The word "mash" usually puts your typical professional beverage critic in mind of a fine bourbon whiskey, but that's not what the folks at Boylan Bottling Company had in mind when they introduced their new line of sodas—excuse me, "low calorie water drinks", if you please.
Initially introduced to consumers in Australia, who know a low calorie water when they drink one, Mash has made its way to the U.S., and since Boylan is one of the more reliable companies competing for our soft drink dollar, we gave all the flavors we could find a try.
Eschewing the standard glass bottle experience, Mash comes in an attractively squat, fat, short plastic container that recalls kiddie juice jugs, but with a deceptively large 20-ounce capacity. (Mash's price point is pretty high, but the jumbo serving helps make it more palatable.)
Fructose and a soupćon of sucralose gives Mash its subtle sweetness, never overwhelming or heavy—though the 40-calories-per-serving claim is a tad deceptive, as there's almost three servings in each bottle. The drinks are also very lightly carbonated ("water drink" is probably vastly underselling it, but its fizz is pleasantly unobtrusive), which generally works in its favor. Flavorings are mostly juice concentrate; it's probably too generous to call it a healthful beverage, but it's close enough if you're on a steady diet of sugar sodas.
We began our taste test with the Lemon Peel Ginger Root flavor. It had a nice gingery scent, but the flavor was subtle nearly to the vanishing point. If you're looking for a strong gingery kick, you've come to the wrong place, though the lemon jumps in nicely at the finish. As mash-ups go, this one was more like a live band segueing from one song to another; a nice change of key, but that's about it.
The Grapefruit Citrus Zing on the other hand, was a full-blown blast from the crossfader, far and away the best-tasting of the Mash varieties we sampled. It's a bit unclear what the citrus element was meant to be (maybe the legendary zing fruit, native to Australia), but the grapefruit flavor positively jumped off the palate; unlike so many other sodas that try, through various combinations of artificial flavorings and extracts, to emulate the grapefruit experience, this tasted more like the juice of a fresh fruit than anything this side of a nutritious breakfast. Barely sweet and just tart enough, it was delicious and light, delivering on the line's promise more than any other flavor.
Ripe Mango Blood Orange couldn't help but pale by comparison (and how do we know they were ripe mangoes, eh, Boylan?), but it was still pretty solid. The mango flavor was distinct but not overwhelming, and the orange kicked in right away, adding some complexity and depth to the taste. It's curious that Mash didn't go for a deeper orange or red color on this one, but "blood orange" may just be a marketing gimmick, especially given the complete lack of oranges in the ingredients list. But in terms of pure taste, this one was a not-too-distance second, and left Mash with a strong 2-for-3 record, not too shabby considering the ambitiousness of the flavor blends.
Whether or not it counts as a new paradigm is up for debate, but as a solid entry in the sparkling fruit drink genre, we think Mash is a keeper.
Have you tried these drinks? What did you think?