“Can you find the Holy Water?” they asked.
I felt the thrill of the hunt well up inside of me almost instantly. For those unaware, the Holy Water is both the most elusive and most talked about cannabis concentrate to hit the scene for quite some time. Strangely enough, it’s not a new product at all.
I was introduced to the Holy Water by my friends at Steep Hill Lab some years ago. It was a thin, runny, butane-extracted oil with a color somehow both deep emerald green and slightly iridescent and a flavor that was as pungent as it was unctuous. I cannot remember the variety from which that oil was derived, but I have a vivid memory of the caryophyllene coating my palate like nothing previously. The effects were strong but not overwhelming— it was certainly not a typical ‘dab,’ but ever so much more interesting.
My associates and I attempted to establish contact with the producers, but word came down the pipeline that the lab had been shut down for what was referred to as “remodeling.” Like the Loch Ness Monster, something truly weird and unique had raised its graceful neck up through the otherwise placid water of the Bay Area’s medical cannabis scene, only to quickly disappear again without a trace.
In the past year, however, the Holy Water seemed to have returned. It showed up at the 2014 Los Angeles Medical Cannabis Cup, where the concentrate took a humble third place in the “Best Non-Solvent Hash” category. The rumor mill continued to churn and mutual associates promised to introduce the makers to us yet again, but the calls never came.
Finally, a close associate offered to loan me his samples (yes, I had to borrow them!), so that I could at least wrap my head around the Holy Water. Though I continued making efforts to contact the principals, it came to naught. In the end, I felt less like Indiana Jones and more like one of those poor cryptozoologists, searching vainly for a “Nessie” he may never find.
But, what a strange and wonderful creature the Holy Water is. With terpene content that approaches 20 percent, nearly half of its typical THC content, if you can believe it, the flavor of the Holy Water could best be described as loud. An open vial reeks like an entire building full of drying cannabis flowers. A quick dab on a nail taken by someone on the other side of the room smells like a fresh bud is practically being stuffed up your nose.
The reason for this is that Holy Water is made from fresh, uncured cannabis that still has nearly all of its aromatic content. By contrast, cured plant material loses a significant amount of its terpenes due to the evaporation inherent in the drying process. Nearly all concentrates are made from dried plant material, which already puts them at an aromatic disadvantage. Even the best cold-water extractions that use fresh materials, often called “ice wax,” though wonderfully flavorful, are at a similar disadvantage as the water washes away a significant amount of terpenes.
A product like this is a signpost pointing the way towards not just the future of concentrates but also to that of cannabis consumption in general. Only three short years have passed since Dr. Ethan Russo published his major study on the harmonic synergy of cannabinoids with the nearly 200 potentially-occurring terpenes found in cannabis. Since then, we have already made great leaps into both understanding and exploiting the many modifying effects the plant’s aromatic compounds have on cannabinoids. While we still have so much more to understand and discover about this chemical waltz, it’s now obvious that the terpenes are just as important as the THC in the greater equation.
Cannabis breeders are changing their goals and are beginning to push terpene levels higher than previously established. Nutrient companies are starting to study which compounds and additives allow the plant to fully express its aromatic oils. While your average cannabis flower currently contains on average about 2 percent terpenes, consumers can expect to see that level increase significantly in years to come. Some of the most intrepid researchers continue to seek uniquely occurring terpenes in the plant yet to be found. Yes, there are great and wonderful mysteries still to discover.
So, what is next for the Holy Water? I am confident that this concentrate or ones similar to it will appear on most dispensary shelves in near future. In an era where cannabis production hits all-time peaks year after year and the price per pound of flower continues to plummet, it will be easier and easier for these modern alchemists to make these extracts.
I can already imagine some forms they may take — small droppers to enhance bowls or joints, sampling kits with a larger bulk of high THC concentrate so that one can build their own super potent blends. Even controversial products like the Clear Concentrate, much maligned for adding non-cannabis derived terpenes, could be blended with Holy Water to make near-perfect high THC approximations of their herbal cousins. The bottom line is this: the future of cannabis products is not only bright, but insanely flavorful too.
Originally published in issue 12 of Cannabis Now Magazine.
Have you tried the Holy Water concentrate? Share your experience in the comments below.