Basic Flower Evaluation

A simple guide to get you started.

The key to developing a sensory evaluation practice is to have a measured and structured approach. This can be accomplished with the use of a few simple tools each time you taste a product:

  • This tasting guide
  • The online tasting worksheet (or a notebook and pen or pencil)
  • A grinder
  • A loupe

SETTING: Find a nice setting where you can focus on the task at hand. You'll want to have a good light source, a clean surface to work on, and for the area to be free of excess scents.

TOOLS: Ensure your tools are clean. Inspect and smell your grinder. Is it free of debris and odors?

MAKING NOTES: Work your way through the five sense prompts below, making notes as you go.

  • Objectivity: The key to good notes, is being as objective and non-judgemental as possible. You want to record your observations, not your opinions. You can record your opinions later, after you've made your observations. A person may be sensitive to skunk odor, but not find it offensive. If you're tasting with other people, be careful not to verbalize your observations before everyone has a chance to make their own notes without influence, or "priming."
  • Scrutinize Scent Memories: If a scent reminds you of hamburgers, attempt to discern why. Perhaps it's the pickles, or the mustard, or the beef. If it's the pickles, then why? Might you actually be smelling dill herbs, a common ingredient for cucumber pickling that also shows up in many cannabis scents?

MAKING PREFERENCE: Once you've completed your tasting notes, make preference note. This is where you make perhaps your most meaningful notes. You can use a simple scale of 1-10, or a more complex scale of your own design. The goal is to be specific about what you like and don't like, and why. This record will serve as your personal assessment of the product.

"ENJOY THE RITUAL!" Finally, remember to enjoy your tasting practice. Such a hobby can be very rewarding and add depth to your appreciation of this plant. Relax, breath deeply, and be patient with yourself.

VISUAL (eyes): The visual assessment is a two pronged approach:

  • Material in Bulk: Given the opportunity and sample quantity, we first want to observe a flower in a group from the same lot. This allows us to observe the range of characteristics that are present in the lot as a whole. Observations such as this can give us clues about a Producer's production methods, and consistency.

  • Individual Material: Next, we want to observe the individual flower.

    • What is its shape?
    • Is it tall and bushy? More tree like?
    • Do its branches express radially?
    • What is its color? (leaves, petals, calyxes, pistils)
    • Can you see the trichomes? Are they clear? Milky? Amber?
    • What about the interior?

TOUCH (skin): The touch assessment is about physically manipulating the material to see what you can learn: Touch, Squeeze, and Break!

  • What happens when you touch it? Does it feel sticky? Does it feel dry? Does it feel dense?
  • What happens when you squeeze it? Does it feel spongy? Does it spring back to its shape? Quickly or slowly?
  • What happens when you break it? Does it break apart easily? Does it break apart into small pieces or large pieces?

HEARING (ears): The hearing assessment is much like the touch assessment, as one's skin can detect even very small vibrations. As you physically manipulate the material with your hands, grinder, etc., listen for what the sounds of the material may be telling you.

  • Does it sound dry?
  • Does it sound moist?
  • Does it sound dense?
  • Does it sound brittle?

SCENT (nose): The scent assessment is about smelling the material to see what you can learn. In the Container

  • What do you smell when you open the container?
  • Does the container impart any undue scents? Ground Up
  • What do you smell when you grind it up? After a Time
  • Leave the ground material out for a few minutes, then smell it again. What do you smell now?
  • Has it lost any scents it used to have?
  • Has it gained any scents it didn't have before?

TASTE (mouth): The taste assessment is about tasting the material to see what you can learn. It is very much like the scent assessment, but inhaling through the mouth, capturing air with one's mouth, and sensing for features: In the Container

  • Pull some air into your mouth from the container. What do you taste?
  • Does the container impart any undue flavors? Ground Up
  • Carefully, pull some air into your mouth from the grinder. What do you taste from the grinder? After a Time
  • Leave the ground material out for a few minutes, then taste it again. What do you taste now?
  • Has it lost any flavors it used to have?
  • Has it gained any flavors it didn't have before?

BONUS TOOL! Having a hard time describing what you're smelling? Confidence Analyics, a cannabis testing lab based in Redmond, WA, has provided a nice flavor and scent wheel to help you find the perfect word.