Strains & products

9 runner-up strains to Leafly Strain of the Year 2023

Published on November 29, 2023 · Last updated December 17, 2023
These nine strains ran in the front of the pack for Leafly Strain of the Year 2023. They’re all tasty and a must-buy, so add them to your cart now. Above, Devil Driver by CAM. (David Downs/Leafly)
These nine strains ran in the front of the pack for Leafly Strain of the Year 2023. They’re all tasty and a must-buy, so add them to your cart now. Above, Devil Driver by CAM. (David Downs/Leafly)

The Grammy Awards have Record of the Year. Time Magazine has Person of the Year. And Merriam-Webster even does Word of the Year. You know what’s way cooler? Leafly Strain of the Year, and it arrives Tuesday, Dec. 5.

So, let’s wet your bong with nine badass strains that ran in the front of the pack to become Leafly Strain of the Year 2023. We repeat: the strains below are NOT Leafly Strain of the Year 2023—but they performed admirably and they deserve plenty of shine of their own. 

Here are some all-star strains that did numbers this year—find and shop them on Leafly and take a fat rip of transcendence.

9th runner-up—Grape Cream Cake

Hundreds upon hundreds of dispensaries served up fresh Grape Cream Cake in 2023, making Leafly take notice, and add it to the short list of potential winners this year. Bred by Seed Junky Genetics and worked by Bloom Seed Co, it comes from Cannarado’s Grape Pie x Wedding Crasher. Authentic cuts should emit grape, cream, and cake smells and tastes, and elicit an indica hybrid effect. Colorado ate it up, and so did hash-makers—they’re always on the lookout for strains that squish well and release gobs of sticky rosin. All of these attributes proved fashionable and delightful in 2023. Congrats Bloom Seed Co on another flower in your crown—keep an eye out for more ooey-gooey goodness from Bloom Seed Co in 2024. We love their new Candy Fumez.

8th runner-up—GastroPop

GastroPop grown at Sonoma Hills Farm, bred by Compound Genetics. (Courtesy Sonoma Hills Farm)
GastroPop. (Courtesy Sonoma Hills Farm)

Breeder Compound Genetics had a solid year with one of their royalty strains GastroPop—a cross of Apples & Bananas x Grape Gas. It’s purple with grape, fuel, and fizzy soda flavors that hits hybrid and can potentially help manage pain, depression, or stress. Also you will eat your entire fridge. Bred during the Chris Lynch era at Compound, Grape Gas itself has the winners Grape Pie and Jet Fuel Gelato in it. Apples & Bananas keeps winning with the potent parents Blue Power x Gelatti. Over the last year, we saw GastroPop debut on hundreds of dispensary menus nationwide, and generate significant buzz—two key attributes of any strain of the year contender. GastroPop crosses have had a solid year as well; don’t miss Pink Certz, or Glitter Bomb. Even newer ones hit the grow rooms in 2024, like GastroPop S1, and GastroPop x Mellowz.

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7th runner-up—Devil Driver

Devil Driver grown by  CAM in Cali. (David Downs/Leafly)
Devil Driver grown by CAM in Cali. (David Downs/Leafly)

We’re keeping a close eye on everything the relatively new breeder Tiki Madman works on—especially after seeing the year that Devil Driver had. Tiki combined Cannarado’s heavy hitting dessert strain Sundae Driver with Midwest Best’s Watermelon Z x Lemon Tree #11 hybrid, dubbed Melonade. Devil Driver looks sleeted with icy white trichomes over a dramatic, dark leaf—setting the bar for weed aesthetics in 2023.

It’s a rockstar in the grow room, said large-scale, high-end California indoor grower Anna Willey, founder of CAM. “I love it. It literally is the most beautiful plant growing ever, ever, ever.” Devil Driver tests sky-high in THC with sativa-leaning hybrid effects and a coy lemon-citrus-spice smell and taste. You know Devil Driver’s a hit based on all the breeders working to make crosses of it. Budtenders nationwide also recommended Devil Driver often in our first annual Budtenders’ Choice Awards survey, the results of which go live on December 5th with Leafly Strain of the Year. See also: Dante’s Inferno.

