Terps 1 on 1
Understanding what’s behind the amazing flavor of your favorite buds is no easy task. But as the medical and legal cannabis markets expand and this booming industry builds legitimacy, the latest scientific research is making it crystal clear: There’s far more to marijuana than just the well-known cannabinoids like THC and CBD.
Indeed, the word “terps” (short for “terpenes” or “terpenoids”) is thrown around quite a bit these days, employed as a catchall term to describe the scents and tastes associated with various cannabis strains. But what are terps, and how do they affect the aroma and flavor of our best-loved strains?
Technically, terpenes are a large class of organic hydrocarbons produced by a wide variety of plants, not just cannabis; they’re referred to as “terpenoids” if they become denatured by oxidation (such as during the drying and curing process). In simpler terms, terps are the essential oils or primary building blocks of any plant resin, and they contribute a great deal to the scent, flavor, and colors of the plant. Some recent research even suggests that terpenoids may contribute to the psychoactive effects of cannabis as well, either singularly or via the “entourage effect”—the total compounded influence of all the cannabinoids and terpenoids contained in dried cannabis flowers.
The List of Strains
The following list of the “Best-Tasting Buds on Earth”—our first ever—has been compiled using the latest in lab-testing technology as well as our state-of-the-art cannabis scoring and ranking system, known as the High Times Scorebook, which we use at all of our Cannabis Cups to pick the winning entries.
HT’s partner labs test strains not only for cannabinoids, but for a full range of terpenes as well. Then we combine these quantitative results with the qualitative data obtained from hundreds of expert judges at our Cannabis Cups over the past two years to determine which strains possess the best flavor and aroma, making the cannabis connoisseur’s palate water even before the first bowl is sparked ….
Durban Poison Strain
Total terp count: 4.1%
Primary terps: terpinolene (23.8 mg/g); myrcene (15.6 mg/g)
Judges’ scorecard: 4.2 (out of 5) for taste; 4.6 for aroma
Description: Surprise! Landrace Durban Poison, like the one we encountered at our Seattle Cup in 2014, is a pure sativa and has been known to hit upwards of 24% THC. What hasn’t been known until recently is that her true phenotype exhibits an extremely rare terpene profile that not only includes a heavy dose of myrcene, but also the less common terpinolene. At 23.8 mg/g, this is among the highest concentrations of terpinolene found in any strain on the planet, giving the Durban Poison a refreshing piney aroma with a very sweet floral flavor. At just over 4% total terps—a serving size usually reserved for concentrates, not flowers—the Durban perches atop The List with a heavy lead.
Nameless OG Strain
Total terp count: 3.01%
Primary terps: limonene (9.2 mg/g); myrcene (8.1 mg/g); humulene (2.1mg/g)
Judges’ scorecard: 3.88 (out of 5) for taste; 3.83 for aroma
Description: An appropriate name for an OG Kush phenotype that represents the seemingly endless parade of OG phenos that grace our pages and our competitions year after year. This OG didn’t knock the socks off our judges, but she did tip the scales at just over 3% on her terp count, which is on par with some concentrates. Her diverse terp profile, which includes humulene and pinene as well as high levels of limonene and myrcene, solidifies her place near the top of The List.
Veganic Cherry Cough Strain
Total terp count: 2.89%
Primary terps: myrcene (23 mg/g); limonene (2 mg/g); linalool (1.5 mg/g)
Judges’ scorecard: 3.8 (out of 5) for taste; 4.3 for aroma
Description: By now, it’s no secret that buds grown organically tend to do much better when it comes to flavor and aroma. Perhaps that’s because they’re easier to flush without all the salts that synthetic nutrients carry—or perhaps it’s because organic nutes are simply better at giving plants what they need to build great terp profiles and maximize their genetic potential. Either way, when buds are grown veganically—as was the case with this Kushman Genetics original, grown using Kushman’s own Vegamatrix nutrient line—the results are extraordinary. With hints of linalool and pinene mixed with limonene, we’re talking Tropical Starburst flavor all the way. And in case you’re wondering, her lineage looks like this: (Strawberry Cough x Cherry Lopez) x Strawberry Cough.
Super Silver Haze Strain
Total terp count: 2.78%
Primary terps: myrcene (14.12 mg/g); terpinolene (11.48 mg/g)
Judges’ scorecard: 4 (out of 5) for taste; 3.8 for aroma
Description: One of Amsterdam’s original classics, the Super Silver Haze has become a building block for many of today’s staple Haze strains. A sativa-dominant hybrid created by mixing pure Haze with Skunk #1 and Northern Lights #5, the SSH has parented strains like the Amnesia Haze, Super Lemon Haze and Blue Dream.
