Based on consumer focus group studies, the desire for more nicotine was quickly apparent in Norway and the United States. In response, a plethora of Swedish and Scandinavian snus brands added Extra Strong snus's to their product offerings. Until recently, Swedish Match and their General Ekstra Sterk was top of the nicotine hill with 15 mg/g. of nicotine. It was a short reign for General Ekstra Sterk, ended by V2 Tobacco and their latest 16 mg/g. offering, Thunder Snus.
I was fortunate enough to be a part of the birthing process of Thunder Snus. In mid-August of 2008, I was asked if I wanted to be a part of the blind taste test for a new Extra Strong Snus Brand. I readily agreed as at a minimum, it meant free snus. On August 21st, I received an email from V2 Tobacco welcoming me to the taste test, informing me the first round of samples were on their way to me, and instructions on how to proceed once the samples arrived.
I admit I was initially skeptical as V2 manufactured the Offroad, Nordströmmen Snus, BaccOff nicotine free snus, and Phantom Brands. While I do like and enjoy the Nordströmmen line, I've subtly implied in other articles and reviews that Offroad was not exactly my personal favorite brand of snus. OK, maybe I wasn't too subtle. In fact, I asked the person who invited me if V2 knew that I was Mr. UNZ. It seems they did and graciously said that everyone had their own personal tastes and there were no hard feelings over my... not too subtle early articles on Offroad. Well, let me jump a little ahead and say emphatically "This is NOT your Grandmother's V2 snus!"
Honestly, it's unlikely any of the V2 brands were your Grandmother's snus. V2 is one of the new snus players on the market. V2 Tobacco is an independent and privately owned snus factory started in 2006 by Marc Vogel and Patrick Vogel. It is a credit to both of them that V2 products across the board have such name recognition and are so popular (or controversial) that they seem to have been around forever. More about V2 later. Lets talk about my pivotal role in the creation of Thunder Snus. I wasn't actually pivotal; they could have just called someone else. "Pivotal role" and "Mr. UNZ" in the same sentence does look good though, doesn't it? It's my article and I'll indulge my fantasies, thank you very much!
Round One of the Thunder Snus prototypes consisted of four different sample snus's. When I opened the first container, mysteriously labeled "1-1", I was immediately taken with the appearance of the portions. They looked...plumper than I expected. When I smelled the snus, another pleasant experience. It smelled strong and clean.
But it wasn't until I popped a portion into my mouth (copyright Camel SNUS) that I was really impressed. I LIKED it. I liked it A LOT! I tried all four of the different samples and emailed my thoughts to V2. We had to rank the four samples in order of preference. While I had my favorite and my least favorite, the two were not different in quality or character; just two different tastes.
On October 3rd, I was notified Round Two was in the mail. Every time I heard the Mail Truck, I would race to the window to see if the Round 2 samples had arrived. Fortunately, they arrived quickly as I totally confused our four dogs by running to the window each day, causing them to bark hysterically.
Picking favorites in Round Two was harder than Round One. Again, I had my number one choice and my number four choice but this time, chosing was really difficult. As I later emailed Patrick Vogel after I submitted my responses for Round Two, any of the samples would be a great choice and would be very popular. They had hit a home run and really couldn't make a mistake whichever sample they chose to market. I also expressed to him that this unnamed brand could go toe to toe against Skruf, Swedish Match, or any other Extra Strong Snus based purely on taste, not nicotine. This was no Offroad: it was a Tier One snus and should be marketed as such.
Now that the taste test was over, I learned that the samples in Round One had 13.5 mg/g of nicotine and the samples from Round Two had 16 mg/g. Could the higher nicotine levels of the Round Two samples have been the cause of my difficulty in choosing my favorite and least favorite? I don't think so. Since all the samples were 16 mg/g nicotine, I had a level playing field. No, as much as I enjoyed the Round One samples, the Round Two samples, to me, were a step up. Nicotine aside however, I still feel my number one and two picks from Round One would have held their own in Round Two. As I said, the samples in both rounds were all very good.
Time passed and I waited. Originally, the final product was supposed to be launched December 1st of 2008. An e-friend who was also involved in the test told me the launch was delayed as the containers were still in production. We didn't discuss our choices until the taste test was over. Interestingly, our choices were the exact opposite of each other. He was also the most ardent user of Phantom Blue Loose Snus I had ever met....or I believe ever existed. This said to me that V2 was experimenting well beyond their existing fans with tastes that were, in our case, polar opposites of each other. What a way to add a new demographic!