6th runner-up—Trop Cherry

(David Downs/Leafly)
Tradecraft Farms Trop Cherry finishes up in downtown LA. (David Downs/Leafly)

Relentless Genetics had a tremendous year with Trop Cherry, their cross of Tropicana Cookies and Cherry Cookies F3. Trop Cherry’s smell and taste live up to its name with citrus, cherry, tropical, and tea notes, coupled with an energizing sativa-hybrid effect. Go for a hike or get creative, and enjoy a fresh wave of orange terps with a more full-flavored body than an old-school Tangie. Trop Cherry climbed onto hundreds of dispensary menus this year, and its strain details page got more monthly traffic than most news stories. Plus breeders can count on it to win awards; Snoop Dogg launched his Death Row Cannabis in 2023 with a Trop Cherry on the menu. Let’s hear it for Trop Cherry! Keep the Trop Cookies projects flowing!

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5th runner-up—Super Boof

(David Downs/Leafly)
The ironically named Super Boof. Boof is slang for low-grade. Grown by Triple 7, CA. Hybrid. (David Downs/Leafly)

The name is silly, but Super Boof’s performance in 2023 is no joke. We saw it jump like 6x to almost 800 menus across the US in a single year, as well as triple in sessions to the strain page. Breeder Blockhead Buds could win a Best New Breeder Award—if we handed those out. (Maybe next year.) This cross of Trop Cookies and Black Cherry Punch bears striking similarities to the 6th runner-up Trop Cherry—both speak to high smoker demand for both citrus and cherry, with a lot of flavor, and gorgeous, enormous bud structure. Consumers report Super Boof is chilling them out, but I think it works as a great wake-and-bake and all-day smoke. This is the second year Super Boof has made the runner-up list, and we love the counterpoint it provides to some of the dominant trends in weed. When you give Blockhead his kudos, remember that he prefers you call it Block Berry.

4th runner-up—Cap Junky

Cap Junky. Hybrid. (David Downs/Leafly)
Panic attack mode: Cap Junky is for people who’ve smoked it all. Hybrid. (David Downs/Leafly)

Now we are getting into some heavy stuff. For experts only, Cap Junky unites work by two titans of breeding—Seed Junky Genetics and Capulator.  Together the two fused each of their royalty strains—Kush Mints and Alien Cookies—and birthed a monster. Cap Junky is probably too strong for most mortals—it’s completely sleeted with trichomes and the jars we’ve smelled have this complex sour, bitter, gassy vibe that Sour Diesel lovers should worship. Cap Junky approaches 1,000 US menus, even as regular folks have yet to hear of it. Smoke some Cap Junky late at night alone and hold on for the rocket ride. Congrats, Capulator, we love your work. Make sure to get your Cap Junky direct from his affiliate store Peace of Green in downtown LA.

3rd runner-up—Animal Face

Fig Farms Animal Face. Hybrid. (David Downs/Leafly)
Fig Farms Animal Face. Hybrid. (David Downs/Leafly)

Go beast mode on one of 2023’s most award-winning strains—Animal Face. Bred by Seed Junky Genetics of LA from Archive Seeds’ Faceoff OG and their own Animal Mints, we saw Animal Face grown by Fig Farms of Oakland, CA, bested nearly all the other plants in the state to win the Emerald Cup 5th place flower. Its sister, Blue Face, took Best in Show. Since then, Animal Face has taken home other accolades, including 1st Place Hybrid Flower in the SoCal Cannabis Cup in July and two wins in Illinois in November. Animal Face has nearly doubled its presence on dispensary menus to more than 2,200 nationwide year over year, and budtenders loved it during our Budtenders’ Choice 2023 survey.

