Terpenes (general)

Part 2: The Original Bouquet and the Master

As discussed in Part 1 of the Original Bouquet and Master Mixes, the best way to recreate the original bouquet of a cultivar is to re-administer terpenes from the original plant extract directly into the vape oil that is being manufactured. In theory, this seems like an easy concept. In practice, that’s far from the case.

For one thing, vape oil is generally made from the lowest grade, lowest quality THC sources available. The terpenes can be old, smelly, and unpleasant. Manufacturers can get away with using trim that only contains 2-3% THC by weight because the distillation process purifies out the terpenes and leaves behind THC, which is chemically identical to THC obtained from other fresh sources. They then add Master Mixes made from high-quality terpenes that try to recreate the original bouquet.

Even in this trim, some good terpenes still exist, and when they are sufficiently purified, they smell and taste great. When I worked as a flavor chemist for a cannabis manufacturing lab, we generated massive amounts of bulk terpenes that were considered industrial byproducts from the distillation process. They were thrown out en masse because no one wanted to spend the time or energy purifying them. One of our greatest annoyances was the fact that we could not just takehigh-quality, cannabis-derived terpenes in the bulk and add them back into our extracts following the distillation step. The problem was that the terpenes were miscible in so many plant waxes and lipids that, at the end of the distillation process, they could not be exogenously added back to the pure THC. The problem boiled down to the fact that in order to add those terpenes back into the purified extract, they had to be mixed with an unacceptable level of carrier solvent, which in turn ruined the flavor it was supposed to achieve.

There were a few good theories as to why the terpenes could not simply be stirred in. One thought was that the terpene solution contained unacceptable levels of moisture that became trapped. Another was that without the natural plant waxes, the absolute threshold of terpenes that the concentrated THC was able to accept become much lower. Another idea involved the fact that to preserve the THC and prevent degradation, the solutions could not be heated sufficiently to promote solubility and homogeneity. We hypothesized that it would require specific, selective purification schemes to filter out the desired terpenes from the bulk distillate waste mass to achieve proper solvation in THC.

The bottom line is that while adding the native, cannabis-derived terpenes of a cultivar back into its vape oil extract may provide superior flavor and best preserve the original bouquet, such a process has not yet been sufficiently investigated to be properly implemented on a vape oil manufacturing line. There are companies out there that use cannabis-derived terpenes in their Master Mixes. But no company is taking the waste generated by their distillation process and recycling it into useful terpene bulk. This is also true for CBD in the trim, which is generally discarded as well.

For now, the name of the game is increased terpene resolution via analytical programs like Eybna’s Delta project, which aims to determine the differences in terpene levels between the final vape oil and original cultivar and provide a Master Mix that fills in that gap. Programs like these are what will allow large-scale manufacturers to continue providing consistent, high-quality products.

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Terpenes and Testing

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