What it’s like to judge a Cannabis Cup

And which vaporizer should I bring? 

By Herbert M. Green

In the last few years, I’ve had the honour of being invited to judge for several different Cannabis Cups. My most recent adventure was judging the Sativa, Hybrid and CBD product categories for the Jack Herer Cup 2021. And it was a blast! Not just because of the copious amounts of high-quality weed, but also because I learned so much more about evaluating cannabis quality while having a boatload of fun doing it. Most importantly, however, is the fact that this cup, once again, reaffirmed that a vaporizer is by far the best tool to judge how good a specific nug really is. Come and have a sneak peek at what goes on behind the scenes of a cannabis cup and what vaporizer to bring.  

A dream come true for a beginning Interpener

As a fledgling Interpener (a certified cannabis sommelier), it’s crucial that I stick my nose into every bag or jar of cannabis I can get my hands on. All to train my nose in recognising and judging the quality of the bajillion cannabis cultivars out there.

That’s why I felt honoured and elated that I was once again invited as co-judge for the 2021 Jack Herer Cup. Besides getting a chance to look at, sniff, examine and sample hundreds of the best cannabis strains Dutch coffeeshops have to offer, I also had a lot of fun.

My main task was getting through these two categories: Sativa (Narrow Leaf Marijuana) and Hybrid (Medium Leaf Marijuana). 

Judging for the Jack Herer Cup is like going on a luxury vacation

You see, the JHC is unique because the judging happens all in just one week. On top of that, all the judges are in the same location for the duration.

Every year, the organisers of the JHC invite a select group of cannaisseurs and industry professionals to an undisclosed location to pool their collective knowledge and find the best cannabis products out of hundreds of entries. 

This meeting of minds (and noses) happens in a large villa with all the amenities one could wish for, like a swimming pool, a fully stocked kitchen, or a poker room slash in-house arcade. For most, spending a week in such an environment is like going on a luxury vacation, but the real cherry on top was the company I was in during that week. 

The level of cannabis experts is too damn high!

Sure, I have a couple of years of professional cannabis experience under my belt, but that’s nothing compared to some of the heavyweights that got invited. Take industry veterans like Johnny Dabs and Captain Hooter or WizKids like Weedstagram416_ for instance.

Captain Hooter is just starting on his part of the competition. (check out all the cool tools and gear strewn across the table) 

I’ve learned more in one week from listening to their stories, their experiences, and discussing the finer points of assessing quality cannabis than I would have in a year on my own.   

But, knowledge and theory are only one half of the equation. To fully evaluate the quality of a nug or extract, you’ll have to measure and look as closely as you can. 

Fortunately, the people behind the JHC understand that like no other and provide the judges with all the tools they can possibly need to fully examine the products. 

UV lights for the detection of unwanted characteristics, all kinds of digital microscopes to zoom in on the trichome heads and, like every year, (Canna)Kim Keller brings his GemmaCert testing kit to measure the cannabinoid and moisture content. Hell, I didn’t even need to bring my own testing tool kit, everything was provided for and the gear was 10 times better than what I had, brilliant!

However, here comes the rub

For all the tools and expertise that are present at any cannabis cup, there is one fact I’ve observed over the years that completely shocks me to my core; nobody - with the exception of one or two - is using vaporizers to judge the flavour of the entries!    

And that fact baffles me to this day. How are you supposed to appraise the flavour if you burn most (if not all) of those lovely terpenes before they reach your tastebuds? Most “old-schoolers” will tell me they indeed taste the difference between cultivar A and B. 

Sure, there might be a difference, but it isn’t the full flavour profile of the strain you’re about to set on fire! What you’re tasting are the ashes and remains of something beautiful.

Okay, okay, that last part might be a bit overdramatic, but it’s exactly what goes through my mind every time I see one of my fellow judges spark up another sample joint.

I understand that switching from smoking to vaping isn’t easy for somebody who’s been smoking for the most part of their life, as I’ve discussed in one of my previous articles on how hard it is to make the transition, but should cannabis cup judges at least have a vaporizer next to the ashtray? Just for the flavour aspect of the competition?

This is what the table of many of my colleagues looked like. 

So? Which vaporizer is best for flavour testing? 

That brings us to the meat of the matter; Which vaporizer is best for flavour evaluation? Keeping in mind that any vaporizer, in my humble opinion, is better than lighting up a spliff. 

I’ve tested hundreds of vaporizers over the years, and every time I get to judge a cannabis cup, I like to bring at least a few different vapes with me to try out. 

However, everybody has their favourites and so far, I’ve narrowed my top 3 down to the following vaporizers: 

#1 The DynaVap 2021 ‘M’ and Omni

Hands down the best flavour vaporizers on the market in my book. My top 2 spot comes very close, but the DynaVap vaporizers are still superior in delivering the complete terpene profile to my tastebuds. 

I believe it has something to do with the direct heating method coupled with the perfect airflow and the relatively short distance between the oven and the mouthpiece.

Nothing beats a DynaVap VapCap or Omni when it comes to flavour!

#2 The Dreamwood Punch Mini

The Punch Mini by Dreamwood comes close second in the flavour department. Again, I think it has to do with the short distance between material and mouth as well as a balanced airflow. The added benefit is that if there are contaminants in the weed or if the nutrients of the weed haven’t been flush properly before harvest, I notice it immediately using the Punch Mini. Where “bad” weed might still go down fairly smooth with a DynaVap, the Punch punishes me immediately with a harsh and irritating sensation in the throat.

Dreamwood vaporizers are also ideal vapes to test if the strain in question is of good quality

#3 The Tinymight

In all honesty, I’ve only once had the pleasure of using the Tinymight in an official judging capacity, but I fell in love with it instantly! The flavour is great - almost as good as #1 and #2 - but most of all; it retains the flavour the longest. With most other vapes the flavour starts to fade a bit after only one or two good hits, the Tinymight delivers crisp and fresh hits well into the fourth or fifth hit. Even in ‘session mode’, which is another plus when you consider most cup categories have between 20 and 30 entries.

You can imagine that a session vaporizer becomes a welcome relief from having to torch-heat a DynaVap about 100 to 200 times, especially if you want to spend some extra quality time with an exceptionally tasty nug.

The Tinymight is one of the best portable 'session vaporizers' I've come across over recent years that can compete with DynaVap or Dreamwood when it comes down to flavour

How about you? Have you ever dreamed of becoming a cannabis cup judge? Which vaporizer would you bring? And why? Let us know in the comments below or on our social media channels. 

Peace out & vape on!

Herbert M. Green

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