Air Up is a water bottle that uses scented pods to “trick your brain” into thinking you’re drinking flavored water instead of plain water. How does it work? Read my honest review below.
Where to Purchase
As of March 2023, Air Up is not available on Amazon or in stores. The only place to purchase one is at the official website, air-up.com. You can expect to pay about $40 for the bottle plus a 3-pack of one flavor. Currently, there is an offer to include a free “Favorite Five” pack of flavors using a promo code, although it’s unclear how long this promo will last.
I would like to point out that this is not a sponsored or partnered review. I’ve never communicated with the company, and I paid full price for all of the items reviewed here.
Claims & Features
- Works via retronasal smell effect in which your sense of smell makes you think you are tasting flavors
- Uses only natural flavors
- BPA-free bottle
- Flavors last about 1.3 gallons
- Sip bottle in an upright position for maximum effect
Air Up Review
Air Up is a “retronasal” product that is marketed as a way to “taste” flavored water while you’re drinking plain water. It works by sending a scent to your nose as you drink, which “tricks your brain” into thinking you’re actually tasting a flavored water. It’s not the first product of this kind that I’ve tested. Back in 2020, I tested the Right Cup, which was a scented cup that I did not like. Not only did I fail to get the effect, but the smell of the cup quickly became unpleasant. About a year later, I tried out Tasty Tabs, which were scratch and sniff stickers meant to be placed on the can tabs of hard seltzer in order to enhance the flavor – and again I failed to get much effect.
Now we have Air Up, which offers many of the same claims as The Right Cup and Tasty Tabs – but with one small difference. Whereas Tasty Tabs and The Right Cup were essentially static smells placed near your nose, Air Up is designed to create bubbles as you sip through the straw. They claim that these bubbles carry the flavor from the pod as sort of scent transmitters. While this feature is barely touched upon in their marketing materials, I believe this is the key that makes Air Up superior to the others in its retronasal effect, as I’ll discuss below.
After cracking open the package, washing out the bottle, and reading over the instructions, it was time to get started. I had 6 flavors to choose from: cherry, which came with my bottle, along with the Favorite Five. Unfortunately, I lost one of the five flavors among my packaging, so I only tried 4 of them for my video review. I did discover that last flavor after my video review was completed, which I’ll discuss below.
To use Air Up, you place one of the flavored pods (or “scented” pods) over the spout of the bottle. To activate the pod, you pull up, which allows bubbles to form while drinking. These bubbles supposedly transmit the scent to your nose. To deactivate the pod, you push it down, which prevents bubbles from forming and stops the retronasal effect.
I placed a cherry pod on the bottle, took my first drink, and had mixed feelings. I was happy that I actually achieved the elusive retronsal effect but felt disappointed that the flavor was not palatable at all. It had a sort of chemical cherry taste, which was so off-putting that I thought maybe I was tasting residual plastic flavor from the new bottle. To be sure, I took the cap off and drank straight from the bottle. It tasted like plain water, so the “cherry chemical” taste was indeed the intended flavor of the pod.
Next up was Orange-Vanilla Swirl, which did not have a chemical smell and provided a light flavor of a creamsicle. It wasn’t an exciting flavor, but certainly drinkable. Next up I tried watermelon, which I did not like because it had a similar “chemical” taste that I experienced with the cherry.
The next two flavors I tried were mixed berry and peach, and these were much better. I felt like those were the most accurate and the best tasting of the 5 I tried for my video review. Both offered a pleasant hint of fruitiness, which did in fact give me the impression that I was drinking lightly flavored water.
As noted above, there was one elusive flavor that I found later and tried out, and that was Raspberry Lemon. That flavor was probably the mildest of the bunch, but unfortunately was closer to the peach and watermelon in its accuracy to the actual flavor. It had a strange flavor that I didn’t find to be pleasant at all.
After reading and watching numerous reviews of the Air Up, it appears that about half the people out there love it while the other half is unimpressed – or feels that it doesn’t work at all. My opinion is that there are three factors that separate consumers into one of these two categories. The first factor is consumer expectations. Those expecting a bold flavored water experience will likely be disappointed, as the Air Up provides more of a hint of flavor than an actual taste. The next factor is pod selection. If I had just tasted the cherry, watermelon, and raspberry lemon, I would have likely concluded that the flavors are all terrible. Thus, getting the right pods could impact how much you like or dislike the Air Up. The final factor is individual sense of smell. Everyone has a different level of scent sensitivity, and I believe this likely plays a big role in the satisfaction consumers have with Air Up.
Air Up vs Cirkul
There’s a lot of discussion online comparing the Air Up vs the Cirkul, and while I understand the desire to compare these two products, they really don’t belong in the same category. Cirkul is a water bottle that uses flavor pods to enhance the taste of water, whereas Air Up adds scents to simulate the taste of water. Thus, Cirkul’s flavors will be bolder than the hint of flavor you’ll get with Air Up. Cirkul pods are available online, on Amazon, and in stores, while Air Up pods are only found on the official website as of this writing. Cirkul pods are a bit more expensive considering the amount of water you can flavor (132oz for Cirkul vs 166oz for Air Up), but they provide an actual flavor and are more easily found online and in stores. Although I appreciate the desire to compare Cirkul vs Air Up, the differences are too great to fairly compare these side by side.