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Cannabis flavor profiles

A world of possibility in aroma and palate

We all know somebody that insists that all strains taste and smell the same. Maybe that somebody is you. 

The truth is, all of us are that person. