Review: Spiral Grape (Asahi)

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Review: Spiral Grape (Asahi)
Purchased August 2013
Reviewed October 2013
Website: http://www.asahiinryo.co.jp/spiralgrape/sp/

While I was experiencing the blistering Tokyo heat this summer, I also got to experience the product launch for SPIRAL GRAPE. At first, because of it’s very similar logo, I thought it said SPRITE GRAPE and as befitting a snack food reviewer, I was greatly looking forward to a new take on an existing and familiar product. It was only when I looked closer that it said SPIRAL not SPRITE, and while I was admittedly a little disappointed the advertising for Spiral Grape was everywhere and featured all kinds of skulls and weird angry teddy bears and I figured it was worth a shot, since the Asahi corporation had gone through so much effort.

Unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to try it while in Japan, and I packed it and brought it home and it went into the fridge until today when I was looking for a drink to have with lunch. Since I couldn’t bear the thought of having a snack food brought back from Japan without telling you about it, here I am coming off of hiatus to share my impressions of Spiral Grape.

Packaging: Really attractive, but they’re playing with fire with that SPIRAL logo. It looks a lot like Sprite, shares half of the letters, and is emblazoned on a vaguely Coke-shaped pop bottle. In a different country I feel like there’d be legal papers served.

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That aside though, the packaging is really nice, with a deep black and metallic purple scheme that really pops in stores and vending machines. It successfully hides the fact that the grape pop inside isn’t really purple, but a sort of maroonish-black, the strangest colour for grape soda I’ve ever seen. It’s not out-and-out unappealing, but you kind of expect grape soda or grape candy or grape-flavoured anything to be purple (or at the very least pale green). Anyway, the black and metallic purple is a triumph in that regard, communicating something about the product that it can’t do on its own.

Scent and Taste: Smells nice, a very strong, candy-grape smell. Basically what you expect from grape pop. Despite the colour.

I tried the cold soda first, and I was surprised at how lightly carbonated it was! There’s barely anything. The grape taste and accompanying sweetness were similarly subdued, at least compared to Fanta or Grape Crush. The whole experience was… mellow. Particularly for a product being advertised with ‘spice’ and ‘skulls’.

Trying the warm soda, it’s definitely more carbonated, and there is a reaction on the tongue that is maybe getting at the ‘spice’ that the bottle promises. There’s more of a round, fruity taste than one-note grape sodas, but when you’re expecting that intense grape soda taste, it’s disappointing not to get it–and it definitely isn’t present here. It’s… watery? I know that sounds strange to say, but yeah, there just isn’t enough ‘there’ there, even in the warm, no-ice, slightly richer soda. When cold, the flavour disappears even more.

I decided to have this with lunch in the first place, a good ole cheeseburger, and it’s not so bad with food. Because it’s not sickly sweet and overpowering, it actually doesn’t fight against the cheeseburger or sriracha hot sauce. Little sips here and there are fine, and eating it with very salty foods does make it a little sweeter by comparison.

Verdict: Meh. The slightly fuller grape flavour of Spiral Grape doesn’t make up for the fact that it’s pretty weak, overall. Warm or cold the lack of carbonation really hurts the overall impression, and you end up with a beverage that’s a bit too vitamin water, without the fake health benefits. I mean, they couldn’t get more EXTREME with the advertising, and that just makes the disparity between expectation and reality even worse.

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It isn’t exactly bad, but with Fanta seemingly taking Japan by storm, Asahi have offered up some pretty weak competition and I feel it won’t be long until these are populating the discount 100yen vending machines in back alleys across the country.

Addendum: After writing this review, I went to see what others thought of this, and this Japanese reviewer’s perspective is fascinating. Apparently this is supposed to be like a grape-crossed-with-root beer, or Dr. Pepper! Nuts! Now I’ve GOT to try it again when I go back to Japan, to see if I can pull any of those flavours out of this bland soft drink.

– Chris

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