart, and after awhile, he can't help but just grab it and eat it? Well, that's pretty much what happened to me, staring at these four sodas, already open, with their gleaming, multi-colored perforations, beside that conveniently empty plastic mug. It was physically impossible for me to stop from fusing the four sodas together, like some sort of Dr. Jekyll-esque elixir; and of course, it was equally impossible preventing myself from taking a swig of the mysterious concoction afterwards.

Not that anybody really cares (and if you do, congratulations on the social life, buddy), but the mega-drink wound up a really dark orange color -- like, the kinda' orange usually reserved for gassy celestial giants and stuff. In terms of taste, it was -- not at all unexpectedly --a complete pell mell of super fruity flavors, in short, kinda' what eating an entire bag of Jolly Ranchers in one mouthful would probably taste like, except without all the chewing. It wasn't completely horrendous, but at the same time, it's probably not something you would ever want to spend money on if were to be released as an actual product. Come to think of it, what would you call a caramel apple-candy corn-red licorice-blood orange-flavored soda, exactly? I mean, outside of the obvious "Tummy Ache Cola," I'd imagine. 

If you were to put me on the spot and ask me to rank the colas in terms of overall quality -- that is, packaging, taste, hue, texture and the great x-factor of "actually tasting like the stuff listed on the can" -- I would probably rank them, in order from most comprehensively awesome to least comprehensively awesome -- like this: Red Licorice, Candy Corn, Caramel Apple, Blood Orange. The candy corn one may taste the best (and is the most accurately labeled), but the Frankenstein packaging was just enough to give the red licorice offering the upper hand in my book. The Caramel Apple scores a bronze medal for it's unusual taste, but the Blood Orange soda, I am afraid, is just too drab to really make a podium run here. 

That said, all of the colas are at least drinkable, and the artwork is probably all you need to plop down a $20, anyway. They may not be viable long-term favorites, but for this year's Halloween shindigs, I really can't think of any kind of beverage more appropriate than these. I mean, what could be more terrific than drinking a can of Frankenstein while watching stuff like "Sleepaway Camp 3" or "Bloodsucking Freaks?" That's right, my fiends...pretty much nothin'. 


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