What’s in a Mystery Box? A Buyer’s Guide to Clearance e-Liquid

Last fact-checked 15 January 2021 | Report a factual error on this article

Tempted by a mystery box but not quite sure what you’ll get? We know the feeling! Mystery boxes are a great way to taste a diverse range of e-liquid flavours at an attractive price. Find out what you need to know about the safety of mystery boxes, what to expect and how to avoid the pitfalls in this week’s article!

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What is a mystery box?
Why are mystery boxes so much cheaper?


    What is a mystery box?

    A mystery box is a lucky-dip collection of e-liquids, usually sold at a lower price per-millilitre than single shortfill bottles. With mystery boxes, you can’t pick the flavours you get, and the e-liquid tends to have passed its best-before date, but it’s a great way to discover new flavours.

    There is a lucky-dip element with mystery boxes — you don’t know what flavours you’re getting until the e-juice arrives — but that’s something that suits new vapers and anyone looking for a bit of variety and novelty. If you don’t like a few of the flavours contained in your mystery box, it’s usually still worth the gamble, because the price-per-millilitre on all of the bottles contained in the box is still so much cheaper than buying a single flavour (a single specified bottle of shortfill could be 4 or 5 times more expensive, per millilitre, than a 500ml mystery box).  

    Why are mystery boxes so much cheaper?

    Mystery boxes are cheaper than single shortfill bottles because the e-liquid included in the box has passed its sell-by or display-until date. The e-liquid you buy in a mystery box is still safe to use, and it should still taste good. You just need to make sure you’re buying from a reputable retailer who works with the best suppliers and has the warehousing facilities needed to store e-liquid correctly. 

    The Gourmet E-Liquid mystery box

    Mystery boxes aren’t always for sale on our site. We only run mystery box offers when we can get an eclectic mix of high-quality e-juices. You can check what’s available now by going to our Mystery Box Department, or you can sign up to our newsletter at the bottom of this page and we’ll notify you the next time we run a mystery box promotion.

    Is cheap e-liquid safe?

    Any e-liquid sold in the United Kingdom, at any price, has to meet certain safety standards. Every new e-liquid has to pass a six month notification period with the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) before it can be put on the market, and the UK government keeps a public register of authorised e-liquid products (you can see the full list here on the Gov.uk site). footnote 1 If any member of the public experiences a side effect while vaping any liquid on the market, they can report this to the MHRA directly via the MHRA’s Yellow Card scheme footnote 2

    Cheap versus Premium E-Liquids

    Cheap e-liquids might be safe, but they usually don’t taste great. You might have noticed how cheaper e-liquids will often taste blunt, raw or uneven. This is usually because the manufacturer has used very basic, cost-effective flavourings designed to deliver an ‘approximate taste’, and they haven’t spent much time fine-tuning the recipe. Most premium e-liquid manufacturers will spend months of effort just on the Research & Development phase, making sure that the juice they create is perfect before it moves on to the 6-month MHRA registration phase. 

    We recently developed our own line of e-liquid (if you like fruity imported flavours, you’ll love Fog Addicts!), so we know a lot about the work that goes into making a premium e-liquid. There are hundreds of different flavourings that can be added to a base VG/PG e-liquid, and it takes weeks and weeks of trial and error to find the right blend that delivers the ideal taste. 

    If you can get a mystery box that only contains premium e-liquids, it’s well worth the money. You get to sample the subtle notes and distinctive flavours of a wide range of gourmet vapes, but you do it at a price that removes the risk of finding a bad flavour. If you simply don’t like a few of the flavours in a mystery box, you’re still paying less per-milliliter than you would if you just stuck to your regular brand. It’s a great way to discover new and interesting flavours.

    Does vape juice degrade over time?

    When it has been stored correctly (in a cool, dry, dark environment), shortfill e-liquid can remain in perfect condition for up to two years. If your e-liquid has been exposed to heat or light, then reactions in the e-liquid bottle can cause the vape juice to spoil or change colour. The same goes for e-liquid with nicotine; the nicotine within e-liquid will start to break up over time. If your e-liquid looks like it has separated, you can often ‘rescue’ it by giving it a good shake for a couple of minutes and giving it time to settle. 

    Safety note: If you want your vape juice to last for as long as possible, our advice is to keep your e-liquid in a cold, dark, dry environment, out of reach of children or pets (a locked desk drawer, for example). You should dispose of any old e-liquid that gives off a suspicious smell, colour or consistency. If in doubt, throw it out. 

