I first spoke to Jonny from The Mix Lair a few months back after falling in love with Ambrosia (you can read TGV review here) and then purchasing quite a lot of it off him to feed my new found e-liquid addiction. Over the time I’ve been chatting to him, the thing that has come across from Jonny is his passion for the industry and his business, the excellent e-liquids he makes and his staunch focus on safety. Jonny is also a gentleman and an all-round good guy.
It was a pleasure doing business with him and doing this interview.
TGV: Hey Jonny! Many thanks for taking the time out to spend some time with The Grumpy Vaper. How are you? How’s the weather in Northern Ireland today?
Jonny: It’s been surprisingly good, considering the time of year!
TGV: So, give me an introduction to Accies by The Mix Lair, what are you all about, what’s an Accie, why do you have two names, what influences you?
Jonny: “Accies” is my online name. It came about from a trip to Scotland many moons ago for a weekend away with a group of friends. We arrived in Stranraer on the Saturday and decided to go to a football match between the local team and Hamilton Academicals. We ended up in with the away supporters and got chatting to several of them. Surprised to see someone from Northern Ireland there to “support” their wee team, we were given replica kits as mementos. It was such a great, and surprising, gesture that we are all now life-long Accies fans. “The Mix Lair” was first coined by one of my many vaping friends, Otter, and it was such an appropriate name for what I do that it has now stuck.
TGV: Can you tell me about your business ethos?
Jonny: My first foray from cig-a-likes into refillable tanks was nearly three years ago and resulted in ordering some liquids that were so bad I almost quit vaping before I had barely started! I started mixing my own juices not long after as it allowed me to create a flavour that suited me. Over time it developed into making juice for others and, as the demand grew, has now turned into a full time occupation. I’m not looking for world domination (yet) but instead trying to provide a range of more complex juices, different to what is currently available on the market, which in turn I hope provides people with a quality flavour they like well enough to keep them from returning to smoking.
TGV: So, how do you come up with ideas for your flavours? Does the food you love influence you in any way? Maybe you have some childhood food memories?
Jonny: Ideas come from many areas but the food I like is a huge influence. My flavour preferences are “sweet” and “spicy”. Initially I have focused on the “sweet” element for my juices, namely “Ambrosia” and ” Melon of Troy” but I have also developed some on the “spicy” scale, for example “Special Brew”(which has a chilli kick to it), “Firefly” and “Gingerbread”. Whilst my “sweet” juices tend to fall on the dessert side of flavours, the one flavour I strived to recreate from the moment I started mixing was rhubarb and custard, not the dessert flavour but the little red and yellow sweets. Growing up, every Saturday my Granny would have given us some pocket money to go to the shop and buy a quarter of sweets with. Every week my choice was “Rhubarb & Custard” and this has persisted into adulthood. Now I can enjoy them, calorie-free!
Sometimes the ideas come from elsewhere. I have made several other flavours which have a seasonal twist to them: “Toffee Apple” for Hallowe’en last year or “Leprechaun Blood” for St Patrick’s Day (it’s bright green!). I also created an exclusive strawberries and champagne flavour for my local vape shop in celebration of the birth of their daughter, Alexandra, which bears her name. I will be looking to do a “Christmas” juice this year too.
TGV: Could you take us through how you develop your e-liquid line and the flavours?
Jonny: Normally, once I know what I hope the end product will be, I will make up different flavour strength batches of each component flavour. This allows me to “understand” the individual tastes and also, if necessary, to combine the same flavour from different sources to get the best individual taste. Once I’m happy with each individual composite I then make several more combined batches of varying ratios to come up with the final juice. This process may take several months in total to allow for steeping time and various tweaks to ratios. After all that, I make up small batches in different nic strengths to allow adjustment in flavour to balance out nicotine flavour. The next stage is to try in different types of atomisers and finally it goes out for beta taste tests.
TGV: How do you know when a flavour is perfect, when it’s time to stop research and development?
Jonny: It took me a while to realise that there is no such thing as a “one size fits all” flavour. Initially I had people suggesting to make my flavours “more sweet”, “less sweet”, “more vanilla”, “less rhubarb” etc. I understand that everybody’s sense of taste is different and everyone experiences flavours in a different way, so to me a perfect flavour is one that I enjoy myself. In saying that, I will still send out new flavour ideas to certain people I trust to get an opinion and will happily tweak the recipe if there is enough feedback to do so. Ambrosia is a great example as it has (marginally) changed since its first iteration. Also due to the subtle differences in flavour caused by steeping, I have found that some people prefer it “fresher”, myself included, whilst others prefer it after it has steeped for several months, again highlighting that everyone is different. I know my definition of perfect does not match everyone’s but I’m glad and appreciate there are enough that share my opinion.
