Vaper Expo 2016 – Birmingham
Such was the success of Vaper Expo back in the spring of this year – the organizers decided to run another with the NEC in Birmingham again the venue.
It ran for three days with a purely business event on Friday last week and then Saturday and Sunday open to the public with over 300 exhibitors from all over the world plying their vaping wares.
From smallish e-liquid firms to some of the world’s largest distributors and with a central stage of entertainment there was something for pretty much everyone.
I spent the day there on Saturday and after seeing the queues early doors last year, I decided to arrive an hour after the official opening.
However despite that I still had to queue for close to an hour such was the demand to get in.
The queue was a sign of things to come with the entrance hall packed with patient vapers soon filled with that sweet grey haze of gorgeous smelling vapor and more than a few smoke rings floating about the place.
So apologies in advance for the some of the photos – the place was not only cloudier than a sea fog but also busy with very patient vapers eventually having enough of me taking up half the stand space trying to take pics and interview extremely busy exhibitors – I have bruises haha!
Once inside it was the noise from the entertainment stage that hit you first as the ‘Riot Squad’ e-liquid ‘crew’ belted out what this old vaping dude thinks was a form of ‘vaping gangsta rap’.
I think the clue was in the line [repeated often] ‘F**k da Police* as the ‘crew’ threw out t-shirts – vape bands and other assorted goodies to the ‘pumped up’ crowd.
Vaping Business and Bonkersness
This was the beauty of Vaper Expo – the craziness of ‘vape rap’ over the pure business of men in suits discussing deals with distributors whilst all around the madness of each brand doing its best to attract the big vaping players – the vape shop owners and indeed the general vaping public.
I say madness because if Vape Fest showed that to stand out you need a kind of gimmicky angle – then Vaper Expo took that to a whole new bonkers level.
I saw exhibit stands with robots, double decker buses, zombies, scooters, vintage cars and more than a few scantily clad pretty girls in various forms of undress – including two young ladies on stilts wearing t-shirts saying ‘Double Drip’ [an new e-liquid though the mind does boggle a little lol].
Talking of pretty girls, one of the standout stalls that every time I walked past had a queue of customers was the Northern Ireland based ‘The Ciggie Shop’ and its very own sexily dressed ‘exhibition girl’.
I say pretty girl – one of the bosses Scott Glen is known in the vaping world as ‘The Bearded Lady’ and he did indeed look pretty hot in fetching blue dress topped off with a snapback cap.
On a serious note he was thrilled with the success of the company that has quadrupled its number of shops to 16 in a couple of years with a forecast 50 stores to open up in the near future,
“Business is booming’ he said.
And judging by the amount of customers at his stand I reckon he’ll be kept in expensive frocks for a good while to come yet 😉
Smooth E-Liquids From a Smooth Operator
If the bearded lady was a popular draw, then the smoothest operator with the classiest e-liquid and vaping gear had to be Claudio Vultaggio with the stunning stand for his ‘Officine Svapo Milano’.
In a nutshell this is tobacco flavoured e-liquid of the highest quality and the most realistic impressively designed e-cigars and e-pipes I have ever seen or had the pleasure to try out.
The Brebbia tobacco for instance is extracted naturally and left to steep for two months in oak barrels.
I can only describe the taste as extraordinarily good with the pipe about as realistic as you can get – none of that plastic looking stuff either – this looks like the real thing and then some.
As to the e-cigars they are a work of art. The look like a cigar – smell like a cigar – feel like a cigar and by golly they taste like a cigar.
This is high end but my goodness it’s well worth paying a premium for this kind of quality – superb!
You Got E-Juice?
Whilst more than a few exhibitors had half decent Expo price offers one of the most frequented stalls of the day I was there had to be ‘You Got E-Juice’ .
This California based company is on a bit of a mission too – their tagline is, ‘Making Vaping Affordable for Everyone.’
Their stand was reminiscent of an American diner and their e-juices were delicious and at £10 for 60mls were an absolute steal – hopefully we should be getting some samples very soon to review!
