Cannabis can be tasted and appreciated like fine wine and the idea is gaining momentum nationwide. Over in the global ganja epicenter of California, encouraging people to blind test cannabis is nearly standardized.
Local chef, entrepreneur and industry veteran Chip Moore, 36, is the founder of the 4 and 20 Blackbirds collective and has been treating its members to the blind tasting concept — wherein participants don’t learn strain names before sampling, followed by discussion about the key characteristics of tastes, smells and effects.
In the hippy hamlet of Fairfax north of San Francisco, the newly formed Herba Buena collective, whose co-founder Alicia Rose comes from the wine industry, incorporated blind wine-style tastings as well.
Alicia said the “effusiveness of the aromas” should guide aficionados through the tasting process. She’ll often make collective members smell a jar of Herba Buena’s ultra-organic cannabis before revealing the strain. “I like them to smell and experience the flower before identifying it,” she says.
It’s not a totally surprising development. The San Francisco Chronicle mentioned treating cannabis like wine as far back as 2007 and magazine The Clever Root — a farm-to-table foodie publication backed by the wine industry — has included an entire column devoted to cannabis. The magazine Marijuana Business Daily now publishes the results of blind taste tests in each issue.
As cannabis continues to be normalized and elevated through taste-testing events like these, industry leaders are wise to borrow from the wine and food culture, further illustrating how cannabis can offer as much of a connoisseur experience as wine or fine chocolate.
How to Conduct Your Own Blind Smell & Taste Test
1. When you blind test weed, make it blind. “The main difference is that when someone knows the strain they are tasting they have already categorized how it’s supposed to smell and taste based on their previous experience with that strain,” said Moore.
2. Pick rare strains. Don’t choose popular favorites like Sour Diesel or OG Kush — aficionados can identify their signature lemonhead or pine-sol funk aromas in one whiff, and the results lead to sample bias.
3. Pre-roll some joints. Unlike wine, cannabis strains can be identified visually from across a room, rendering moot the whole point of the blind taste. “I want to challenge the participants to use their senses,” says Moore, “particularly smell to reach past their preconceived notions and really get to know the bud they are smoking.”
4. Take a “dry hit.” Draw on an unlit joint to taste its terpenes at room temperature. A dry toke reveals a lot about the quality of the herb. It should have a clean herbal taste without any sharp salty notes which can indicate the presence of unflushed fertilizers.
5. Fire it up, but no bogarting. “I tell them to start off slow, not take one of those big, ‘I’m not going to get this joint back’ hits,” laughs Moore.
6. Write down your notes. Privately record initial impressions and share joints to taste how the joint changes as it smokes. As leading cannabis judge Swami of Swami Select says, “Each joint is a journey and each tells its own story, how well it was flushed, whether it’s indoor or sungrown, this kind of things.”
7. Use coffee beans as a palette cleanser. Coffee beans help refresh noses over-exposed to the onslaught of cannabis terpenes and smoke.
8. No spoilers. As the joint burns, Moore asks folks to continue to record their observations, but don’t shout out what they think the strain is. It creates expectation bias.
9. Don’t overdo it. Wine tasters spit out the wine. Smokers just need to go slow. “The purpose is not to get so high they forgot what they’re doing,” says Moore with a chuckle.
10. Guess the strain. Write down your last impressions, along with any possible guesses as to what the strain is. Discuss.
11. Repeat. The best way to elevate your cannabis critiquing is to keep practicing.
TELL US, how do you choose your cannabis?
Originally published in Issue 21 of Cannabis Now. LEARN MORE