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What’s Your Favorite Terpene?

Sirius J

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As the essential elements to the flavor in cannabis, terpenes underlie the descriptive critiques connoisseurs articulate about their favorite dabs and flowers. Terpenes hold the fate of the latest strains, but which ones specifically end up part of flavors people actually like?

We can’t forget the famous Latin phrase, de gustibus non est disputandum, “in matters of taste there can be no disputes,” but the Cannabis Cups have unlocked a way of determining the flavor compounds in dabs that people like the most. All the concentrate entries to the Cannabis Cups are already of high quality; the competition just finds the cream of the crop and gives lab results a peek into what makes the best dabs even better. 

Looking at the scores for taste and aroma that 20 Cannabis Cup judges gave to 95 concentrate entries in Michigan, we plotted a combined flavor score versus the % weight of different terpenes to see which ones judges liked, and which ones they didn’t.

These graphs tell us that, for example, a dab with a high content of beta-ocimene is more likely to get judged with a higher score for aroma and taste than a lower score. This doesn’t necessarily mean that any of these terpenoids are individually responsible for giving the dab a great taste, it just means better tasting dabs are more likely to contain higher amounts of them. Terpenes like myrcene, limonene, terpinene isomers (alpha-terpinene, gamma terpinene, terpinolene, etc.) and ocimene isomers were all more likely to be in better tasting dabs.

On the other hand, terpenoids like beta-caryophyllene, linalool, humulene, beta-pinene, alpha-pinene, camphene and nerolidol all had negative correlations between flavor score and % weight. While this doesn’t mean these terpenes smell or taste bad, it just means that you are more likely to find high concentrations of them in dabs that score low for flavor than in dabs that score high. The correlations in this case are very modest, but undeniable nevertheless.

Some of this information could be used to breed better strains, and to determine if an extraction process is conserving the terpenes it needs to conserve in order for it to keep an original flavor. The cannabis scent still holds a lot to be uncovered; the essence of flavors like banana, blueberry, skunk and fuel are still mysterious in nature and may require new lab techniques to fully unlock them.

Photo Credit: Ndem

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