Blue Dream Strain
Total terp count: 2.47%
Primary terps: myrcene (14.93 mg/g); pinene (8.39 mg/g)
Judges’ scorecard: 4.5 (out of 5) for taste; 4 for aroma
Description: A product of two exquisitely flavored strains, Blueberry x Super Silver Haze, the Blue Dream offers strong, fruity tones and a sugary-sweet flavor. The winner of countless Cannabis Cups, she often scores perfect 5’s on the judges’ scorecards and will fill a room with her pungent berry aroma as soon as a bud is cracked.
Total terp count: 2.4%
Primary terps: myrcene (15.9mg/g); pinene (4.2 mg/g); limonene (2.1 mg/g)
Judges’ scorecard: 4.2 (out of 5) for taste; 3.85 for aroma
Description: Creatively named, the Tropicanna has the rich lineage one would expect from a great-tasting strain and Cup winner: (Pineapple x Kali Mist) x (Northern Lights #5 x Haze). The Kali Mist brings overtones of orange citrus, while the Pineapple and NL #5 provide the sweetness. With potency levels ranging from 20% to 24% THC, the Tropicanna’s combo of high terpenes and powerful cannabinoids has made it a rising star in 2015.
Sunshine #4 Strain
Total terp count: 2.2%
Primary terps: myrcene (8.32 mg/g); limonene (5.9 mg/g); pinene (1.6 mg/g); trace amounts of linalool, fenchol and nerolidol
Judges’ scorecard: 4 (out of 5) for taste; 3.75 for aroma
Description: A cousin of the popular Girl Scout Cookies, Sunshine #4’s lineage is similar but has added genetics in the form of Pink Panties (an OG x Burma cross), making her lineage look like this: OG Kush x Cherry Pie x Pink Panties. With a parentage like that, it’s no wonder she has the profile of a terpene taco, with all of the major players present—and then some. Taking home a Cup in this summer’s Michigan competition, Sunshine #4 rocked the scales at just over 27% THC.
True OG Strain
Total terp count: 2.1%
Primary terps: myrcene (8.95 mg/g); limonene (5.76 mg/g); linalool (2 mg/g)
Judges’ scorecard: 4.25 (out of 5) for taste; 4.25 for aroma
Description: It’s no surprise that OG Kush would show up on The List twice, with literally hundreds of OG phenos and OG-dominant hybrids out there. However, this True OG lives up to her name as one of the truest (if not the truest) on the planet. Of all the original OG cuts, she remains the closest to the storied San Fernando Valley OG, with strong ties to the flavor and aroma of the Chem ’91 as well (also a sibling of the OG line).
Total terp count: 1.9%
Primary terps: linalool (2.68 mg/g); humulene (1.65 mg/g); limonene (1.4 mg/g); trace amounts of myrcene, pinene, nerolidol and terpinolene
Judges’ scorecard: 4.2 (out of 5) for taste; 4.5 for aroma
Description: Okay, so #9 (and #10) didn’t quite make our minimum cut of 2% total terps; however, this one not only took home a first-place prize at this year’s Michigan Cup, but it also received some of the highest marks ever recorded from our judges for both taste and aroma. That just shows it’s not always the quantity, but rather the quality, of the terps present in a given strain that makes it special—in this case, a highly unique terpene combo that provided this Grapefruit cross with the delicious candy flavor suggested by its name, earning it a spot on The List.
Strawberry Banana Strain
Total terp count: 1.75%
Primary terps: limonene (6.7 mg/g); pinene (2.5 mg/g); myrcene (2.4 mg/g); ocimene (1.67 mg/g); trace amounts of humulene, fenchol and camphene
Judges’ scorecard: 3.75 (out of 5) for taste; 4.1 for aroma
Description: Another super terp combo, the Strawberry Banana has been steadily gaining in popularity over the past few years. A hybrid cross of Banana OG and the classic Bubblegum from TH Seeds (Amsterdam, circa 1993), this strain contains volatile terpenoids that burst when they hit the air, inspiring mouths across the room to salivate. Plus her flavor is as just advertised, invoking visions of a Bazooka Joe–Toucan Sam mash-up.
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