Review: Weed, A Connoisseur’s Guide to Cannabis

WEED – A Connoisseur’s Guide to Cannabis
Author: Ellen Holland
Reviewed By: Swami Chaitanya

With the publication of her beautiful book WEED, A Connoisseur’s Guide to Cannabis, author Ellen Holland, formerly senior editor at Cannabis Now magazine, has written a love letter to cannabis.

WEED is an up-to-the-minute picture celebrating cannabis consumption, from genetics to flowers to dabs to wine pairings—-everything that is, except politics and economics. The graphic design is stunning, the photographs of classic cultivars are brilliant and there are enticing photos of the myriad ways in which connoisseurs enjoy the sacred herb.

Ellen Holland - Weed: The Connoisseur's Guide to Cannabis

Notice is given that the book will explore cannabis as a gourmet experience already in the Foreword by renowned chef Cat Cora.

Connoisseurship is a gustatory, olfactory, tactile, and visual experience, whether of food or wine, or cannabis. And the auditory element involves the discussion of the experiences of the senses. The pathway to connoisseurship is through the understanding of cannabis cultivars and chemovars, and in recognizing the importance of terpenes in defining the actual experience the consumer enjoys.

Just as much of the enjoyment of food or wine is derived from their aromas and flavors, terpenes and other volatile organic compounds produced in nature, do the same for cannabis.

Here the knowledge and tools to heighten and refine our enjoyment of cannabis are presented in a graceful writing style which makes the most detailed explanations of the endocannabinoid system or the importance of terpenes easy to understand.  Holland is careful to use the word cultivar instead of strain, as the latter is used in scientific circles to refer to microscopic organisms such as viruses. 

The book will help move the reader beyond the Indica/Sativa dichotomy, knowing that the size and shape of leaf and plant do not provide much useful information about its potential effects.

When someone requests an Indica or Sativa, what they are really communicating is their desire for a relaxing sedative experience or a stimulating uplifting experience. Indeed, couch lock is not the result of Indica or Sativa, but most likely a combination of myrcene and linalool, two of the major terpenes, which can present in any number of different cultivars, Indica, Sativa or Hybrid.

Many people tend to make their purchase choice based on the THC number, thinking the higher the percentage the bigger the bang for their buck.

Significantly, in my experience as a judge for the Emerald Cup, it is never the entry with the highest THC percentage that wins, rather it is the one with the most interesting, unique, and powerful fragrance that wins.

Cannabinoids have no smell—terpenes win the Cup.

And that’s how it should be, because terpenes, which produce the smell and taste, are the key to the full enjoyment of the magical flower in all its forms. Over 20,000 different terpenes are produced in nature. So far about 40 have been identified in cannabis and eight of the most common or dominant ones are mentioned. 

To make sense of the innumerable combinations of terpenes possible, Holland describes an organizational structure proposed a few years ago by Kevin Jodry at the Golden Tarp Awards.

It is based on four overarching aroma fields: Earthy, Fuely, Fruity, and Floral.

These categories have received some scientific corroboration. In practice, each of the four can be paired with one other, such as fuely/fruity, suggesting the fuely comes first or dominates but the fruity enters after.

Jodry has since added “Sweet” as a paired description, but not a stand-alone category. One could argue for “Sour” as a modifier, as well.

The fact is that a cannabis plant can produce over five hundred compounds, cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, even ketones and esters, so ultimately it is the ratio of all of these compounds which creates the precise effects of ingestion. 

With five hundred players we have an orchestra, not an ensemble, and cannabis creates a symphony in our body, in our feelings and in our spirit. 

To complete her overview of the world of cannabis there are chapters introducing the reader to organic and regenerative farming, breeding, tasting and judging, appellations for cannabis, hemp and CBD, edibles, extracts, concentrates, and food and wine pairings. All in all, Weed is a delightful and informative addition to any cannabis library.

Weed, A Connoisseur's Guide to Cannabis Author Ellen Holland
Ellen Holland, author of Weed, A Connoisseur’s Guide to Cannabis
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