To truly appreciate the finest cannabis flowers, one must smoke a joint. The process of inspecting, smelling, choosing and grinding a flower — then rolling that joint — is as integral to the smoking experience as inhaling, savoring and exhaling the smoke; this is the mindfulness of smoking. One of the best ways to heighten your appreciation of the magical herb is to host a blind cannabis tasting.
Simply acquire three or four different strains and repackage them into numbered containers — the less information you have, the easier it is to let the cannabis speak for itself.
Now comes the involvement of all the five senses.
The Eyes Don’t Lie
First is the visual appraisal. Under a good light, describe the overall shape and color of the bud. Notice the length, profusion and color of the hairs. Is it trimmed well, or is it too shaggy or too tight? Is the bud dense and hard or loose and open?
Finally, using a 60x mini-microscope, check out the trichomes and look for clear, cloudy or amber color. If the stalks of the trichomes have no round tops, chances are the cannabis was machine trimmed or mishandled in some way.
Follow Your Nose
Second is the assessment of fragrance. Pinch the flower bud and inhale deeply. Now break apart the bud and smell again. What associations immediately pop into your mind? Take your frame of reference from smells outside the world of cannabis, such as the smell of butterscotch or motor oil or dirty armpit, etc. As you break up the bud, inspect the interior for mold or discoloration. Your fingers will provide a measure of the curing: too damp, too dry or just right. Now grind up the flower and smell again.
If you are having a tasting with friends, don’t say anything until everyone has had a smell, so as not to prejudice anyone’s nose. The fragrance derives from the terpenes, which are volatile organic compounds that give aroma to most vegetative substances. They range from earthy, musty, moldy and piney antiseptic, to citrusy lemon, tutti fruity and blueberry. As judges for the Emerald Cup, one of the world’s largest outdoor cannabis events, we look for what they call “jar jumping” terpenes — the kind that instantly fill your room with their olfactory delights.
Over the years, we’ve sampled entries at the cup smelling like mothballs, moldy rags, new car interior, old sneakers and the high school gym at the end of the game. There is also the sweeter range, including suntan lotion and bubble gum, tangerines, strawberries, pineapples and so on.
Remember that, as a judge, it’s not about whether you like the smell or not, but just how well it represents that variety. What does it tell you about the flowers? The effects of smell and taste are much more profound than we generally realize, so do linger on them for awhile.
A good grind of the flowers is as essential to rolling a good joint as it is for making a good cup of coffee. We prefer the Mendo Mulcher, which has round-edged teeth that grind, rather than cut the flower. The Mulcher also delivers a homogenous texture that helps create a joint that burns better.
Get Your Roll On
Rolling papers are also important. We use Elements Rolling Papers, which can handle a lot of manipulation during the rolling and not tear, plus they leave no ash. A clean burn is imperative to enhancing your smoking pleasure and, of course, the less paper the better. If you are rolling a very thin joint, you would use 1” papers, while a real Swami Joint requires the full 1-¼”.
While rolling, make the final assessment of the cure. If there is a lot of “dust” on the rolling tray, it’s too dry; if it is too sticky, it may still be too damp; a really potent bud will feel slightly oily or greasy, not damp.
Savor the Flavor
Before lighting the rolled joint, take a “dry” hit. That is, take a big puff on the unlit joint. Pass it around. Savor it. This is the final judgment on the fragrance. Most often, the dry hit flavor mirrors the smell, sometimes stronger, sometimes weaker.
Catch a Fire
Now comes what everyone has been waiting for: the smoking of a truly high-grade cannabis joint. It will be a journey — a savory, olfactory, gustatory adventure offering new insights with every succeeding half-inch of smoking pleasure.
The advanced way of lighting a joint is with hemp-beeswax string. Light the joint like you would a cigar, rotating it to make sure it is evenly lit. When lighting the joint, don’t make any evaluation until the igniter’s second hit, again waiting for everyone to taste before commenting.
Check out the color of the ash. Fine white ash indicates purity. Black ash may mean contaminates.
Inhale slowly and carefully, feeling the smoke fill all the respiratory chambers, but don’t take too big of a hit. Check for lung expansion: is it barely possible to hold in the smoke? Exhale slowly through nose and mouth, tasting and sampling and smacking your lips. Does it taste like the aroma, the nose, or is it different? Once again, let your culinary imagination range with a free association of flavors — the name of that taste will be right on the tip of your tongue!
Can You Feel It?
After a few hits, as you are puzzling over the flavor, tune yourself into the effect the herb is having on your body. Take a roll call of your appendages: are there tingly sensations, points of heat or cold? What is going on behind your eyes, between the ears, in the neck?
Now move on the the metaphysical stimuli: is it a body stone or a head high? Social, giggly, quiet, couch-lock, creative, musical, intellectual, introspective, get up and get some chores done? How do you feel? Are you inspired? Combine that inspiration with your heightened sensory, spiritual and social awareness.
May every joint be a journey for you!
Originally published in the print edition of Cannabis Now.