Cannabis is known for its many different scents. From citrus, to pineapple, to pine tree, there is a vast spectrum of aromas that are produced by the plant chemicals known as Terpenes.
Terpenes are magical. Think back to your very first experience with cannabis. Do you remember the sumptuous aromas and flavors that came from the flower? Due to terpenes, that powerful smell is something most people never forget.
As the world of cannabis continues to enhance the aroma spectrum thanks to delicious cross breads and growers promoting terpene production in their buds, learning to improve your sense of smell can help you identify the most premium bud possible. Mastering this skill will also ensure that you are purchasing the best products that satisfy your needs.
With over ten years of working with sensory evaluation both in wine and cannabis, we have identified four simple steps that can improve your sense of smell in order to recognize all of the lovely aromas in cannabis.
The Four Steps to Improve Your Sense of Smell for Cannabis
Take mental notes of the aromas around you. While you are at the office, home or even in the car, pay close attention to the different smells that you encounter throughout the day. Also remember the foods that you eat and take notes on the aromas and flavors that stand out most.
Time to use that spice cabinet! The next time you are in the kitchen about to cook a meal, go into your spice rack and pull out a selection. We recommend starting with rosemary, oregano, thyme, black pepper, lemon pepper, dried basil, cinnamon, nutmeg, clove and saffron. For a full sensory experience, smell each spice separately - one at a time in its individual jar. Close your eyes, take a deep inhale and make a mental imprint of what you are smelling. Take notes if you can and remember not to inhale the actual spice!
After experiencing spice aromas, head to the grocery store and pick up some foods that are commonly mentioned in cannabis descriptions. For example, purchase a lemon, grapefruit, blueberries, mushrooms, white flowers, strawberries, fresh herbs, pineapple, etc. When you get home, cut or muddle the items separately, place into small jars or glasses and smell the aromas. Be sure to also take a bite as these healthy fruits and veggies make excellent munchie treats. Don’t forget to take notes.
Now it’s time to apply what you’ve learned to cannabis. If you have an expansive selection of varieties at home, keep the cannabis in its individual jar and line up the samples. Keep the jars closed until you are ready to smell it one by one. If you do not have access to different strains at home, head to your local dispensary and ask the bud tender if you can smell a selection. Don't be shy! Think about what you are smelling. Are any of the aromas familiar?
Remember the Interpening skills we discussed in “Cannabis 101: Understanding your Herbal Palate?” If not, below is a reminder of the best breathing techniques to use to identify the aromas in cannabis developed by The Trichome Institute.
Recommended Breathing Techniques
Take a long slow inhalation of the bud to identify primary, secondary and tertiary aromas. Next, inhale deep and fast and hold it in to note any aroma changes. Finally, take three sniffs and notice how your nose feels. Indica aromas are perceived immediately towards the nostrils and sativa aromas are perceived towards the upper sinuses. Hybrids are in the middle of the nose but can differ depending on the strain variety.
To help identify specific terpenes, here is a quick look at the primary categories along with some common aroma descriptors. For more details, visit our Terpene Aroma & Pairing Guide.
Myrcene: mixed herbs, mushrooms, earthy, forest floor, skunk, some tropical fruits
Pinene: pine trees, pine needle, wet wood, pine nut, dill, rosemary
Limonene: lemon, lime, grapefruit, blood orange, tangerine
Caryophyllene: clove, cooking spices, black pepper, anise, cinnamon, nutmeg
Nerolidol: jasmine, perfume, ginger flower
Linalool: citrus blossom, violet, lavender, rose, lilies, geranium
Whatever method you choose to improve your sense of smell for cannabis, remember that the more you practice and learn the differences between smells and flavors, the more you will enhance your overall understanding and enjoyment of herb!
Peace, Love & Cannabis,
The Herb Somm