Both 01 and 02 share a revolutionary new pouch design unique in the world of not only Swedish Snus, but any snus/alleged snus. I was and am of the opinion this pouch is what portion snus needs to succeed in the United States. Seeing and using it personally, my previous analysis has been validated. The Lab Series pouch holds one gram of snus, but is longer and thinner than a conventional portion or white portion pouch. Unlike RJ Reynolds who switched to a long, very thin pouch to make it LOOK to consumers like they were getting more snus than RJRT's competitors offered, Swedish Match IS giving you more snus in a more discreet pouch.
One common thread in reading and listening to the impressions of American snusers who had 4-6 months experience with snus in 2009 was interesting. Many liked the taste of General Mini Mint and some of the Catch flavors, but constantly followed up with "if this came in a Regular Portion" and especially "if this had more nicotine" that "this would be one of my every day snuses". This was true of most other mini portion snuses too.
An extension of that is, especially among women smokers but men too is that "I use mini portions at work to take the nicotine edge off but use regular portions at home or in the car." After the last 30 years of modern snus evolution and the roughly 200 years prior, Swedes are used to seeing people with a slight bulge under their lip to the point it really doesn't register with them any longer.
That is not the case in the United States where 99.9% of us thought Big American Tobacco had invented an entirely new tobacco product in 2006 called snus...or SNUS. We didn't even realize the word 'snus' is just Swedish for the word 'snuff''. Understanding this reality plus the fact that the less snus they put in their portions equaled even more profit, almost all American Snus Manufacturers used and continue to use 0.3 to 0.5 grams of their snus per pouch.
Aside from greed, they knew they needed to make the pouches small enough to be virtually invisible to people around the snus user. They also under no circumstances, didn't and don't want smokers switching from cigarettes to snus....Big American Tobacco wants them using both products. A side note to that understanding is they knew people had to be able to REALLY taste the portion, as a bland, low nicotine product would never catch on. Thus, one of the reasons for the intense and artificial over-flavoring of American mini portions.
Swedish mini portion snus overcame the size issue but not entirely the taste or nicotine which brings us to the LS-0102 pouch. When I opened my first can of 01, I expected to see dry pouches especially with the emphasis Swedish Match placed on the drainage issue. The Lab Series pouches looked more like Regular Portions than White Portions! They were translucent to the point where you could easily see the snus in the pouch. Picking up the first portion of 01 is when I noticed the difference against regular portions: the 01 pouch looked very moist but was not. There was moisture, but not by far to the same extent of a regular portion.
While longer and thinner than a regular portion, it was instantly obvious 0102 had a full gram of snus in their pouches. The mouth feel was excellent: it was exactly what new American snusers would use and enjoy.....very discreetly anywhere. There was virtually no burn, even with the higher nicotine 02.
At this point, an old friend of mine would say "Enough already: what does 0102 taste like?" This is where I struggled a bit.
0102 is not just a new snus recipe but "a new formula" to address the "drainage/leaking" issue. The documentation the SnusCIA obtained from Swedish Match on 0102 was in perfect English, but sometimes words which mean one thing to a Swede writing in English don't mean the same thing to an American, or the other way around. I have some funny stories about that, but for another time.
When writing the first article on 0102, I had a difficult time pinning down what new formula meant. Was it the way the snus was manufactured? Was it something to do with the new pouch material? Same for drainage and leakage. Did they mean American snusers didn't like picking up moist portions? Drainage and leakage were for me terms a plumber would use; not a snus maker. I kind of, sort of, thought I had a general idea of what they were talking about but as soon as I put in the first 0102 portion, I knew I was completely wrong.
Swedish Match wasn't talking about wet fingers or snus juice getting onto your clothes. They were talking about how quickly and how much the snus ran once in your mouth. Ran or running refers to how quickly the snus mixed with your saliva reaches the point where you can taste the snus. This is among other things, dependent on how much saliva the snus was causing your mouth to produce.
