I’m probably not your typical college student.
“Oh, you guys are going to a party? Which one? I was always a fan of Mario Party 4. Should I bring a controller?”
“Football game? No, but I do have these awesome Limited Edition Little Debbie Football Brownies! They’re really just the same as their Easter Egg Brownies, and…hey, where’d everybody go?”
This mindset is why Mtn Dew’s sleek new Black Label variety probably isn’t for me. It’s being sold in limited college markets until its nationwide release in 2016, so I believe the idea is that this drink would be a perfect chaser at a party or a tasty, highly caffeinated pick-me-up before a round of Ultimate Frisbee on the quad.
But this “Crafted Dark Berry” Dew is flavored with herbal bitters and grape juice concentrate, so my immediate reaction was less “cool” and more “could this be the spiritual successor to grape-flavored Mountain Dew Pitch Black? Holy s***, Halloween is coming early this year!”
So I hustled over to my university convenience store and bought a can. At the register, I considered throwing in a box of condoms to up my “cool factor” in the eyes of the cashier, but instead I bought a Hostess Jumbo Honey Bun. Oh well, 1 out of 2 ain’t bad.
The light violet soda looks like a cross between a mad scientist’s concoction and the Creature from the Black Lagoon’s sinister bathwater, which is the reason I poured it into a laboratory-themed cup. It certainly isn’t because I don’t actually own any real glasses. That would be ridiculous!
The carbonation here is much more mild than other Dews, producing a smooth gulp that doesn’t sting your throat. As for the much hyped-up flavor, the prominent tang of the grape juice does make it taste a lot like Pitch Black (or at least how I remember it tasting; 10 years after Pitch Black’s release, my taste buds may have become senile and forgetful).
However, the complex “dark berry” makes Black Label taste more like Pitch Black that was diluted with Ghoul-Aid and a liquefied package of Kellogg’s Fruity Snacks. In layman’s terms, this means there’s the slightly sour grape beginning, which is dark and a bit bitter. It’s almost like the folks at Mountain Dew barrel-aged a bunch of Welch’s.
This is paired with a bit of puckering blackberry tartness and hints of sweet, artificial blueberry. The added ingredient of orange juice also gives the drink a citrus finish that reminds me of 2007’s Halo 3 Mountain Dew Game Fuel (which I still have three sealed cans of sitting in my basement. Seriously, how am I not more popular on campus?).
This charming mixture of nostalgic flavors puts Black Label right up there with original Game Fuel in my personal pantheon of best Dew varieties. However, the mellow mouthfeel of the drink makes me wish for more fizz, as a stronger bubbly bite would likely give the drink’s sour and tangy flavors more of a memorable impact. Instead, the lingering sweetness from the drink’s 100 percent real sugar leaves me with a bit of an uncomfortable, gritty glaze in the back of my mouth.
Regardless, fans looking for a more refined and energizing Dew won’t be disappointed. And if you’re just looking to channel the ghost of Pitch Black in time for Halloween, put down your Ouija Board, ‘cause it won’t get much closer than this.
Now, as I was saying: the Easter Egg Brownies are also very similar to Little Debbie’s Pumpkin and Seashell Brownies, but…hey, wait, come back!
(Nutrition Facts – 16 ounces – 210 calories, 0 grams of fat, 85 milligrams of sodium, 54 grams of carbohydrates, 53 grams of sugar, 0 grams of protein, and 83 milligrams of caffeine.)
Item: Mtn Dew Black Label
Purchased Price: $1.89
Size: 16 oz. can
Purchased at: Campus convenience store
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: A holy trinity of Pitch Black, Ghoul-Aid, and fruit snacks. Halloween in beverage form. Junk food séances. Encyclopedic knowledge of Little Debbie. Mario Party 4.
Cons: Unpleasant throat coating. Bite strength is less “Dracula” and more “Edward Cullen.” The thought of drinking 8-year-old Game Fuel. Trading my reputation for a Jumbo Honey Bun.