However, hype levels are lower for this ferocious hybrid than some of its competitors, and Animal Face’s growth appears to be slowing. Unleash this beast for pungent, fuel (aka “gas”) and mint smells and a searing, face-melting total-THC high—another banger for people that love Sour Diesel. You get uplifted, relaxed, and focused on Animal Face, smokers report. Take a fat rip and strap into some Mad Max: Fury Road on Animal Face. The dominant terpene myrcene plays an amplifier role for the limonene and caryophyllene. Shoutout Seed Junky and all growers of Animal Face, and don’t miss all its crosses like Blue Face and Gas Face. 

2nd runner-up—White Truffle

White Truffle grown by 'Snowtill' in the Bay Area. (David Downs/Leafly)
White Truffle grown by ‘Snowtill’ in the Bay Area. Indica hybrid. (David Downs/Leafly)

If you love Sour Diesel, and thus, Original Glue—it’s time to sniff out some White Truffle. Breeder Fresh Coast Seed Co of Michigan crossed some GG#4 with the strain Peanut Butter Breath to make what is called Gorilla Butter. The breeder hit on something gorgeous, funky, buttery, skunky, nutty, and strong with an indica hybrid effect that relaxes, uplifts, and tingles the body. A quarter of smokers report it calms them down, improves mood, and can melt away pain.

“Insanely clear-headed, yet hard-hitting high. This is one of the greats. Guaranteed to take your worries away,” said one reviewer.

White Truffle nearly doubled its menu presence to 1,600 in the US in a year, and plenty of folks have caught White Truffle’s scent. We’ve seen badass versions from elite growers like MOCA Humboldt, Snowtill, and Wood Wide. The White Truffle wave keeps spreading, too. Portlanders in Oregon have 273 White Truffle options a tap away on the Leafly App, while Seattle has 163, Denver has 64, Detroit has 79, and Tulsa, OK has 95. It’s so awesome to see Michigan emerge on the national stage as the crucible of cannabis innovation that it is. Congrats, Fresh Coast Seed Co on 2nd runner-up—and give us a call to talk about 2024!

1st runner-up—RS-11

The MOCA brand RS-11 strain, grown in living soil in Eureka, CA. (David Downs/Leafly)
The MOCA brand RS-11 strain, grown in living soil in Eureka, CA. Hybrid sativa. (David Downs/Leafly)

It was a photo finish, but breeder/grower Wizard Trees of Los Angeles has taken 1st runner-up in Leafly Strain of the Year 2023 with RS-11, aka Rainbow Sherbert #11. 

For lovers of Zkittlez, OG Kush, and Sunset Sherbert—RS-11 is citrusy, tropical, and peachy, Leafly reviewers report. It’s confection and fuel in a green bud format with sativa hybrid effects that’ll make you giggly, talkative, and uplifted. We’ve loved it all year.

RS-11 comes from Oakland grower/breeder Deo Farms’ OZ Kush project that yielded his selection, dubbed Pink Guava. Deo crossed the Pink Guava to the blockbuster Sunset Sherbert. The 100 children of that combo have made huge waves worldwide. Down in LA, 7-year indoor exotic grower Wizard Trees took the #11 and #54 phenotypes and ran with them—making RS-11 and RS-54. 

Wizard Trees’ founder and CEO Scott told Leafly, “the #11 pheno we marked three weeks into flower because of the plant structure. It started as a good plant that smelled good at the beginning and only got better and better through flower.”

Released in 2018, RS-11 really took off during 2020, with a $1,000 clone drop of 350 cuttings that drew international customers who camped out overnight for it.

“It blew up and it’s all over the world,” said Wizard Trees’ Scott.

In the last year, RS-11 has 8x’d its presence on US dispensary menus, hitting 1,000 legal stores. The hype train is real for RS-11, too. The strain detail page gets more traffic than all but our best news stories each month. Another sign of success? RS-11 even has online haters.