Smokers reading this thinking of trying snus to quit smoking, don't run away screaming. This isn't chew or moist snuff. Swedish Snus is spit-less because doesn't fill your mouth with saliva...rather it gently encourages saliva which runs down your throat as it normally would. It is similar to how a piece of hard candy causes your mouth to react, except only (almost all) American-made snus tastes like inexpensive hard candy...with sugar on it.
Broadly speaking, one of the main snus experience differences between a regular/original portion of snus and a white portion of snus is that you start tasting the snus quicker with a regular/original portion and that the taste would be stronger. The white portion's taste on the other hand, would last longer than a regular portion. (yes there are some big exceptions but I'm generalizing intentionally).
Expectations are critical, especially for a long time user of any particular product. When Swedish Match made the pre-launch announcement for General Sterk, I was a less experienced snus user who loved General White Portion. From the description, I expected General Sterk to taste and behave the way it's later sibling, General Ekstra Sterk did. Needless to say, I was more than a little upset and didn't even finish the can. Recently, I revisited General Sterk for the first time since it was released. Knowing what to expect, I was able to more objectively review it and while not in my top ten, I finished the entire can and think it a good snus for those liking a milder taste and shorter duration.
0102 is no General Sterk!! New snus users will enjoy it with the first portion out of the can. All portion snus users, new or experienced, will really enjoy the new pouch design. In yet more of my unsolicited advice to Swedish Match, I would seriously look at replicating that pouch size with some of your other products; especially with the ones taste-designed for the American market like Mini Mint and Catch.
Expectations. Current Swedish Snus lovers should not expect 0102 just to be another recipe and taste. It reacts differently than conventional snus and my intent is to make you aware of that so you don't make the mistake I did with General Sterk by writing it off for a year because it wasn't what I expected.
Once I came to understand 0102, I began to enjoy it; especially the 02 as I am a nicotine addict. But as you will see, it was not love at first portion. For some current snus users, it may be. For others, it may take a half a can or even a can before you can appreciate it. Give it that time; then decide whether or not 0102 is going into your rotation, being an occasional use snus, or one that is just not your cup of tea. One thing you will not be able to say is that 0102 is a bad snus because it's not. Here is my 0102 journey:
When I put the first portion in, I waited for the taste. And waited. I waited to start salivating. And waited. It probably wasn't longer than a white portion but I was not salivating at all. Not knowing what to expect, I was at first confused. When the portion did start running, it did so in a very different way than I was accustom to. Despite tasting the salt, which is not at all overdone, I didn't seem to pick up the other flavors as I wasn't salivating as much as I usually do. I found myself running my tongue over the portion or squeezing my upper lip more than usual to keep the snus running like I thought it should.
Now lets fast forward to yesterday. I had finished one complete can of 01 and 02. After the first 10 or 15 portions, I found myself starting to enjoy 0102. I wasn't distracted by the way it ran. I rested my mouth a while and then tried some of my benchmark snuses including General Ekstra Sterk. Then I opened another can of 02 and tried it again.
Expectations. Now it seemed to be running fine. I was probably running my tongue over the portion more than with conventional portion or white portion, but it wasn't distracting like the first 5 to 8 portions were. The taste came through fine; if a tad milder than I usually prefer. It started with the salt followed by a mild tobacco taste which grew stronger the longer I used it. After the tobacco had begun to kick in, what were subtle overtones of....something... materialized into an earthy mix of tobacco, oak, hickory and a slight sweetness not from bergamot (legally required mention of bergamot) but like that of a fine cigar tobacco leaf.
I couldn't discern any real difference in taste between 01 and 02 except 02 seemed to have a little more bite. That was probably due to the higher nicotine; 13mg/g, of 02 compared to 8mg/g in 01 although I could be off....the flavor intensity is milder than I prefer so I may be missing something extremely subtle.
