Sunday, March 17, 2013

Rhino's Relaxation Drink

From the looks of things, it seems that relaxation beverages have quickly become one of the "next big things" in the beverage industry. New relaxation beverages and shots are being released almost constantly: to the point where it has become impossible for me to keep up with all of the different products and companies that have been popping up lately. I have reviewed quite a few relaxation beverages for Drinkable Review in the past, and although I tend to enjoy them (even if I don't necessarily always reap the benefits that they claim to offer), I do occasionally stumble across one that sort of misses the point. Unfortunately, Rhino's Relaxation Drink is one of the less than stellar examples.

But first, I'd like to start with what Rhino's Relaxation does right. From a marketing perspective, Rhino's product stands out incredibly well on a shelf. Unlike the world of consumer electronics, white is still an eye-catching color in the beverage industry, as it is relatively rare that you will see a primarily white can/label/bottle sitting among all of the other busy and colorful graphics of a shelf full of competing products, all vying desperately for what is likely already your only half-committed attention. Because of this, when I do see a white can, I almost instinctively reach out to take a closer look. Rhino's seems to understand the power of having a "clean" label in a world of well-established and familiar logos, as their graphic is printed in a color that mimics the soft, natural grey of the aluminum behind it. The front of the can only includes the necessary information—no space is wasted on meaningless slogans, graphics, or disclaimers—and makes excellent use of empty space to keep the eye focused on the important details.

But what makes Rhino's Relaxation unique among interesting cans is the actual physical feel of the label. Rather than sticking with the smooth, metallic feel of a typical beverage can, Rhino's has opted to apply a sort of rough matte finish to their cans, giving them a tactile sensation not unlike that of Bristol paper or eggshell-finish wall paint. I was not expecting this when I picked it up in the store (although I did wonder for a moment why the can was not reflecting light in quite the same way as the others on the shelf), and the novelty of it caught me so off guard that I immediately placed the can into my shopping basket. Rhino's has produced a drink that quite literally feels unique—something that has become increasingly difficult to do in the rapidly expanding independent beverage market. 

Unfortunately, this is where most of my enjoyment of the beverage stopped. The relaxation offering from Rhino's product line comes in one flavor so far: blueberry/blackberry. I was, at first, very excited to give this one a try, as I am generally a fan of both blueberry and blackberry, but my excitement waned somewhat upon opening the can. Immediately after popping the tab open, my nose was greeted with a very strong, pungent smell that, for a moment, bordered on foul. The smell dissipated and mellowed out after a moment, but the first impression was made, and it was not a promising one.

Although I have learned that smells can often be deceiving, the actual flavor of Rhino's Relaxation was not entirely appealing, either. The blueberry and blackberry flavors were both noticeable in the drink, but the flavor as a whole was overshadowed by an acidic "energy drink" overtone (likely from the inclusion of too much citric acid) that muddled the flavors with a caustic sourness. The ingredients list also features black carrot juice, and while the carrot flavor is noticeable if you focus your senses carefully, it mostly just gets lost in the acidic flavor of the rest of the drink. All things considered, the flavor does not speak of "relaxation" to me like many of the other relaxation beverages that I have tried and liked. Rather, it tastes like one would expect a "high-octane" energy drink to taste: aggressive, with a faint hint of trying too hard. While I don't necessarily mind aggressively flavored beverages, the sour acidity of Rhino's Relaxation became too much for me to tolerate towards the end of the drink, and I eventually found myself pouring out the last couple of ounces. 

As I have said before in my reviews, I usually don't experience the alterations in consciousness that many do when drinking these sorts of drinks, so I feel that it would be unfair for me to spend time criticizing the drink's ineffectiveness when I knew from the start that it was not likely to affect me. With this in mind, I will keep my discussion of the functionality simple. The drink's "relaxation cocktail" contains a mixture of valerian root extract, L-theanine, lemon balm extract, and chamomile extract. If you are like me and are not easily swayed by anything less than pharmaceutical-grade supplements, then this drink is not likely to do much to help you relax. However, if you have previously had positive experiences with any of the ingredients listed above, then Rhino's Relaxation will probably do the trick.

Overall, I'm afraid that I can't recommend Rhino's Relaxation. Although I really liked the design of the can, I just couldn't get used to the flavor long enough to enjoy the drink. If you are a fan of some of the more mainstream energy drinks and you don't mind highly acidic overtones in your drinks, then you may find a lot to like in Rhino's Relaxation. Otherwise, it would probably be best to just steer clear.