    What do the different expiry dates mean?

    E-liquid is not classed as a food, so it doesn’t have to comply with food labelling laws. The UK’s version of the TPD (Tobacco Products Directive), also known as the Tobacco and Related Products Regulations 2016, doesn’t mention minimum dates at all. footnote 3

    On e-liquids, the two most likely expiry date types you’ll see are ‘sell by’ and ‘display until’. ‘Sell By’ and ‘Display Until’ dates are not required by law, and they don’t relate to quality, health or safety. They’re simply there to help retailers to manage their stock.  footnote 4 Customers rightly expect the e-liquid they buy to be as fresh as possible, which is why stock that has gone past its ‘sell by’ or ‘display until’ dates usually ends up in a mystery box. 

    You’ll probably never see ‘Use By’ on an e-liquid bottle. By law, a ‘use by’ date is only needed on foods, which “... from a microbiological point of view, are highly perishable and are therefore likely after a short period to constitute an immediate danger to human health”. footnote 5

    How to get the best deal on an e-liquid mystery box

    If you want to get a really good mystery box, there are two things you should always try to do…

    1. Only buy from a premium e-liquid retailer (like ourselves). You don’t want to get any cheap juices in the box.
    2. Only buy limited-stock mystery box offers. If a retailer's mystery box is frequently out of stock, that is actually a good sign, because it means they’re curating their selection carefully. There isn’t enough out-of-date premium stock out there to support a 365-days-a-year supply of quality mystery boxes, and you want to avoid getting cheap e-liquid in the mix. At Gourmet E-Liquid, we would rather show you an ‘out of stock’ message than send out a sub-par mystery box. 

    We’re really proud of our mystery boxes, and we love it when we have an opportunity to put something special together. Our customers appreciate them, too, which is fantastic:

    “Mysterybox is unreal!
    This will be my 3rd and hope they’re not sold out because I’m wanting to buy more of these! If you guys start doing bigger boxes with more liquid in.. then count me in because I’ll be buying again!!!!
    - Gourmet E-Liquid Mystery Box customer review

    We live for this kind of feedback! It’s great to know that our hard work in picking and preparing mystery box liquids doesn’t go unnoticed. 

    If you have any questions about mystery boxes, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. We’re vapers ourselves, and we’re always happy to help customers to find their perfect flavour. 

    Stay safe and happy vaping!

     - John




    Links & Citations:

    Footnote 1:

    By the way, the MHRA also requires e-cigarette and e-liquid retailers to register on a separate list. You’ll find Gourmet E-Liquids Ltd on on the register at the link below:
    https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/tobacco-products-and-e-cigarette-cross-border-sales-registration/list-of-registered-retailers#e-cigarette-retailers

    Footnote 2:

    More information on the MHRA Yellow Card Reporting scheme can be found at the links below: 
    https://www.gov.uk/drug-safety-update/e-cigarette-use-or-vaping-reporting-suspected-adverse-reactions-including-lung-injury#how-to-report-suspected-side-effects-or-safety-concerns-to-the-yellow-card-scheme
    https://yellowcard.mhra.gov.uk/yellowcards/tobaccoreportmediator/

    Footnote 3:

    Part 6 of The Tobacco and Related Products Regulations 2016 covers the manufacture, distribution and sale of e-cigarettes. You can read the legal text for yourself at the link below:
    https://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2016/507/part/6

    Footnote 4:

    “"Best before" dates appear on a wide range of frozen, dried, tinned and other foods.” … Retailers often use "sell by" and "display until" dates on their shelves, mainly for stock control purposes. These aren't required by law and are instructions for shop staff, not for shoppers. The important dates for you to look for are the "use by" and "best before" dates.
    https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/food-labelling-terms/#display-until-and-sell-by

    Footnote 5:

    “In the case of foods which, from a microbiological point of view, are highly perishable and are therefore likely after a short period to constitute an immediate danger to human health, the date of minimum durability shall be replaced by the ‘use by’ date.”
    Quote taken from “Article 24 - Minimum durability date, ‘use by’ date and date of freezing” of Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011: https://www.legislation.gov.uk/eur/2011/1169/article/24
    A basic summary of expiry dates on food can be found at the link below: 
    https://www.food.gov.uk/safety-hygiene/best-before-and-use-by-dates

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