The Best-Tasting Buds on Earth

Check out our gallery of the Best-Tasting Buds on Earth!

Terps 101

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.

Check out this overview of the major terpenes that play a role in the scent and flavor of cannabis.

The List

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 ….

#1 – Durban Poison

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
Competition: Seattle US Cannabis Cup, 2014
Awards: 3rd Place, Sativa Flowers (US Recreational)
Grower: TJ’s Organic Gardens
Lab-tested by: Steep Hill Labs, Seattle, WA

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.   

#2 – Nameless OG

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
Competition: Michigan Medical Cannabis Cup, 2015
Awards: 4th Place, Indica Flowers (Medical)
Grower: Nameless Genetics
Lab-tested by: Iron Labs (Walled Lake, MI) and PSI Labs (Ann Arbor)

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.

#3 – Veganic Cherry Cough

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
Competition: San Francisco Medical Cannabis Cup, 2014
Grower: Kushman Genetics
Lab-tested by: Steep Hill Labs, Berkeley, CA

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.

#4 – Super Silver Haze

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
Competition: Seattle US Cannabis Cup, 2014
Awards: 1st Place, Sativa Flowers (US Recreational)
Grower: Life Is Good Healing
Lab-tested by: Steep Hill Labs, Seattle, WA

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.

#5 – Blue Dream

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
Competition: Denver US Cannabis Cup, 2015
Grower: Grow Bales (Brenton Swanson)
Lab-tested by: Charas Scientific Labs, Denver

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.

#6 – Tropicanna

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
Competition: Michigan Medical Cannabis Cup, 2015
Awards: 2nd Place, Sativa Flowers (Medical)
Grower: Cannabiotix
Lab-tested by: Iron Labs (Walled Lake, MI) & PSI Labs (Ann Arbor)

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.

#7 – Sunshine #4

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
Competition: Michigan Medical Cannabis Cup, 2015
Awards: 1st Place, Hybrid Flowers (Medical)
Grower: Bodhi Seeds
Lab-tested by: Iron Labs (Walled Lake, MI) and PSI Labs (Ann Arbor)

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.

#8 – True OG

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
Competition: Seattle US Cannabis Cup, 2014
Awards: 2nd Place, Indica Flowers (San Francisco 2010 and ’11); 2nd Place, Indica Flowers (Medical, Seattle 2012); 1st Place, Indica Flowers (Medical, Seattle 2013); 2nd Place, Indica Flowers (Seed Company, Amsterdam 2012 and ’13); 4th Place, Indica Flowers (Medical, Seattle 2014).
Grower: Elemental Seeds
Lab-tested by: Steep Hill Labs, Seattle, WA

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).

#9 – Zkittlez

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
Competition: Michigan Medical Cannabis Cup, 2015
Awards: 1st Place, Indica Flowers (Medical)
Grower: 3rd Gen Family x TerpHogz
Lab-tested by: Iron Labs (Walled Lake, MI) and PSI Labs (Ann Arbor)

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.

#10 – Strawberry Banana

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
Competition: Michigan Medical Cannabis Cup, 2015
Awards: 5th Place, Hybrid Flowers (Medical)
Grower: Crockett Family Farms
Lab-tested by: Iron Labs (Walled Lake, MI) and PSI Labs (Ann Arbor)

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.

Organic Growing & Terpene Profiles

From our survey of the “Best-Tasting Buds on Earth,” we’ve compiled the following chart of grow specs for each strain. This data was supplied to us directly by the competitors and growers via their Cannabis Cup entry forms for the various competitions mentioned in The List. Take a closer look at the methods, mediums and nutrients used here. Notice any pattern?

Notice that eight out of the 10 strains—or 80 percent—were grown using either organic or veganic nutrients. It stands to reason that organic-nutrient lines produce better-tasting buds, for two main reasons.

First, synthetic fertilizers generally have a very high salt content, making it much harder to flush the residue out of the grow medium and the plants themselves. The result: buds that burn black and leave tar and char in your pipe.

Second, organic or veganic nutrients tend to have higher levels of the same compounds found in nature, giving plants more of what they need (and less of what they don’t) to help unlock their genetic potential and maximize their terpene profile. Buds grown organically or veganically burn to a white ash and tend to taste much better than those grown with synthetic nutes.

You may have also noticed that nearly every strain on The List took home an award at one of our Cannabis Cups, proving once again that the most THC-potent strains don’t necessarily win; rather, it’s the flavor and bouquet that stand out most to true connoisseurs of the plant. Food for thought—and tasty buds for those taste buds in your mouth!

Special thanks to Sirius J for his contributions to the statistical analysis and reporting in this feature.

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