As I pop in another portion of 02, some follow up notes. The nicotine difference between 01 and 02 is noticeable but 02 has a slower ramp-up than other Strong snuses. Once you start chain-snusing though, that becomes irrelevant since your blood level of nicotine is now being maintained at a higher level. Nicotine is notorious for affecting and being absorbed at complete different rates by different people, so this is my reaction based on my metabolism.
The aroma is initially a very clean more Downey dryer sheet than ammonia smell but to a much lesser degree than conventional Swedish Snus. Add to that a slight smell of wood and/or nuts. I expected the aroma to change now that the cans were open and they did. Interestedly enough, 01 and 02 now smelled differently. 01 was wood with a slight cigar sweetness while 02 was a more intense sawed wood aroma. Could just be a production or shipping variation since again, I really couldn't appreciate a taste difference which nicotine wouldn't account for.
What 01 and 02 both had in common; upon opening the can and later, is that the aroma is much fainter than any other snus I've used (that wasn't a year old and dried out like Grand Prix, SnusAB version). I really had to stick my nose into the cans and deeply inhale to break out the different scents. To a new, especially American snus user opening the can for the first time, the odor will not be an issue...I doubt they will even notice it beyond the wood notes. A fresh, newly opened pack of cigarettes smells stronger (NOT better) than 0102. I believe that to be totally intentional on the part of Swedish Match and their US marketing strategy.
What I don't know at this point is if in saying "new formula to lessen leakage" if SMAB is talking about the snus or the pouch. In American English, they would seem to be indicating something changed substantially with the way the snus was made and/or it's ingredients. I performed my standard White Paper Test: I tore open a pouch of 01 (can't waste 02!) and sacrificed a different Swedish Match white portion; dumping both next to each other on a piece of plain white paper.
The grind appeared to me different but that could just mean the grind is different. The 01 was darker in color, but that could just be because different tobaccos were used in both portions I had opened. The convention SMAB white portion seemed to have a little more moisture in it, but the 0102 wasn't dry by any means. It's moisture content is listed at 43%.
I dissected the dead pouches. They felt almost identical in softness, but when I ripped them length-wise, the white portion shredded where the 01 pouch was more torn than shredded. Different density of material? Different fiber count? Have I done too much 02 and over-thinking this formula thing too much? I may have chain-snused too much 02 today but I do want to know how Swedish Match defines the word "formula". I want to know why 0102 runs differently than other snuses. I want to know if "running" and "leakage" mean the same thing. I want to know if it's the snus or the pouch material that makes 0102 run the way it does.
Epilogue: Fast forward 4 hours since my last paragraph. I took a quick nap and then relaxed. I put in a portion of one of my favorite regular portion 8mg/g nicotine snus's from The Mr. UNZ Private Selection package from my favorite Internet Snus Retailer, ah, you know who it is. Something strange happened. Yes, it was running the way I like it; the taste was one of my favorites.....but the pouch felt wrong, somehow. Instead of an even distribution, the pouch felt localized to a small part of my gum. For the first time in almost 3 years, I was VERY aware of the pouch....and the buldge...and how odd and even uncomfortable it felt compared to the 0102 portions I've been using.
I'm sure after a few more portions, I'll be unaware of the regular pouch feel again. At least I hope so. One thing I do know is that every snus manufacturer in Scandinavia is going to be buying a roll of 0102 and evaluating Swedish Match's truly revolutionary new 1 gram pouch size. Two or three years from now, the long thin one gram portion pouch is going to be as common as the white portion is today. Hopefully sooner. Hopefully Ekstra Sterk, Grovsnus Svart and my beloved General ONYX.
Snus lovers old and new need to try 0102 just to say they did. It is that kind of snus. Both 01 and 02 will be available to the non-diplomatic public in October 2009. Save the first-run cans too: Lab Series 0102 is Snus History and you're living it.
Regards from the Embassy Bunker,
Swedish Snus Ambassador to the United States
Reporting for SnusCENTRAL.org