The Volcano vaporiser has stood, virtually unchallenged, atop the mountain of tabletop vaporisers for years. This upstart all-in-one system designed by ex-NASA engineers looks to topple the Volcano from its perch—just so long as you're cool forgiving all the rattling.
The Herbalizer is a dual-function aromatherapy/vapor therapy device. It can either be employed to vaporise and distribute the scent of essential oils throughout a room or get you utterly blunted on a preferred mix of psychoactive herbs and concentrates.
Because, while it is still the gold standard of hope vaporisers, the Volcano is beginning to show its age. The Herbaliser, instead, packs a powerful heating element, speedy but quiet fan, and more functionality into a form factor that doesn't scream "Hey look at my drug paraphernalia" when guests come over.
"Designed by ex-NASA engineers," "Made in the USA". These two phrases are plastered all over the Herbalizer's marketing materials and packaging. But while you can totally see where the design of the Herbalizer is going, it doesn't actually quite get there.
The design is solid, sleek, and downright futuristic. The egg-shaped device measures about a foot long (30.4cm), weighs about two pounds (0.9kg), and is completely self contained. The main controls and materials chamber sit under the flip-up lid while the whip wraps around the outer edge of the device and other miscellaneous tools (chamber brush, stash box, aromatherapy disks, cheese grater, and essential oil storage) are held in the mezzanine level of the lid—everything you need to use the device in one handy place. The heating element is wicked fast (jumping from room temperature to 380 degrees in all of five seconds) and the fan is both powerful and deceptively quiet.
The actual construction quality, however, leaves much to be desired. You pull the unit out of the box and the first thing you notice is the fact that the badge on the lid doesn't actually sit flush, like someone just whacked it in there without a second thought. And while the fan and heating element are both top notch, the rest of the device rattles more than the dashboard of a '94 Mercury Mountaineer. The lid is made of the same cheap-ass plastic that my George Foreman uses, the accessory storage section is constantly falling open and spilling its contents all over the table, and the colour LCD screen is slick but was already flickering when I took it out of the box.
The controls are intuitive. The system boots up as soon as you open the lid. You can then either select the aromatherapy option (which requires you dab a small amount of essential oil on what looks like a miniature brillo pad then mount it in front of the exhaust fan) or vapour therapy option, which then preheats the unit. For aromatherapy, you can then select the amount of time you'd like the unit to run (one minute to an hour) as well as select either a low or high fan speed.
For vapour therapy, you instead select the heating element temperature (in one degree increments from 290 - 445 degrees F) and toggle the fan on and off using the appropriate button. The system can utilise either a silicon whip (which does not transfer any noticeable plastic taste) or one of the four included mylar bags. The whip's nice and doesn't impart any taste to the vapour but holy schamoley those bags are deadly. They fill in under 20 seconds, hold at least two litres of vapour, and can be refilled once per bowl (one bowl = two bags = more than enough to get you high).
There's a lot to like about the Herbalizer. For one, it's innocuous, even when in use. Unlike the Volcano, which can get trash-compactor loud, the Herbalizer is whisper quiet even on the highest fan setting. Its heating element evenly and smoothly toasts a bowl without the need for stirring and without burned spots. I also like that you can use it to vape concentrates and oils as well (just set them on the spare aromatherapy disk and set it in the crucible.)
Even the aromatherapy function (which is usually just employed in tabletop vapes as a cheap means of adding legitimacy to an otherwise purpose-built stoning machine) works really well. It creates a pleasantly diffuse scent that fills the room without being overpowering and certainly a better option than lighting a stick of Nag Champa after your session.
There's also a lot not to like about the Herbalizer. The upper lid and storage section are, for lack of a better word, really janky. They don't close smoothly, stay shut, or even really fit together all that well. I mean, I understand that this was a review unit and was probably beaten to hell and back by previous writers but, for what's being charged for this unit, its enough to make you ask for a replacement. Still, these are superfluous details, the core functionality of the device is solid.
$730? (£433) Hahahaha—oh wait, you're serious. Volcanoes run from about £319 for the "classic" analog model upwards of £399 for the digital version. This is significantly more. To start. Granted, it can and fill a bag in less time than it takes for the Volcano to preheat and makes your room really fucking fantastic, but $730/£433? That's a stupid amount money by any standard.
Overall, its a great design with solid functionality but in desperate need of some polish. The herbalizer is currently only available in the US – but the company state on their website that they will start shipping worldwide from 2015. Save your cash for now and wait for the next iteration to be released.