Wizard Trees grows for the legal market in Cali and the flower rooms are dialed in with high-quality small-batch harvests. They release as little as a 1/4-pound of each strain at a time to maximize freshness.

Why isn’t it Leafly Strain of the Year? It’s technically a little older, and RS-11 has yet to win the hearts of US budtenders in our Budtenders’ Choice survey, the results of which we publish Dec. 5. There also seems to be some variation in how well growers do with RS-11—we’ve seen immaculate examples of it from UpNorth or MOCA, and we’ve seen meh examples from the East Coast. 

“The goal in the future is to find terp profiles that are completely different.”

Wizard Trees founder/CEO Scott

This is still the beginning for Scott and Wizard Trees, too. They have industry-leading art and packaging design, and they now serve Florida patients. Up next is Arizona, and potentially New York.

Furthermore, Wizard Trees keeps pushing into new strains with their own direct-to-consumer seed website, Wizard Trees Genetics—so tap into the next wave of RS-11 like Tea Time (Z x RS-11), and a bunch of new Runtz crosses like White Zangria (White Runtz x Zangria). Now anyone can find something as good or better than the best of today’s pot. 

“I’m an extreme connoisseur,” said Scott. “We’re like kids in a candy factory when we’re pheno-hunting genetics and finding something new.”

Wizard Trees’ fresh Tea Time (Z x RS-11) fixes a lot of Z’s growing problems and is a mind-melter, too. Hybrid. (David Downs/Leafly)

Scott’s advice to aspiring growers who want to cast their own spell on global cannabis culture? Start collecting and popping tons of seeds. Pay maximal attention to your growing environment and irrigation, he said. Eschew mimicry and “create your own thing,” said Scott. “The goal in the future is to find terp profiles that are completely different.”

Congrats, Wizard Trees on 1st runner-up for Leafly Strain of the Year 2023. We’re all enchanted by your work, and look forward to supporting what’s next.

And that’s the 9 strains we short-listed on our search for Leafly Strain of the Year 2023. Set your alarms for 6 am PST on December 5th when we announce Leafly Strain of the Year 2023—it’s gonna go hard! 

How do we choose Leafly Strain of the Year each year?

Leafly Strain of the Year aims to bottle the essence of the connoisseur cannabis conversation unfolding across the country and online globally over the last year. 

We fuse two approaches to land on Leafly Strain of the Year each year: 1) a qualitative approach informed by 2) data from unparalleled quantitative insight into national strain trends.

The qualitative: Leafly has nearly full access to the qualitative aspects of weed. We smoke hundreds of new cultivars per year and travel the world interviewing breeders, growers, buyers, budtenders, smokers, and influencers to get a tactile sense of what’s smoking. We got literal file cabinets full of new weed.

… there’s no ChatGPT prompt that’ll ever hallucinate anything close to Leafly Strain of the Year.

The quantitative: We take all those smoking notes and insights and go back to our analytics looking for new strains that had a break-out year in terms of national menu penetration, sessions to the Strain Detail Page, and other data factors—similar to the NFL picking its Most Valuable Player each year. With nearly 6,000 strains in the database, thousands of store menus listed, and millions of monthly active users—only Leafly has this level of insight into both the data of modern cultivars and the sensory attributes of smoking them.

 As long as computers can’t walk the US weed beat, smelling, tasting, and getting high, there’s no ChatGPT prompt that’ll ever hallucinate anything close to Leafly Strain of the Year. So thanks for rocking with us.

Think we missed something great? Comment below with your Leafly Strain of the Year and be sure to tell us why.

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David Downs
David Downs
Leafly Senior Editor David Downs is the former Cannabis Editor of the San Francisco Chronicle. He's appeared on The Today Show, and written for Scientific American, The New York Times, WIRED, Rolling Stone, The Onion A/V Club, High Times, and many more outlets. He is a 2023 judge for The Emerald Cup, and has covered weed since 2009.
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