Follow your nose.
Prior to legalization, browsing for cannabis at any one of Vancouver’s many municipally-regulated dispensaries was a literal feast for the senses. Giant glass jars, full to overflowing with emerald and mossy green buds, greeted you at the door with their heady siren call, luring you ever closer until you became ensnared by the sweetly skunky aromas that drifted slowly, sensually through the air.
And once you were captured by its bouquet, you were sold.
Besides the cannabinoid content (THC or CBD, to name but two) of a particular cultivar, the unique smell of each strain is what is going to give you the most accurate estimate of the potential effects. Those smells are aromatic chemicals in the flowers called terpenes, each of which are thought to offer unique potential experiences when consumed. For example, products high in one called myrcene (smells like fresh earth, musk, ripe tropical fruits) are likely to result in an early bedtime within the presence of THC. In contrast, strains more abundant in another terpene called limonene (lemons, limes, sweet mint) reportedly deliver a boost of happy energy.
This experiential combination of potent cannabinoids and tasty terpenes is what is called the ‘entourage effect’, and it’s what makes cannabis so special.
“I believe that aroma is the number one indicator of quality in cannabis. Aroma can tell you pretty much everything you need to know about how a plant was raised and treated over its lifetime.”
With legal stores in the greater Vancouver area finally beginning to proliferate, I took the opportunity to connect with Peter Shearer, who shared tips on how to look for great cannabis when shopping in person. Shearer is currently the Director of Product Development and Planning at the Supreme Cannabis Company, an Ontario-based licensed producer, which sells a select number of strains under the 7ACRES brand here in BC. He’s also been one of the company’s cultivation and genetics advisors since 2013. You can bet this guy knows good weed when he finds it.
“Sensory evaluation is the most important factor,” he maintained. “I need to both see and smell the cannabis in order for me to make an informed purchase. When I walk into a store, I immediately look for the sensory pods (smell jars).”
Sure, the great vats of bulk buds may be gone from display, replaced by over-packaged, generically-marketed, hermetically-sealed plastic tubs, but most good retailers will still display a lone dried bud in a smell jar, allowing you to get up close and personal with your new best bud.
“The nose most certainly knows,” Peter said. “I believe that aroma is the number one indicator of quality in cannabis. Aroma can tell you pretty much everything you need to know about how a plant was raised and treated over its lifetime. Being able to smell cannabis before purchasing is key to making an informed decision.
“The aromatic profile and pungency are the most important factors when I am selecting cannabis,” continued Shearer. “The aromatic profile, while contributing significantly to product preference, can also provide clues to experienced consumers about what aromatic notes and subsequent terpenoids are contributing meaningfully to the entourage effect.”
He shared a few other things that enthusiasts ought to look for when selecting a new strain. “Dried flower should have no remaining trim and should have a dense structure, not loose or airy. It should have a vibrant healthy colour and it should not have yellow or brown colouration.” Peter went further to declare that “great quality buds should have an abundance of milky white trichomes.” The trichomes are the resinous glands found (mostly) on the leaves of the flower that produce the cannabinoids and terpenes.
Taking his guidance to heart, I picked up a couple of 7ACRES products to test on my own, hoping (for Pete’s sake) that they met his own rigorous standards.
Jean Guy is a balanced hybrid that boasted a high-THC content of just over 20%. The tight, elegantly elongated and ever-so-slightly spongy buds held a lively olive green colour, intermixed with burnt-orange hairs. That glistening layer of trichomes was clearly evident as well. Flavour-wise, it offered notes of dried mango (from myrcene), hints of citrus (from pinene) and a dash of fresh red apple and pear (from terpinolene). Putting the spring in your spring, it was absolutely delightful, and I’d recommend it for your next daytime adventure.
I also tried their version of Sensi Star, a popular indica-dominant hybrid with an impressive 24% THC. True to its indica heritage, the buds were short and stout, and densely-structured as well. Pale green, like the fronds of an unfurling baby fern, its leaves were nestled under a blanket of snowy trichomes. Spicy and citrussy, it released aromas of white pepper (from caryophyllene), mandarin orange (from limonene), and fresh earth (from myrcene) when I cracked one of the nuggets between my fingers. I’d suggest this one for later night sessions – it was deeply relaxing from the start, but in a pleasantly clear-headed way. Delicious, too.
Happy shopping, my friends.
The breakdown: Jean Guy by 7ACRES, balanced hybrid ($44.99 / 3.5 grams); Sensi Star by 7ACRES, indica-dominant hybrid ($35.99 / 3.5 grams)