[Editor’s Note: Many believe terpenes separate cannabis strains from each other. We’ll posit here there’s more to it than terpenes. We believe a more holistic approach to strain definition should include the different THC compounds found in cannabis flowers. Without a look at the bigger picture, we’ll never get a handle on the entirety of the plant. Yes, terpenes are important, but they’re not all there is to a flower.]
In the grand scheme of cannabis cultivation, few things have been as exciting as continually developing laboratory practices that let us know which compounds are driving the flavor profiles and effects we love.
Master cultivators and breeders use this lab data to produce the heaviest terpene profiles of the winningest strains. Apart from a reasonable amount of cannabinoids and not ruining them in post-production, terpenes are the third leg on the table that holds up world-class cannabis. These days, certain terpenes are associated with varying experiences of both the body and mind. Below are three award-winning strains that demonstrate the importance of terpenes when raising a champion.
(Matt Stangel for Leafly)
Grown by: 3rd Gen Fam / Dying Breed Seeds
Dominant terpenes: Beta-caryophyllene (0.75%); humulene (0.33%)
The strain that demonstrated how good outdoor-grown can be, the terpenes of Zkittlez—more than its THC—places the strain in the winner’s circle time and again. And the stand-out terp of Zkittlez is beta-caryophyllene, lab reports show. It’s so iconic, they train police dogs on the smell.
Beta-caryophyllene’s peppery, dank, herbaceous complexity combines with a diverse mix of secondary terpenes captained by humulene—the earthy, woody, hoppy terpene—as well as floral linalool.
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California Black Roze. Courtesy of Dying Breed Seeds. Photo by Kandid Kush.
Grown by: 3rd Gen Fam / Dying Breed Seeds
Dominant terpenes: Pinene (0.87%); myrcene (0.45%)
There’s nothing heavier than a THC-dominant strain with a lot of myrcene, as it contributes to the tranquilizing body high of cannabis. But that is simply some people’s cup of tea, and Rozé is serving myrcene up hot, lab reports show.
“There are not many terps left on the flavor wheel that have not already been discovered. The art of winning is in selection.”
Zkilltez’s offspring, Rozé, blew up after a big run at the 2017 Emerald Cup. It beat out hundreds of entries, only to lose to Lemon Crush.
Balancing out myrcene’s couchlock effect is the alerting terpene pinene. Both are bronchodilators that open up the airways and can decrease inflammation. It’s proper forest therapy in jar.
Finding trophy-level terps started early for the growers, Third Gen Family and Dying Breed Seeds team.
To find Zkittlez’s best offspring, they started in early in the growing season, going out in the early morning when terpenes are loudest.
“It all goes back to being able to classify stuff as undeniably different,” Brandon of 3rd Gen told Leafly. “When you’re looking for new things, you have to be looking with an open mind, because there are not many terps left on the flavor wheel that have not already been discovered. The art of winning is in selection.”
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Super Lemon Haze: Limonene
C.R.A.F.T.. Super Lemon Haze comes straight from the source in Amsterdam. (Courtesy CRAFT/SC Labs)
Grown by: C.R.A.F.T. Bay Area
Dominant terpenes: Beta-caryophyllene (0.48%); limonone (0.44%)
For those who don’t drink coffee, few things in the world are as uplifting as a strain packed with the lemony goodness of limonene. Its flavor profile—as expressed in award-winning California samples of Super Lemon Haze—has kept the strain at the top of the food chain for 10 years since it won back-to-back Cannabis Cups in Amsterdam.
Americans in Amsterdam like California cultivators C.R.A.F.T. scooped up Super Lemon Haze and hunted down rare offspring to take to market. We asked C.R.A.F.T. founder Alan if he thought it would hold up the way it has.
“Yes!” he told Leafly, “[We] planted 50 seeds from Greenhouse Seed Company back in 2007, and picked the number one stunna we have now. This cut has more electric candy [genetics] of Lemon Skunk versus the piney sharpness of [its] mom, Super Silver Haze.”
Lab data shows limonene as the number two terpene by volume, behind beta-caryophyllene, in C.R.A.F.T.’s Cup-winning sativa. By contrast, surveys of Washington cannabis samples found less limonene and more terpinolene. Multiple terpenes combine to create cannabis’ lemon smell.
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Lead image courtesy of Dying Breed Seeds. Photo by Kandid Kush.