Terpenes, the fragrant oils found in many types of plants, give cannabis strains their unique aromas and flavours. Budtender Leslie Pawliw of Inspired Cannabis shares the best ways to sniff out your next favourite cannabis product.
Even the most novice consumer understands that scent and flavour are important factors to experiencing cannabis. But while more and more people are learning about terpenes, it’s still a relatively new term for most customers. Words like humulene and terpinolene can feel like more barriers to entry. That’s why it’s important to talk terpenes with your customer. As with so many things, a little bit of knowledge can go a long way. We asked Leslie Pawliw, budtender — and level 2 CannaReps sommelier — at Inspired Cannabis in Welland to walk us through how to sniff out our next favourite strain.
Why are terpenes important and how do they contribute to the overall cannabis experience?
“Terpenes play a very important part in the overall aroma and flavour of a cultivar. Without terpenes, cannabis would be very generic. When you crack open a jar for the first time and your nose fills with sweetness, gassiness, sourness or earthiness, that’s terpenes in play. And while terpenes won’t make you high, they can help guide the experience in a certain direction and add flavour.”
What are the most popular terpenes and which ones should I consider?
“Myrcene is present in over 60% of cultivars today. This plant compound is also commonly found in hops, thyme, lemongrass and cardamon, and it has a wide spectrum of aromatics from earthy to musky like cloves to a tropical fruity scent like ripe mangoes. Some cultivars high in myrcene are OG Kush and FPOG. Everyone has their favourites. I personally like terpinolene. It has a sweet, paint thinner, turpentine scent, which sounds unique but is found in sage, rosemary, apples, tea trees and nutmeg. High terpinolene cultivars include Durban Poison and Ghost Train Haze. Terpenes in other plants have key properties; for instance, linalool, a common terpene found in lavender, may be associated with relaxation, but we’re still learning what terpenes bring to the table in cannabis.”
Some also believe in the theory of “the entourage effect,” referring to the possibility that cannabinoids and terpenes work together in the overall effect of cannabis. As of now, these are just theories — impact of terpenes beyond flavour and aroma has yet to be scientifically proven.”
What are synthetic terpenes and how are they made?
“Synthetic terpenes are produced in a lab and are meant to mimic certain aromas or tastes found naturally in cannabis. And synthetic terpenes’ flavour profiles can be custom-made. More berries? More grape? There are over 100 natural terpenes in the cannabis plant, and currently only about 60 synthetic terpenes are being produced.”
Do different consumption methods affect what you get out of the terpenes?
“It depends on the person. Someone who vapes may experience a completely different effect than someone else with that exact same product.”
A Little Budtender-to-Budtender Advice
It can be challenging to share information on terpenes in store if consumers can’t smell various products. How do you help consumers understand terpenes?
“I will often ask them if there is a certain aroma — gassy, sweet — or experience — uplifting, energizing — that they are looking for. Once we clarify what it is that we like about a certain cultivar, then we can start identifying the reasons why: Was it flavour or experience, possibly another reason? Then we move forward on finding the best suited product. I also like to throw some fun facts in the conversation. For instance, did you know that humulene’s scent is the plant’s natural defence against pests? Humulene inhibits the mating of fruit flies!”
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