Verdict: Not recommended

Purchased: Bi-Lo [Greenwood, SC]
Size: 8.3 fl. oz. [250mL]
Price paid: $2.49

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Crystal Light Liquid

In further keeping with my recent tradition of seemingly non-stop water enhancer reviews, I have—thanks to some samples sent over by the wonderful people at Kraft Foods—one of the newest additions to the water enhancer market to talk about today: Kraft's new Crystal Light Liquid. By this point, most people are familiar with Crystal Light. As one of the first low-calorie drink mixes to reach widespread popularity, Crystal Light has become somewhat of a household name, and with the recent rise to prominence of Kraft's MiO Liquid Water Enhancer, it was only a matter of time before the company's trademark powdered flavoring mix was converted into a handy liquid concentrate.

As alluded to in the first sentence of the paragraph above, I have been reviewing a lot of water enhancers lately. These portable, "on-the-go" bottles of flavoring concentrate have become very popular over the past couple of years, and the industry is responding to this rise in popularity by releasing new enhancers en masse. It seems like every time I walk into the grocery store, there is a new water enhancer on the shelf with the rest of them. Some stores in my area have even had to install new, specialized shelving to make room for new brands and keep all of the tiny bottles organized.

Custom, dispenser-style shelving at a local Bi-Lo grocery store.

While I am always glad to see a new idea take hold so firmly in the beverage industry, the sudden proliferation of so many water enhancers into the marketplace has left me at a bit of a disadvantage in that it is becoming somewhat difficult to come up with adequately descriptive ways to differentiate between all of the different brands. Many of the water enhancers that are currently available are—if we are to be completely honest—fairly similar. Most of them use similar ingredients and sweeteners (most commonly a combination of sucralose and acesulfame potassium), have the same general serving size and number of servings per bottle, and offer flavor lines relatively similar to most of the competition.

Crystal Light Liquid is no exception to these standards. The sweeteners and list of ingredients are almost identical to that of MiO, and the serving size remains constant at 24 servings per bottle. Where Crystal Light Liquid differentiates itself from the rest of the shelf, however, is its choice of flavors. The array of Crystal Light flavors is not only a good bit different from many of the flavor lines currently available on the market, but it is also varied in and of itself. At the time of this writing, each flavor in the line (Iced Tea, Pomtini, Peach Bellini, Strawberry Lemonade, Mango Passionfruit, and Blueberry Raspberry) is unique, and no one flavor element is repeated between the different varieties of Crystal Light Liquid. So far, I have tried the Mango Passionfruit and Blueberry Raspberry, and I have been satisfied with each.

While I can't say that the two flavors that I have tried have been worlds apart from the taste of other water enhancers that I've had recently, I can say that I have enjoyed both of them quite well. The Mango Passionfruit flavor is appropriately sweet in a "fruity, but not sickeningly so" sort of way, and the Blueberry Raspberry has a fitting "berry" taste that cuts the sweetness with a hint of tartness. While they obviously don't taste particularly natural, the flavors are quite good, and the formulas seems especially well-balanced in comparison to some of the flavors offered by the competition.

One thing that I noticed almost immediately upon sampling Crystal Light Liquid was that the flavor seems a bit lighter than it does in other brands. The artificial sweetener—while certainly still present—is not quite as noticeable in the flavor, and the artificiality of the drink as a whole is not as evident in the experience as it has been in previous efforts to perfect the portable water enhancer formula. From my experience so far, Crystal Light Liquid makes for a generally more pleasant drinking experience than many of the other water enhancers that I have tried. It is one of the first enhancers that I have ever used in two glasses of water in a row, and I don't find myself facing the "last ounce struggle" (having to either force myself to finish the last bit in the glass or pour it out due to an accumulation of artificial sweetener aftertaste lingering in my mouth) quite as often as I do with quite a few other enhancers.

All in all, Crystal Light Liquid is a welcome addition to the exploding world of liquid water enhancers. If you are a fan of water enhancers and have yet to give this one a shot (or perhaps a squirt), be sure to pick up a bottle on your next trip to the store. You won't be sorry.

Verdict: Recommended

Samples sent courtesy of Kraft Foods, Inc.
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