Let’s take a little trip into the world of cannabis tasting to discover how you can develop your palate and get more out of each product. As the cannabis industry continues to expand, so does the number of myriad sensual delights it has to offer. A really good cannabis product will soothe all the aches, pains, and worries in your body while also being a pleasure to consume.

Like fine wine, cannabis – when taken correctly – comes with a complex and intriguing palate, if you know what to look for. And like fine wine, there are hundreds of varieties to choose from and experience!

How to taste cannabis

Cannabis connoisseurs are aware that there are many modes of consumption available on the modern marketplace. Between smoked products, vapor, and the many different styles of edibles, the tasting experience has something to offer to everyone – whether you enjoy the taste of straight cannabis, or prefer to have a little flavoring in the mix.

If you’re someone who loves a good wine pairing with dinner, a high-quality edible cannabis product may speak to you, offering an intentional blend of curated flavors. 

There’s no way to fully eliminate the taste of the sticky green herb, and so choosing additional flavors that complement and harmonize with this distinctive flavor is an important aspect of the creation process. Done really well, an ingredient like ginger or lemon included in a gummy (or mint, or chocolate, or hard candy) might even bring out some of the subtler notes of the strain being used in the product.

The extra flavors that you find in an edible will however disguise or dilute some of the taste of the flower itself. Purists who want to experience the full depth that an unfettered strain has to offer will prefer to smoke or vape their cannabis. Tasting the plant by itself gives a more straightforward experience, and is a great way to start working to identify the different notes which a really delectable strain has to offer.

What is this I’m tasting?

Aromatic plants owe their aromas and more pronounced flavors to chemical compounds called terpenes. In addition to producing distinctive scents and tastes, terpenes can have bioactive properties which offer mild therapeutic support to a variety of ailments – for example, linalool, the primary terpene in lavender, is responsible for the flower’s sharp botanical aroma, and may also provide a nervine effect which helps us to calm our nervous systems and relax.

Terpenes are responsible for the variety of flavors in cannabis. Three most common terpenes in various strains of the plant include:

  • Myrcene, by far the most abundant terpene in cannabis, provides earthy, musky notes.
  • Caryophyllene, the second most common terpene, offers a spicy tasting experience.
  • Limonene, an extremely popular terpene, does what it says on the tin and gives cannabis a citrusy palate.

Besides these few, at least 8 other named terpenes exist which contribute to the flavor profile of the hundreds of cannabis strains on the market. When you take your tasting skills to the next level, see if you can name the chemical compounds responsible for the notes you’re noticing.

Cannabis tasting notes to look out for

Understanding the myriad flavors that await you in a cannabis flight can help you to deepen your tasting experience and get a better sense of what you like. That’s the whole goal of tasting! Here are some of the common notes to keep your nose and palate open to the next time you taste.

  • Sweet. This note goes at the top because it can encompass many of the other flavors – sweetness is a complex concept in culinary circles, as it is in cannabis, offering a candy-coating that can feel like caramel, fruit, ice cream, or cookies.
  • Spicy. Think pepper, cinnamon, clove, and tobacco – part nose-hair curling capsaic experience, part baked-good delight.
  • Sour. An icon of the cannabis flavor profiling world, this one is as varied as its sweet counterpart, offering a tart and puckered experience that might sit more on the citrus side of things, or closer to the danker end of the spectrum.
  • Umami. A flavor that tames your munchies while you smoke, because it tastes like a whole savory meal! Think garlic, miso, mushroom, and meat (as featured in the named “Burger” strains.)
  • Earthy. Wet leaves, rich soil, leather, and overripe fruits. These tend to feel cool on the palate and savory in the nose.
  • Floral. Botanical, colorful, and sharp – cannabis shares a number of terpenes with other more familiar garden-variety cousins including lavender and rose. Strains featuring these notes should be smoked on a garden terrace or during a summer picnic.
  • Fruity. Like flowers, fruits owe much of their flavors and aromas to the magic of terpenes, which they share with cannabis! Citrus, mango, strawberry, and blackberry are just a few of the fruity notes you can find in your pre-roll.
  • Cheesy. Notes that feel like dairy are common across popular strains. Cream, brie, cheddar, and even butter have all been noted on tasting cards across the globe.
  • Gassy. These notes are where cannabis got its skunky reputation, but the plant’s gaseous aromatics go beyond the mammalian and into the industrial: notes of diesel and petroleum join our stripy friend in this category.

And so on, and so forth. If you need a handy chart, Western Cultured put together this tasting wheel as a quick guide to the world of cannabis tasting.

Cannabis tasting best practices

Like wine, the process of tasting cannabis is a multi-sensory experience involving the ear, eye, and hand, as well as the nose and mouth. Getting the whole picture of whatever bud you’re consuming is a delicate process, and one you should consider trying out if you want to become a bonafide cannabis connoisseur. Here’s how.

  • Stay hydrated. A dry mouth and nose can dull your senses to the delicate oils making up the flavors and aromas of your cannabis product. Staying hydrated will help to keep the sensitive membranous tissues in both spots open and active for the experience.
  • Wash your hands! It’s polite, if tasting in a group, of course. But hands can carry smells and flavors on them that will disrupt the delicate profile of your strain. Before you taste, make sure to wash your hands thoroughly with unscented soap, and dry well with a clean towel.
  • Choose your weapon. How you consume your cannabis will also manipulate the flavor – a toasty taste from a pipe or joint will add a certain smoky intrigue to the taste, while a bubbler offers a cleaner experience.
  • Touch, taste, smell, look, listen. Like a sommelier swirling, sniffing, and examining their glass before taking a sip, you’ll get the most out of your smoke with a little preparatory appreciation of your plant.
    > First, examine the bud, noting color, density, and the presence of crystals.
    > Next, gently compress the bud between your fingers, and listen carefully for the tell-tale crunch from the petals. Doing so will release some of the aromatic oils for your smelling pleasure.
    > Finally, after setting down the bud, give your fingers a quick lick as part of the dry tasting process – burning changes the chemistry of the plant, and tasting it before you smoke offers a different profile to experience.
  • Burn with care. When you’re ready to smoke, light the bowl or joint gently – avoiding torching the plant will allow you to taste the complexity of the strain, without the flavor of the fire itself.
  • Enjoy! Tasting is only fun if you like it, so don’t pressure yourself into smoking cheesy strains if you’d rather pack your bowl with citrus. Don’t know what we’re talking about? Tasting cannabis will help you to figure out what you like.

Take a Tasting Tour!

There’s nothing quite like a guided cannabis tour complete with food and viticulture in the heart of California wine country. Start down the path to becoming a cannabis connoisseur and Book a tour with Happy Travelers today!