We missed the sparkling gourd boat last year when Pumpkin Spice was Ugly’s official Ltd Ed drop for an entire month, so we were ecstatic when Ugly brought back their Pumpkin Spice for a mere 48 hours just in time for the arrival of Spooky Season.
Aside: We aren’t entirely sure when “Spooky Season” became an unofficial/official name for Late Summer/Fall, but we don’t like it. So we tried to scour the internet to get to the bottom of whence this phrase came and how it became a word scourge in our lives that begins at 12:01 am sharp on August 1 for at least a few years running now.
Someone on Reddit tried to kindle a discussion around it, to little avail, but someone did drily post a link to a news clipping from 1909 proving that the existence of “Spooky Season” as an idea has been floating amongst us longer than the last big plague.
Thanks, gnorrn, but this doesn’t answer the question as to where it went for over a hundred years, laying dormant like some All Hallow’s Ghost only to rear its unsavory head right around the time the housing market collapse rebounded and we thought we were safe to enjoy life again.
We get that “Spooky Season” softens the edges for those who want to feel like Halloween is less satanic and pagan, but its generic, vague use of the words “spooky” and “season” really ramps up a large part of the calendar year for targeted marketing in a nauseatingly toothless way.
Recently, a trip to Target introduced us to a bin of festive pumpkin decorations, one of which had emblazoned across it “You’ve been ghosted”. Funny! We like how we’ve moved from “Live Laugh Love” word signs to plastic word pumpkins with sick burns.
We like to think of our spiritual ancestors, the Celts, smiling down upon us millennials, giving us some astral thumbs up, admiring how we’ve reduced the most sacred time of year, when the veils are thinnest, into a marketing campaign replete with disposable consumer goods and catchy pablum. We did it, team!
Deep down we feel this all could have been avoided if “Samhain” rolled off the tongue a little bit better and/or we hadn’t burned all the witches.
All of this is to say that we’re elated we finally got our hands on some Ugly Pumpkin Spice! Let this wash down the bad taste in your mouth after we inundated you with that Spooky Season diatribe.
Okay. The nose on this is surprisingly faint. Like an unlit candle. But a fancy, three wick candle. Not a Bath and Body Works candle. Those abominations reek even sans flame. The scent notes are spicy: aromatic and woodsy, the kind of spice that walks the line between piquant and sweet.
Upon sipping, the spicy strains we got from the nose expand and blossom like the crescendoing fervor for a seasonal beverage from Starbucks.
This is a pumpkin spice latte that hasn’t quite gotten mixed together, your first encounter is less latte and pumpkin and more all the sprinkled spice dusting on top. You can feel the whipped cream sticking to your nose even as we say it.
Frankly, we love how Ugly leaned into the spice.
There’s cinnamon, there’s clove. If you could roll this up and smoke it, you would impress all your friends at how hip and continental you’ve become since moving to Brooklyn.
The pumpkin present is the backdrop. The canvas that these warm and inviting spices are painted on. But it’s not intense or overwhelming. In fact, we could use a little bit more. We honestly like pumpkin a great deal. We rejoice when we discover pumpkin raviolis (ideally with brown butter and fried sage) on a menu. We love to bust out that immersion blender for a savory pumpkin soup this time of year.
Alas, pumpkin is not the star of the show here. It’s the witches brew of spices that really take center stage. And to be honest, it’s probably for the best. Pumpkin can go sweet, and could make drinking an entire can of this a bit cloying. So we appreciate that instead we’re savoring in the herbal notes, picking up on gingers and anise and vanilla as we go. All in all this is much more nuanced and sophisticated than we had anticipated.
Much like all of Ugly’s creations, it’s decadent and luxurious and we’re always a little bit in disbelief that there’s no sugar/calories in here. It’s just that lifelike. We hope that they bring this back another time before the “season” ends, because this is pure Fall Fantasy.
And look, we do love this time of year. It’s objectively the best season (don’t @ us, it’s empirical), and we are guilty of romanticizing the cool breezes and golden foliage as much as any Basic B. But our love for the autumnal is going to stick to this Ugly Sparkling Water and not the pumpkins with phrases.
Sparkling Water, Natural Flavor
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