The Curator’s Notes is a series that explains our thought process behind carrying certain products and brands. This entry, covering Five Pawns, will show why we love Five Pawns from their unique flavor profiles, responsible manufacturing and vision for the industry.
If you’ve been vaping for a while, you’ve likely heard the name Five Pawns. You’ve probably noticed Five Pawns doesn’t chase the newest trend – they’re known for meticulously planning out their eLiquids from the molecule up while leading by example. Between the Original series, Red line, and Blue line; Five Pawns offers a robust portfolio spanning a number of uniquely complex profiles. From strawberry rhubarb with an oat crumble set in vanilla cream to chocolate covered potato chips sprinkled with sea salt to bold tobacco with notes of hops and barley; there’s something for everyone in the Five Pawns lineup..
I had the chance to meet with Five Pawns this past week and pick their brains on how they got into vaping, what sets Five Pawns apart and their thoughts on regulations.
Coval: How did you find out about vaping?
Rodney: It was almost seven years ago when I received a call from a company in China that was looking to market a disposable electronic cigarette here in the United States. They asked me to design it’s packaging, in-store branding, and marketing campaigns. Working with that company and holding it’s products in my hand for the first time is when it all began for me.
Coval: What was your first setup?
Rodney: My first rechargeable device was a simple 510 connection cig-alike unit made by Green Smart Living out of Salt Lake City, Utah. Here is a picture of my first device that I still keep as a reminder.
Coval: What are you vaping today?
Rodney: For the past couple years I’ve been using a closed tank pod system exclusively that I’m afraid I can’t mention by name. I’ve developed a rendition of Castle Long Reserve specifically for the device that is for personal use only and call it CLRS (Castle Long Rodney Special) with 18mg tobacco derived nicotine.
Coval: What is the history of Five Pawns – what did Five Pawns set out to do?
Rodney: The vision six years ago was to offset the leading cause of preventable death and convert smokers to a better alternative. This remains our vision today as we strive to achieve this by offering unique & adult flavor profiles, responsible branding, best in class manufacturing practices, award winning customer service, all while upholding the superior brand integrity I think we’re known for. We’ve stayed our course in promoting responsible tobacco harm reduction and were fortunate to establish ourselves as a staple brand due to the early timing of when we started.
Coval: The chess theme is widely used by Five Pawns – what is the symbolism behind it?
Rodney: The definition of a pawn: is something that can be used, manipulated, or sacrificed to further one’s purpose. In naming our brand, I saw my e-liquid as the pawn. There are also five tastes known to the human palate; sweet, sour, bitter, salty, and savory. My first five commercialized flavors played on each of the five tastes and hence the name Five Pawns. Chess is also a sophisticated and complex game, much like my flavor profiles and always felt much more adult in nature than other things I could have played on.
Coval: What are your personal favorites of the Five Pawns line up?
Rodney: I think it’s safe to say that I’ve always preferred things that might not be appeal to the mass market. I’m weird that way and I keep those profiles to myself. My all time favorite is obviously Castle Long Reserve but I also have a thing for Black Flag Risen, Kingside Tobacco, and Lasker’s Rule.
Coval: What does vaping mean to you?
Rodney: I don’t even like the term vaping today because of the negative perception that it’s created for itself. I prefer to use vapor products or next generation nicotine delivery devices. Vapor products to me have the potential to provide the greatest positive impact on public health of anything we’ve seen in decades.
Coval: We’ve seen a lot of changes in the industry. A trend we’ve been seeing is more people coming back to the mouth-to-lung, low wattage, high nicotine style of vaping. What do you think about this trend?
Rodney: The industry has come full circle. It amazes me that it happened so quickly and I remember not too long ago developing flavor blends in 18mg on low wattage devices. Here we are again. Hardware forced the hand when 100 watt box bods and sub-ohm vaping became the norm. It’s nice to see a bottle of e-liquid last more than a day again. We’re back to a bottle lasting a week or more due to lower wattage mouth to lung devices and I’m all for it!
Coval: There are still nearly 40 million smokers in the United States. In some ways it feels like the industry shifted it’s focus and I feel we need to shift it back to the smoker. What are some ways you think the industry can remember the smoker and return vaping to its roots? How should we be trying to reach smokers?
Rodney: That was my idea behind finally releasing our previously registered tobacco flavor blends in the Five Pawns RED line. These tobacco profiles were designed for the “forgotten smoker” while continuing to cater to the existing vaper who still appreciates tobacco flavor. We must stop catering to only our industry and it’s consumers. We have to find ways to grow and our only way of doing that is to clean up the perception of vapor products and make it more attractive to those looking to switch.
Coval: Five Pawns is stocked in shops across the globe – what trends or differences do you see outside of the US?
Rodney: I just got back from a three week Five Pawns tour in Europe with Jay. It was so refreshing to see how widely accepted this technology is by governing and scientific bodies. What’s happening today in the U.S. is a mess and there appears to be a lot less noise in all international markets. More professionalism, less opportunists, competing products seem to be a lot more thought out and crafted.
