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Swamp Pop: Noble Cane Cola

History: You sit on your front porch. Fog rises off the lake. You see eyes peak above the surface before descending again into the grassy marsh. Sweat drips from your forehead and spills on to your half buttoned-up shirt. The humidity is smoldering. A love-torn voice echoes in the background from your record player as you reach for your mason jar that’s consumed by condensation. This is Louisiana. And Swamp Pop, started in 2013 by cousins John Petersen and Collin Cormier, is all about creating old school glass-bottle sodas with a distinctly cajun identity. Says Petersen, “We wanted to take soda profiles people were more broadly familiar with, and then twist them with a Lousiana flavor.” In fact, Swamp Pop is a double entendre as both the name of the company and a classic Louisiana style of music. It sort of sounds like the blues meets honky-tonk meets 50’s rock. The cousins knew the cajun influence had a wide appeal across the country, but they wanted to stay authentic. All of their sodas contain 100% pure Louisiana cane sugar from Louisiana farmers, natural flavors and natural color. Petersen says they wanted to make their soda flavors “in layers,” in order to create something a little more sophisticated for the drinker. The company produces six different flavors. Today, we try Noble Cane Cola, Swamp Pop’s twist on traditional cola made with Louisiana Brown Turkey Figs. They also wanted it it taste more herbal than the average cola while still maintaining sweetness. Petersen adds confidently, “The cola is a cola for grown-ups.”

Where to get: Swamp Pop is mostly sold in the gulf coast region and is national to some extent. Cost Plus World Market carries their sodas. You can also buy it directly from their web site. To find the nearest retail location near you, use the company’s online locator.

Nose: Sweet sugar; fig blossoms; candied plums.

Taste: Sweetness; cinnamon; candied fig; mild brown sugar. This tastes unique. Swamp Pop boasts about the Brown Turkey Figs they use in their cola and that must be what I’m tasting here. It’s sweet, but not syrupy. It’s crisp, yet not overbearing. Right away you get a flash of sweetness that flows into a creamy candied fig taste which glides across the tongue. Next comes a wave of carbonation that brings with it robust cinnamon sugar to pair with that unique fig flavor. The closest thing I can compare the fig flavor to is a very rich, sweet, fruity cherry. But that’s still not quite right. It’s just so original. You almost get a little bit of brown sugar too. Incredibly drinkable. The flavors all work here. The Louisiana cane sugar really brings out the fruity fig notes in this truly original cola. Notes of cinnamon and brown sugar undercut the main body of the soda. There’s also the slightest hint of an herbal taste to this, but that’s really an afterthought. All around brilliantly executed.

Finish: Creamy cinnamon and ripe fig that linger briefly before your mouth is ready for another sip.

Rating: Immaculate. Swamp Pop has taken an old favorite, infused it with vintage Louisiana flavors, and yet somehow brought it into the 21st century. Wonderfully original. The Brown Turkey Figs form the base of Noble Cane Cola’s flavor. It’s sweet, different, and even a little fruity. The underlying notes of cinnamon reign in some of the sweetness and make this an easy-drinking soda. It’s even got a nice foamy head due to the company’s use of quillaia, an ingredient more often found in root beers and cream sodas. Enjoy a couple bottles in a sitting or just sip on it to savor the flavors. This works both ways. It’s a cola like you’ve never had, and one your mouth just has to experience. Have you ever made out with someone who was like definitely a couple levels above you, and your mouth didn’t even know things like that could happen inside of it? Me neither. But I imagine the level of joy and surprise in that situation would be comparable. Put on your finest Bayou wear, grab a Noble Cane Cola and watch the gators swim into the sunset. Most of us will have to settle for a YouTube substitute *shudders*, but the point is: this is more than worth your time and money. Louisiana is killing the soda game right now. We endorse this with five stars.

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Rocky Mountain Soda: Colorado Cola

History: The guys at Rocky Mountain Soda are about as chill as you can get. They work in Denver. They have a skateboarding culture influence. And one of the principle operating partners goes by “Moose.” But for as laid back as they seem, Rocky Mountain Soda is serious about what goes in that bottle. Like many in the craft soda game, their background is in fine spirits. They also operate Peach Tree Distillers. Moose says their goal was to make an “all natural soda with good ingredients. It’s just a bunch of guys who were stupid enough to start a soda company because we love it.” In 2007, they started making their sodas a little differently – with local beet sugar as opposed to cane. However, due to GMO and chemical concerns with the beet sugar, the company has since switched to using evaporated cane sugar in their sodas. They do not use sodium benzoate. “We wanted ingredients we could pronounce.” The company produces a variety of flavors from Colorado Cola to Palisade Peaches and Cream. It’s still a small operation, employing only five people. They keep a good sense of humor about it; “Pepsi spills more soda in a day than we’ll make in a year.”

Where to get: Your best bet is to contact the company directly online. It’s also available in many RocketFizz retailers.

Nose: Vanilla; cherry; faint cinnamon.

Taste: Smooth; light vanilla; creamy nuttiness; faint cherries and cinnamon. One of Rocky Mountain Soda’s starting points for their cola was an old classic: R.C. Cola. If you’ve never had it, R.C. Cola is an older-style cola that’s very soft on the palate. Rocky Mountain Soda took that concept and used it as a blueprint here. On the first sip, you’re greeted with a pleasant soft vanilla taste with subtle cherry nuances. If you weren’t looking for it, you might miss it. It’s very creamy for a cola, but not quite foamy like a cream soda. The smoothness is what’s most striking. There’s no bite or sharpness to this; very drinkable. Once you get past the initial vanilla-cherry taste, there’s a distinctive nutty flavor that still leans towards the vanilla side of things.

Finish: Light cherry cola; cinnamon. The nuttiness you get in the body of this soda likely comes from Kola Nut, and once that fades, you’re left with a nice, soft cherry flavor. Not cherry as in Cherry Coke that punches you in the face like that dude in middle school did, but a lovely, vanilla cherry that you could watch Netflix with all night. A very faint cinnamon flavor also darts about until you take your next sip.

Rating: This is cola done well. It’s simple and drinkable enough for the casual soda fan or child, but has enough nuances to make it intriguing for the craft soda connoisseur. If you gave me one word to describe this soda, it would be “pleasant.” It’s incredibly pleasant. You see my typing away on my laptop up there? That’s stressful businessman work. The Colorado Cola kept it real pleasant for me that night. Back to the flavors. The vanilla nuttiness combined with the subtle cherry and cinnamon notes really make this soda stand apart from other colas. Its smoothness lends itself to be guzzled quickly. Don’t. Please don’t. Enjoy it. And adults: maybe even throw some Whiskey in there if it’s a successful Friday night… or a rough Monday. Pro tip: this soda’s flavor profile is dramatically affected by ice. I strongly suggest you drink it chilled from the bottle. Now, up your cola game. Go find this. Go buy it.