Z Squad E-Liquid
Speaking of bargains one of the most scarily dressed stands right out the back of the hall was the one from the guys at Z Squad E-Liquid.
A UK based company their theme is the dark and macabre with four interesting flavour combinations including the best by a mile for me being the ‘Shaven Haven’ a moorish sweet strawberry custard – more of a treat than a trick!
Signature British E Liquid
For the record it was the stunning Lambretta Union Jack emblazoned scooter that attracted this old Mod to the ‘Signature British E-Liquid’ stand and hand on heart not the two lovely ladies clad in basques and tight black shorts.
The ladies saw brisk business throughout the ‘few’ times I popped by [to look at the scooter] and with eight flavours I was only able to taste a couple such was the demand lol.
The ‘Sticky Toffee Pudding’ flavour was divine – a real comfort sweet vape – whilst the strawberry yoghurt was both refreshing and flavoursome – I am hoping they too will be sending us some samples to review – we gotta keep the British end up as they say 😉
BI-SO had by far the most exotic flavoured e-liquid at the show with three quite stunning flavours.
Dorayaki [a beanjam pancake] – Sakura Tea [black tea and cherry blossom] and Matcha Caffe Latte [green tea with a hint of coffee].
I’m still kicking myself that I didn’t buy a bottle of the Dorayaki it simply blew my taste buds away!
But again my chatting to the CEO Tsutomu Nakatsugawa through his interpreter meant two of them taken away from the all-important sales as this was an extremely busy stand.
However Tsutomu was able to tell me he is an established vaper who began blending e-liquids as a hobby that has soon turned into a highly successful – and judging from the queues a lucrative business.
If you’re looking for something ‘a little different’ I highly recommend all three of these incredible e-liquids.
Another eastern delight was the beautifully bamboo packaged Mello Buddha collection e-liquid.
This was another vape that I particularly enjoyed especially the Zen Master – a tropical lemonade and the wonderful Wisdom a delightful blend of Green tea and honey – yummy to say the least.
Final stop of my Asian e-liquid journey was to Barong Vape and the exotic Malaysia flavoured e-liquids.
The sales girls – resplendent in matching summer shirts showed you don’t have to show acres of flesh to not only look stunning – but attract the customers.
If the girls were a delight the e-liquids themselves were absolutely delicious with the Santino collection an absolutely gorgeous vape.
Mixing Your Own the Next Big Thing?
At Vape Fest back in the summer I mentioned the mix your own e-liquid stall was one that didn’t seem to get much attention.
However at Vaper Expo it was a whole different story with the Mixology stand doing an absolute roaring trade.
I managed to grab a few moments with Darren one of the extremely busy but very happy staff on the stall.
Mixology is a Chesterfield based company that has a wide range of ready mixed e-juices, but also supply the PG – VG – Flavourings and Nicotine you need to brew you own sauce.
The Expo prices were amazing and the guys were doing brisk business from both interested vapers and indeed vaping industry pros.
In between serving the never ending queue of customers Darren told me the company had began with one shop and had now branched out to four with a wholesale arm too.
If your [like me] having a go at mixing your own then checkout our ultimate beginners guide to DIY vape juice.
Subscription services seem to cover everything from wines to coffee where you pay a monthly fee to receive a handpicked selection of goodies tailored to your needs.
Most vaping folk have heard of Vape Mail (Review Here) and now there’s another UK option called Sample Juice.
Founder and director Connor Leach saw a ton of interest in his product which delivers a handpicked selection of e-liquids to subscribers each month.
Not only does this mean you’ll never run out of e-liquid, but you’ll also save a few quid and Connor and Jonny will hopefully be sorting out a review of the service very soon.
Batteries – Chargers and Condoms
By now the ‘vaping gangsta rap’ had been replaced with the Geordie rap of Dave Dorn! Presenter of the popular Vapor Trails TV.
