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Saturday, January 14, 2012

Irn Bru

"He should try Irn Bru!"
"We need to get this guy some Irn Bru."
"It is only by the intervention of Irn Bru that you can be saved."

Since I began this blog, I have heard of many legendary sodas. Rumor has reached my ears of beverages for the quaffing in Japan in flavors too bizarre to mention. Some of my readers have spoken of elusive and unspeakable drinks whose names and flavors will not suffer their names to be spoken. Among these, one has been mentioned more than once; I have been told to seek out Irn Bru.

The very name festers with numinous wonderment. Is it an acronym? A fragment of an incantation in Hyperborean, to be chanted in certain disquieting stone circles on nameless hilltops? Does it imply that it is a beverage brewed in funerary ash containers? Is it the preferred beverage of Ernie, companion to the longsuffering Bert?

Oddly, among those who have recommended it, its characteristics are not entirely consistent. There are those who say it originates in Scotland; others place it elsewhere in the British Isles, while there are whispers which say it owns hypothetical and rumored Leng or Lomar as its home.This made it hard for me to find.

And yet it came to pass that I found myself (along with the Lab staff) on Massachusetts Avenue in Lawrence, Kansas. I was born and raised in Topeka, and the Lab was making a New Year's journey to my ancestral homelands. This was not a soda pilgrimage, but a Quaffmaster must be ever-vigilant; the six-foot cardboard Dalek in the storefront window suggested the possibility of Weirdness inside.

While the rest of the Lab staff was distracted by the chocolates and DVDs of "Lark Rise to Candleford", I was drawn to the refrigerated cabinets near the back, in which there was indeed British Weirdness to be found. Poking through the offerings, I selected a few likely candidates (which I will review soon), but then I spotted it: Irn Bru. Right there in front of me.

There it stands. Proud. Unafraid. Orange.

It's at times like this that I hear voices in my head. Some hear angels, or the voices of beloved relatives, guiding them to wise actions and noble needs.
I alternate between Ming the Merciless and the Wicked Witch of the West.
"SEIZE IT, YOU FOOL!" shrieked the voice in my mind. So, naturally, I did. I seized it with vigor.

The bottle of Irn Bru was carefully carried back to Topeka , lovingly packed into a suitcase nestled in warm woolen socks, armored above and below with nice thick role-playing-game rulebooks, and borne westward on Amtrak to the Lab. And now I can, with trembling anticipation and unholy glee, open it and experience the eldritch bubbliness of the far-famed, stong-greaved Irn Bru.

Where and when: Purchased at Brits (929 Massachusetts Ave., Lawrence, KS) in January 2012.
Color: Oddly orange, with an ever-so-slight pink tinge. Sort of a dark melon color.
Scent:Strong bubblegum, weak berry, very weak citrus. I need to figure out what it is which gives some of these sodas that powerful cotton-candy/bubblegum flavor.
K-i-C: "Smells like Bazooka." I'm assuming she means the bubblegum; if not, there are aspects to my dear wife which I had not suspected.
Taste:The bubblegum is there, and strong, but not utterly overwhelming. There is a fairly potent orange-ish taste under it--but not an orange soda flavor like you find in Crush or Fanta. It' if there was just a bit of peel included. Just that hint of bitter.
That bitter citrus is stronger in the aftertaste, which is intense but short-lived, fading rapidly a few seconds after it appears. It's ever so slightly reminiscent of Abbondio Chinotto, but only in the aftertaste, and not nearly so strong. This is mostly a moderately sweet, somewhat biting orange-ish soda; it's just got an interesting hint of something more. Sort of like being married to someone for fifteen years, thinking you understand them well, and then they let slip something about the smell of bazookas, and it makes you wonder...

K-i-C: *shudder, pause...* "Tastes like really pointy bubblegum...very sharply carbonated, that hurt...I feel like I should be chewing."

The tangy-bitter citrus aftertaste is still persisting, inobtrusively. It *is* very sharply carbonated.

Well, it's interesting stuff, and reasonably good...but to be perfectly honest, I'm not sure what all the fuss is about. Really, I need some sort of ritual for disposing of sodas which do not live up to their rumored stature. I think it was Ming the Merciless who said it best:
"I call upon the great god Dy-Zan, and for his greater glory...and our mutual pleasure...I destroy it utterly."
Could there be any greater ritual incantation for such an occasion? I think not.

Quaff rating: 2.5. Pleasant but uninteresting.
Cough rating: 1.0. That aftertaste is STILL there.