Finally, the new product was available for order! It was called Thunder Snus and the SnusCENTRAL Snus Store had standing orders to ship me a roll as soon as Thunder Snus arrived. Good thing I did as our Snus Store was swamped with orders as were the other snus e-tailers and we all ran out of Thunder Snus within a few days. I apologize to whomever the first person was who was placed on backorder for Thunder Snus.
The container and label were a slight disappointment. While it did have a storage top for your used snus, it didn't scream Tier One Premium snus to me. That was quickly forgotten once I opened it.
The smell instantly brought back memories of the taste test: clean, strong, but with something different from other snus's I couldn't put my finger on. When I popped the portion under my lip (copyright Camel SNUS), I immediately knew what it was: smoke. The first word that flew into my head was "bacon" but was quickly replaced with "liquid smoke". There was a slight bitterness which I usually don't like but seemed to fit the overall flavor. The intensity of the smokiness and the slight bitterness lead me to suspect the final product was not my first choice from either round of taste testing. That being said and two cans of Thunder Snus later, I must tell you that despite this, Thunder Snus has not only earned a coveted spot in my rotation, it is among my top three personal favorites among all the Extra Strong snus's.
First of all, it doesn't taste of Bergamot and I'm glad. I have nothing against bergamot and enjoy many snus's that taste of it. I'm just tired of trying to explain what a bergamot is to new American snus users. We don't have bergamot trees here...or bushes or vines...I really don't know what the bergamot fruit grows on. In fact, I'm beginning to suspect that lazy copy writers for Swedish snus manufacturers just throw in the word "bergomott" as a status thing....and to make American snus reviewer's lives more difficult. Thanks to Thunder Snus, At least I don't have to try and explain bergamots in this article.
Thunder Snus starts running very quickly, but amazingly for a portion snus, keeps going strong for an hour or more. As to the nicotine, That Snus Guy and I were discussing a while back how jaded we had become to Strong and Extra Strong snus's. We both just couldn't seem to get that new-snus-user nicotine buzz anymore. Thunder Snus changed that for me on the first portion. Even the we're-trying-to-induce-a-heart-attack-without-any-flavor Elixyr Power Energy portion didn't come close to the rush I got with Thunder Snus....plus Thunder Snus tastes REALLY good. Thunder Snus is available as Portion and Loose snus.
I'm really glad V2 pulled this off. From a strictly quality standpoint, they make some of the finest snus on the planet (even Offroad). They consistently produce products with the lowest TSNA's (tobacco specific carcinogens) available. V2 appears to be using a different rating scale than the Swedish Standard or Swedish Match Standard as it is also known. Swedish Standard measure is microgram per gram of dry weight on a scale of one to ten. V2 rates their TSNA's by mg/kg on a scale of one to five. Either way, a 0.76 average is very impressive. Only Gotlandssnus would appear to be comparable at an average 0.665 mcg/g. Then again, I failed metric conversion in High School and intentionally did not take any college courses with the word "metric" in them, so if I'm ranking one of these brands above the other in error, please don't fill my email box with corrections. I promise to contact Gotlandssnus and V2 and sort all this out.
To put your minds at ease, this review was not a paid-for endorsement or a thank you for the free sample snus....I don't come that cheap. True, I don't normally gush over a new snus this much but V2 so exceeded my expectations well beyond my wildest dreams with Thunder Snus that I'm just plain excited about it!
The bottom line is that V2 makes outstanding quality snus's in general and with Thunder Snus, have produced an Extra Strong snus with extra strong flavor, extra long lasting time for a portion snus, and a new extra favorite of mine. How long they will hold the title of "highest nicotine available" is unknown. I thought Swedish Match was unbeatable in taste and nicotine at 15 mg/g with Ekstra Sterk. I'm sure they did too. Who knew? And who knows what could hit the market next month?
I'll try a future 20 mg/g Extra Strong, although after Thunder Snus, I don't know if my heart could stand it. But regardless of how high the nicotine levels eventually go, taste is most important to me. Like the Ekstra Sterk, V2's Thunder Snus will remain a part of my permenant rotation....because it tastes really good.
Buzzing on nicotine, I remain,
The Snus Guru