As if picking up on the ‘F**k da police’ theme – after a bit of banter he began to whip up the crowd with chants of ‘F**k the TPD!’ Before taking things to a more serious level by suggesting everyone who buys a battery demands a battery condom – now that is a message we all need to get out there.
The Vapor Trails TV broadcast a live show soon after – but sadly I managed to miss it – probably looking at that scooter again 😉
Speaking of batteries I managed two or three words with the delightful Sally Yang from Yi Fang Technology who had traveled from the Shenzen China – which is pretty much the heart of the vaping industry as we know it.
The company’s batteries and high quality chargers were proving to be a popular draw to the more knowledgeable vapers and their website at http://yifangpower.com is well worth a visit for those of us serious about battery performance – care and safety.
Standout Vaper Expo Exhibitors
With over 300 stalls and a lot of crowds the exhibitors were extremely busy and therefore little old me distracting them with questions proved a difficult balancing act for most of them.
However three exhibitors who took the time to chat – despite hordes of vapers vying for attention with cash and cards in their hands – deserve a special mention with a more detailed follow up review.
First up was the delightfully named Matthew Boo from Creepy Manor Vape Juices.
His range of e-liquids fitted the Halloween season perfectly coming packaged in little haunted house boxes.
Tris from Vapouriz supplied me with samples of both the and the brand new Pocket Fuel gourmet e-liquids so expect a review soon.
The company also supplies high end vaping hardware and their kits such as the Vapouriz V Box are well worth a look.
By far the most generous exhibitor was the team from Kent based vaping company Vape Royale.
This was another stall that was absolutely packed with punters from the time I arrived until the time I left.
The guys gave me a bag full of samples from both the Mrs Baker range of dessert e-liquids and the Royal Flush fruity range including the extremely refreshing Jack of Diamonds – a lemon jelly baby covered in sherbet!
You can expect a review on those very soon.
Vaper Expo Highs and Lows
Not many lows if any at all though I did feel sorry for Ray Paez the owner of the Vaptrix who had most of his Pop E-Juice samples confiscated by US customs.
But he was certainly smiling as his novel pop can packaging attracted plenty of custom.
One of the highs for me was meeting Darrel Dai sales manager of Wotofo – a lovely softly spoken man who said he was delighted to see his exhibit receiving so much attention.
As you can imagine with so many exhibits and so many e-liquids it might be foolish to judge my three outstanding flavours but I did taste bloody hundreds washed down with copious amounts of water lol so here ya go:
Third: Sticky Toffee Pudding from UK Vape Mob
Second: Mrs Baker Strawberry Cheesecake from Vape Royale
First: Dorayaki from Bi-so – quite simply the best e-liquid I’ve ever tasted and who forgot to buy a bottle!!!
Final Vaper Expo Verdict
If you’ve been to an exhibition then you’ll know what to expect – bright lights – hard sell and lots of scantily dressed women.
Vaper Expo had all that and then some. The atmosphere whilst fun was of course all about one thing – business.
But from my personal experience no-one was ‘in your face selling’ instead and if you were lucky enough to get to the front of the very busy stands, you were given plenty of time to sample the goods and talk to on the whole extremely knowledgeable staff.
The entertainment stage was a little raucous and ‘in your face’ – but then I am an old crinkly and most visitors seemed to lap it up – especially the younger folk who appear to have adopted a vaping look of tight black drainpipe jeans – vaping t-shirts and vaping snap-back caps.
I could see a lot of ‘proper business’ going on too – after all that’s what an Expo whatever it’s expo-ing is all about.
Vaping it seems is a vibrant innovative business that despite pressures from Governments and so called ‘experts’ seems to be collectively saying and with one voice ‘F**k da Rules we shall vape on!’
If VapeFest is a lovely day out in the sunshine where whilst business is done it’s a family affair with a friendly relaxed picnic like atmosphere. Vaper Expo is a bonkers mix of business and vaping rap with an atmosphere of fast and furious slick sales and marketing patter.
One thing is for sure both events prove one thing Vaping is here to stay.