UPDATE: Just after writing this review, Nazgul came out from his sleeping compartment. He said he felt a bit hungry. After consuming a glass of milk, one and a half slices of vegetarian baloney,  a banana, a handful of almonds, a piece of colby jack cheese, and some tossed green salad, we had a little talk about proper nutrition during waking hours (apparently, sunlight makes him allergic to anything other than yogurt and Cheez-Its). In the course of this discussion, we discovered the hidden truth behind Irn Bru's name. To my astonishment, this truth also explains why we found it in Kansas.
This is the only soda I've had which supplies an appreciable amount (5%/8 oz.) of the RDA for iron. It contains ferric ammonium citrate.

Hence the name, a corruption of "Iron Brew", I suppose (although I don't remember Ironbeer having the same qualities). As to it being found in Kansas: if you imagine a Kansan saying "Iron Brew", you can imagine it coming out sounding more like "Aaaahhhhrrrrn Breeeuuuuwww". A literal transcription might render it "Ir'n Bru".

Nazgul: "Do I need to brush my teeth again?"


  1. > I need to figure out what it is which gives some of these sodas that powerful cotton-candy/bubblegum flavor.
    You know, here in Russia we had (and still have, maybe) the candies called "Barberries" (made of those berries, I think) with the taste that Irn Bru is highly reminiscent of. So it could be the thing you're looking for.

  2. I've always thought Irn Bru would be a legendary man's drink that would be capable of heaving cabers across the sea, blasting rust off of ships' hulls, and generally smashing any other soda's reputation.
    After tasting it and finding out that it's like Kinnie (Soda indigenous to the Mediterranean island of Malta) married bubblegum and had a baby, I was gravely disappointed.

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  4. Im from scotland ( the home of irn bru) and i absolutly love it. I know of not one person i know that doesn't. I am in fact reading this review after drinking my 5th can of the day and thinking " shit this is good"

    The name originates from the fact that at first it was called iron brew. This needed to be changed as it contained no iron and wasn't brewed. So barr changed the name to irn bru for legal reasons.

    Barr was also the first company to use the stay on ringpull.

    I believe that Scotland is the only country in the world where coke isn't the most consumed soda.

    I have never thought of the taste. but id say bubble gum is wrong. I cant stand bubble gum flavored things. Id say the taste is well... like irn bru. Just like coke is tastes like coke.

    Drinking from a bottle really inst the best way. This is how it should be consumed -

    1. place can of irn bru into fridge
    2. drink as much alcohol as possible.
    3. wake up next day around 2pm
    4. drink irn bru in one continuous go. It is the best thing you will ever have tasted in your life.

    Can number 6 here we go...

  5. Irn-bru has been described by me and my circle of Bru-lovers as the drink of kings, the orange drink, lifeblood and tiger tears. We love this in all its glory: e numbers, artificial colouring and incredible scent. How did you taste it? I've been drinking this stuff for years and one doesn't taste it: one smells it. The scent has been described as being like bubble gum, vanilla and cinnamon, but I must agree with your Scottish correspondent and say that Irn-bru tastes like Irn-bru. Maybe you had the diet stuff, as you didn't start bouncing off the walls due to the customary sugar high. My brother had a can of this at age 10 while on a daytrip to Belfast and was singing Baa Baa Black Sheep all the way home. Irn-bru is also famous for having a song written about it, being one of about 3 brands of pop still made in Britain and running an ad on telly depicting a happy family singing about the delights of Irn-bru, ending with the mother singing "even though I used to be a man". The presence of several bottles of Irn-bru is synonymous to me with a party for the ages. All I can say is that you were horrendously lucky to find it, as I have had trouble getting it anywhere in the U.S (I am currently living there due to circumstances beyond my control). When an Irish visitor brought a bottle he had smuggled in a shoebox, I nearly screamed. I would recommend Lilt to you if you like citrus flavoured drinks: it is a Pineapple sort of taste. Also, Tanora, a tangerine drink brewed in Cork, Ireland, although you'll probably have to order it from amazon as there is only 1 brewery.

  6. From a US lad whose blood is >70% Scottish and who has lived there for a spell, it is ambrosia. The only drink with sugar I will consume - Not my coffee or my tea or other beverages. When I have my friends and loved one try it, they either LOVE IT or they just don't care for it. My youngest daughter loves it like I do, although she says it tastes better in Scotland. And the statement is right: It tastes like IRN BRU. Period.

    I know the store in Lawrence. One of my stops. Another in Leawood KS. Another place in St. Charles MO. I keep an ongoing case or two at all times in the bunker.

    I have nothing else to say from what has already been said. God is drinking it right now, patting himself on the back for creating something so perfect. Drink it when you are drunk (I have) - drink it when you are sober (I have) - drink it at celebrations (because having one in your hand IS a celebration) - drink it when you are sad or happy.

    Or leave it alone so there is more for the rest of us.


  7. Good article I liked it.


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