Coval: Dr Gottlieb has made it apparent in his demands of Blu, Juul and others that the industry needs to self-regulate. What do you think self-regulation should be in the vapor industry and how do you think it should be implemented?
Rodney: There are too many opportunists in this industry today to self regulate I’m afraid. Too many that aren’t concerned with bad public and government perception and will do anything just to make a buck. This industry had it’s chance and blew it. Regulation is coming and self-regulation will soon be a thing of the past. The most important thing I think we can all agree on today (and execute) is that our products must be kept out of the hands of underaged users.
Coval: If you could change one thing about the FDA regulations what would it be?
Rodney: I’d like to see the FDA start by regulating nicotine percentages. The “youth epidemic” that has every headline today is due to kids using the product for the head buzz in a discrete way that can be hidden from parents and teachers. They aren’t using highly concentrated nicotine products because of the flavors and I’d like to see nicotine percentages regulated before they take more drastic measures that could destroy an industry.
Coval: There are several large advocacy groups out there. They all seem to have slightly different goals and ways to accomplish those goals. What would you like to see advocacy groups do differently?
Rodney: I would love to see the fragmentation stop and everyone come together and act as one. In my opinion VTA is the first organization that has truly acted as a trade organization to help, advise, and fight for not only it’s members… but for the greater cause. VTA is making a difference and getting things accomplished while being lead by some of the brightest and most professional people I have ever met. There are many other amazing advocates out there that tirelessly fight for our industry daily. Thank you guys but I can’t help but feel that all these people working together would be even more impactful. Join forces and fight together.
Coval: What resources would you suggest the everyday consumer use to become more informed about regulation in the vapor industry? How should they get involved with advocacy?
Rodney: Consumers should look to CASAA.org
Coval: Why did Five Pawns choose to not make max-VG or salt-based nicotine products?
Rodney: I actually did develop nicotine salt formulations in 2016 and chose not to register them. 18mg or 24mg tobacco derived nicotine works perfectly to convert even a pack a day plus smoker. If it’s not broken… why fix it? High percentage nicotine salts came on the scene just about at the same time that “a new generation became hooked on nicotine”. Coincidence? I’ve heard people state that the Juul with 50mg+ of salt nicotine per milliliter was the hardest addiction they’ve ever tried to break. I don’t have an issue with responsible levels of nicotine salts but simply chose to do what was working for me at the time of the FDA cutoff date. As for max-VG, Five Pawns is a flavor first company and unfortunately proper amounts of PG are required to carry flavor synonymous with Five Pawns blends. Most max-VG offerings I’ve experienced simply add a bunch of artificial sweetener to make up for the lack of flavor (due to the lack of PG) and those offerings are only intended to produce greater vapor production. Again, we’re a flavor company and max-VG just didn’t fit our model. I have been able to bring higher VG blends to the market while incorporating things like sea salt to enhance flavor while being able to steer clear of artificial sweeteners. Today Five Pawns has a number of 30%PG / 70%VG product offerings that were designed for people that might have PG sensitivities and not to satisfy the cloud chaser.
Coval: Five Pawns announced a while back that their flavors were designed from the molecule up – can you explain what that means?
Rodney: I felt it was going to be important to own our own intellectual property and not be reliant on any 3rd party flavor providers if we chose to go down the PMTA path. Prior to 8/8/16 I designed each and every Five Pawns flavor blend from the molecule up. I was able to complete this compounding prior to registering our products with the FDA and it allows us to know (to the molecule) everything that is, and isn’t present in our products.
Coval: Five Pawns put out a blog post about being sucralose free – can you explain the importance behind this?
Rodney: Without getting into the science of heated sucralose, I chose not to use it because I don’t like the taste or what it does to coils. Add sucralose to a mediocre liquid to make it better. A great flavor profile shouldn’t need it and should be able to stand on it’s own.
Coval: Last question - will we see a return of the double barrel Castle Long Reserve Edition V?
Rodney: Unfortunately not. We had to choose what I thought was the best edition of CLR and use that formulation as what we registered with the FDA prior to 8/8/16. If you’re a double barrel fan William… I may just be able to dig a bottle out of my personal stash for your enjoyment ;) .
Between the pictures and videos in this article and the Five Pawns branding you’ve seen in person and online, you can tell they are committed to responsible and adult-oriented marketing. The consistent theme you’ve read through this article and seen in the industry is that Five Pawns is here to stay and continues to lead by example with their marketing and manufacturing standards. Their commitment to doing things the right way, not taking shortcuts, and vision for the industry is something to be admired.
I’m sure you can see why we consider Five Pawns to be an ideal partner and why we are proud to represent their brand. We want to hear your thoughts in the comments:
- What do you think of Five Pawns after reading this?
- What is your favorite Five Pawns flavor and how do you prefer to vape it?
- Do you have any questions for Five Pawns?