TGV: What’s your favourite restaurant?
Jonny: Cosmo Restaurant in Belfast. It has such a huge selection of Asian and world food in a buffet style which means you can try a bit of anything from sushi to pizza. Oh, and it always means there will be something my kids will like too!!
TGV: Accies Rhubarb and Custard is spectacular, how did you get it so good? Are there any secrets you can share with potential mixologists out there?
Jonny: Thank you very much. As I said earlier, rhubarb and custard was one of the first flavours I wanted to recreate. I’m sure I have tried every rhubarb concentrate on the market. It has taken numerous combinations and several months trial and error, and tweaking to get to where it is today.
For all the budding mixologists, don’t be afraid to ask questions, experiment with flavours and write everything down. There is a wealth of experience out there on different forums. I don’t want to give too many secrets away but I will say that sometimes the “right” flavour is a combination of several of the same flavour but from different flavour houses!
TGV: Who else do you have respect for in the industry? Do you vape on any other e-liquids apart from your own?
Jonny: I view “vaping” as much a community as an industry. As such my respect goes to those that look to put their skills into trying to protect vaping from over-regulation, to those that try to make vaping safer, to those people that spend endless hours to come up with new innovations and designs in devices, and above all to all the people that take the time to help out those just starting on their vaping journey.
TGV: Ok, safety is a huge and contentious issue at the moment in the world of vaping and e-cigarettes, so how do you deal with this?
Jonny: There are several “safety issues” surrounding vaping, from batteries to juice. E-Liquid safety is obviously paramount in what I do. I have spent the last decade working in the pharmaceutical industry and it has taught me many things in particular, Good Manufacturing Practice – the importance of a suitable work environment, equipment and clothing, and COSHH/CHIP regulations. I also take care in choosing suitable ingredients for my liquids, using the highest standards available and as much as possible, avoiding any ingredients that are proven to be harmful if inhaled. For a small juice maker such as myself, quite often we are guided by the information provided by the flavour houses themselves. Recently it has been shown that this information is not always wholly accurate. As I take the safety of my liquid seriously, I have recently been in negotiations with a laboratory to get all of my liquids analysed independently. This will ensure that my customers will be able to know conclusively what is in the bottle of juice they are vaping.
TGV: What’s the answer to life the universe and everything?
TGV: So, you have a new website coming too is there any chance of an exclusive for me here?
Jonny: Yes. I already have a Facebook page so a website is the next step. I have a website ready to go at the moment, www.themixlair.com , which I aim to have live from 5th November. As stated above safety is very important to me so by this point I hope to have all my juices back from the lab fully tested. Each bottle will have a batch number which will be directly linked to a website where the customer can look up the report specific to that bottle.
TGV: What’s your preferred set-up for vaping Accies juices?
Jonny: As I said earlier everyone experiences the same juice differently, partly due to different setups. For me I find Genesis style setups offer the cleanest taste across the range of Accies juices, and they bring out more of the subtle flavours. Currently my preferred setup is a Hellfire Hybrid, sitting around 1 ohm with a 50/50 mix of Ambrosia and Baccy.
TGV: What are your opinions on sub-ohming and cloud chasing?
Jonny: I like low ohms (0.9-1.2) on my builds but I don’t really understand the need for extreme sub-ohming. My biggest concern, apart from burning the juice, is overloading the battery and causing venting, especially when there are plenty of devices on the market that allow for high wattage vaping, but have built in safety features. I have met plenty of new vapours that are only interested in getting the lowest resistance and the biggest clouds possible, but have no idea about the amp limits of their batteries.
TGV: Kanger, or Aspire. Why?
Jonny: On a day to day basis, I use genisis atomisers, so I don’t have a huge experience of either. When testing my flavours I will use EVODs. I have tried the Aspire mini and personally I don’t think there is a huge difference between them.
TGV: Having safely ushered your loved ones out of the house as it’s burning down to the ground, you ignore all standard safety advice and dash back in to grab three items of essential vaping equipment – What are they?
Jonny: My little black book of recipes, my Sunbox E7 (it will have a bottle of juice and a big battery in it) and my Monkey Sak from Vaping Monkey as it contains all the equipment I need to maintain the E7 for a few days.
TGV: Is there anything else you’d like to get out there to the UK and World vaping massive?
Jonny: Yes. Just remember that whatever you have currently in your hand is the best thing if it keeps you off tobacco; stop trying to find the one all day vape (it generally doesn’t exist) and enjoy the plethora of flavours out there; and Shinyitis has no cure. Don’t catch it!
TGV: Finally, what’s your favourite cheese?
Jonny: I’m not a big cheese lover so I will generally stick to Cheddar.
Jonny, many thanks for taking the time out to talk to The Grumpy Vaper.