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Why Do Some Cannabis Strains Smell Like Cheese?

Cannabis is a flower. And like flowers, cannabis exhibits strong, diverse odors that will stimulate your mind and elicit different sensations based on those smells (and, when smoked, flavors). These smell- and flavor-inducing chemicals are known as terpenes, which are representative of potential effects inside each unique flower. Linalool, for example, is a powerful terpene most commonly associated with lavender. It’s known for its relaxing, sedative effects — the same thing people hope to inspire when they place a pouch of lavender under their pillows before bed.

Terpenes: The Flavors of Cannabis Aromatherapy

Cannabis is a flower. Lavender is a flower. So what? Flowers smell like flowers.

Wait. Hold your horses, y’all. Here’s where it gets weird.

Of all the terpenes, of which more than 200 are found in cannabis, many evoke smells that don’t occur naturally in nature. Today, we are going to focus on a few terpenes near and dear to my heart (and stomach): CHEESE!

The “cheesy” terpenes are easily some of the most pungent and challenging. But the strains reward the adventurous palate with brilliant, uplifting effects that are pleasantly stimulating and luscious.

Recipe: How to Make Cannabis-Infused Nacho "Cheese"

Such terpenes include octanoic acid, (methyl thio) butyrate, ethylmethyl acetic acid, hexanoic acid, isovaleric acid, and methyl mercaptan. These chemicals traverse the scale of cheesiness from the sweet, vanilla ice cream elements of Dairy Queen to the significantly cave-aged earthiness of OG Cheese and UK Cheese.

But cheese strains aren’t exclusively savory. Like many fine cheese plates, fruit notes add a complementary sweetness to the umami qualities of a truly robust queso. Strains like Blueberry Cheesecake, Blue Cheese, Sweet Cheese, Bubble Cheese, and many more incorporate sweet elements that can bring creeping indica effects to this primarily sativa-hybrid family.

Cheese terpenes may not be the most pleasant to smell, but they are everywhere. Check out this quote by THCFarmer.com pertaining to one of the many cheese-like terpenes:

“Isovaleric Acid has a strong, pungent, sour, stinky feet, sweaty cheese smell. It is a major component of the cause of unpleasant foot odor. However, its volatile esters have pleasing scents and are used widely in perfumery. Used as a flavoring it is cheesy, dairy, sweet creamy, fermented, waxy and berry. It has shown effectiveness as an anticonvulsant and antidepressant.”

This isn’t a recommendation to huff your stinky socks in an effort to conquer depression, but a simple illustration of the fine line between the refined and the repulsive. So go on: Grab a bowl, smile, and say, “cheese!” Looking for some options? Check the “cheese” filter in our strain explorer for some pungent options!

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Jeremiah Wilhelm

Jeremiah Wilhelm is a former strain researcher at Leafly.

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