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Terps of the Champions: Cracking the Terpene Code of 3 Award-Winning Strains

October 10, 2018

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.

Zkittlez: Beta-Caryophyllene

Award winning weed strain with beta-caryophyllene: zkittlez

(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.

Find Zkittlez Nearby

Rozé: Myrcene

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.”

Find Rozé Nearby

Super Lemon Haze: Limonene

Award winning weed strain with myrcene: roze

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.

Find Super Lemon Haze Nearby

Lead image courtesy of Dying Breed Seeds. Photo by Kandid Kush.

Jimi Devine's Bio Image

Jimi Devine

Jimi Devine has been involved in cannabis reform since 2005 and has worked in the Berkeley cannabis industry since 2009, when he moved to California from Lynn, Massachusetts. Currently serving as senior staff writer at Cannabis Now Magazine, he's also written about cannabis products and policy for the San Francisco Chronicle, The Boston Globe, The Hill, The Chronicle of High Education, Marijuana.com, High Times, 7x7 Magazine, and in Ed Rosenthal's recent book, This Bud's for You. Jimi has a BA in journalism and media studies from Franklin Pierce University.

View Jimi Devine's articles

  • WakeUp

    HARVEST SEASON😀😀😀😀

  • Darren Mason

    I love the work being done exploring terpenes. Since we’re trying to break away from indica/sativa labels and really identify the genetic makeup of various strains, it would have been great to include the terp profile and associated effects with each strain.

    • satyaban

      Stereotypes prevail for good reason. I started my journey with grass in 1967. Sativas are what I got because anecdotal evidence showed that Sativas effects were far superior to Indicas, and we considered Indicas junk. Now through science Indicas are greatly improved for THC percentages as well as Sativa and hybrids. As I said on this thread before these terpenes have been assigned different properties and their effects are for me imperceptible, too nuanced, and too subtle to differentiate or effective at their assigned traits. Indicas are generally on the down side whereas Sativas physically uplifting. The current status of our bodies chemically, I believe, determines how we will react to 27% GG#4 today and the same GG#4 tomorrow. Research to improve the potency of grass is cool but for a consumer like me it doesn’t need all those complications that does not matter. I bought some Green Crack and the first time I smoked it I was ear banging like a mo fo but I did have that same experience again.

      • Cordwainer Smith

        I’m with you. I have been smoking for over thirty years. I’m still trying to figure out the magic of cannabis. I do find terps are important, but, like you, I find the descriptions and predicted effects to be very vague and undependable. I also agree that one of the most important factors is exposure to a particular strain. I can fly off the walls high up in a spaceship with one strain, and the next day it won’t quite hit me the same; can’t even make it over the net on a tennis court. So for me, just switching up what I’m smoking to another strain that’s at least 25% THC is enough to make me happy.

  • satyaban

    I really don’t find much reason to it, I rarely get the same high from smoking any weed more than once. When it comes to my drugs I want them to make an impact on me so the hell with hints of this and that.

  • viper643

    Being a thoroughbred racing handicapper; this genetic family stuff sure looks like the family line of thoroughbreds. The landrace parents certainly go back much further than the thoroughbred. Technology will eventually have the cannabis bloodlines down pat. But any KUSH sounding name must come from a Triple Crown winning seed. The Super Lemon Haze also has a stud for a seed.