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Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Napitki iz Chernogolovki Baikal

My visit to the International Food Market resulted in my acquiring several Weird sodas (as well as an additional sample of a previous review, which we will revisit soon), but I must say I have been more pleased with the Chernogolovkian sodas than I expected. The Duchess (pear flavor) and cream sodas have been enjoyable, if not life-changing, experiences with surprisingly well-crafted Weirdness. Today, we will explore the third and last of the sodas from the Russian science town, a dark concoction named "Baikal".
Baikal, in a lovely artistic setting. Note the dignity. Note the balance. Note it! Note it, curse your eyes! Did you note it yet?

Baikal seems to be a dark brownish-red soda, not so different in color from any number of colas. It is only on further inspection that the Weirdness comes out.
First, let's look at the ingredients: after carbonated water and sugar, we have "taiga root and tea extracts". Fantastic--I believe we may be able to classify this under "Plant and Weed Based Weird Sodas" in our growing taxonomy. I'm a little afraid--previous experiences with tea-based sodas have been mixed--but I don't think I've ever had taiga root.

I did some looking into what Baikal might refer to. The most obvious candidate, given the lovely lakeside autumnal scene on the label, would be Lake Baikal. This is the deepest and largest freshwater lake in the world, holding--according to Wikipedia--twenty percent of the world's surface fresh water. At its deepest point, it is more than a mile deep, which for a freshwater lake is astonishing. It has its own unique native freshwater seal population. It will soon have a submerged neutrino telescope.
The hidden, dark depths, ancient geology involved in its formation, and weird advanced science going on there make it quite clear. That's no neutrino telescope. It's a human outpost watching a suspected entrance to a subterranean Deep One settlement, or maybe an opening to N'kai. I forget, can Nyogtha swim?*

Where and when: Purchased October 2010 from International Market, Vista, CA
Color: Dark brown, somewhat reddish with light shining through it.
Scent: LAT: "Lemony?"
Nazgul: "Lemony ginger."
LAT: "Yeah."

The herbal ancestry is prominent; it's somewhat reminiscent of Moxie, or Fentiman's cola. The lemon is also clear, intense but a bit distant, overwhelmed by the herbal/gingery.

Nazgul: "It doesn't taste anything like it smells."
LAT: "Not sour. A little tangy."
Nazgul: "A little bit of chocolate."
LAT: "You know...a little. Maybe."

The initial taste is fairly dominated by the herbal taste, with the lemony flavor coming in from underneath. The taste is surprisingly moderate in strength, not overwhelming at all.

LAT: "I really like it. Do you like it, Nazgul?"
Nazgul (hissing ala Peter Jackson's nazgul): "Yeeesssssssss...."

It's lemonier than Moxie, with less of the "holy crud" strength of gentian root; whatever taiga root is, it's less off-putting. Over time, the tartness is coming out more strongly; it dominates the aftertaste, although there is a slight bitterness--a distinct third flavor--under the lemon and remaining herbal. It's not bad, just a faint, interesting taste.

I think this is my least favorite of the three Chernogolovkian sodas, although it's still pretty nice. I'd happily drink it again.

Quaff rating: 3.0. Surprisingly nice for a weed-flavored soda.
Cough rating: 0.5. The herbal flavor might be a bit too Weird for some, although it doesn't particularly bother me.

* We here at the Lab can find a way to work a Lovecraft reference into anything.


  1. "Surprisingly nice for a weed-flavored soda."
    Your saying it's somewhat of a weed-flavored soda as in actual "weed"?!

  2. I actually have no idea what "weed" tastes like, per se. I would assume something like Mary Jane's Relaxing Beverage would be closer to that (although probably not).
    In this case, I was referring to its taiga root and herbal provenance.

  3. Baikal is one of my faves - it's like Coke, but with more complexity. Taiga root is siberian ginseng, the main herbal flavor component of this drink. I find the lemon/eucalyptus tones of this russian cola lend themselves to a very refreshing Cuba Libre, if one is so inclined.

  4. I just drank my first Baikal a couple of minutes ago. I found this when I got the question in my mind "what did I just drink, btw?" and decided to google it.
    It was pretty good, I must say. Subtle flavour and interesting.
    If you like weird sodas (of course you do, you have a website dedicated to it), the weirdest soda I've tried (and it was pretty awesome) was the mexican "Fanta Chamoy". Maybe you can find it online.

  5. I drink Baikal since about 15 years, and it's a pity we can't find it in Paris. I have to wait every time my trips to Russia to drink it. The best one, the most taste is of course the Napitky Tchernogolovki, but this one from the big company of Saint Petersbug, wich I do not remember the name is not too bad to. Just avoid the "Fiesta" (it's a brand) one, discusting. I have drank also the lemonade from Napitky Tchernogolovki, excellent, but much more rare to find. For those who likes sparkling water, one of the best of the world is still from Russia and name Narzan (the green bottle), very good taste, gaz not to strong. Enjoy ! Jean-Luc

    1. >this one from the big company of Saint Petersbug, wich I do not remember the name is not too bad to
      Polyustrovo maybe?

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  8. St. John's wort, Rhaponticum carthamoides, Siberian ginseng, Liquorice, Eucalyptus Essential Oil, Lemon Essential Oil, Laurus nobilis Essential Oil, Siberian Fir Essential Oil


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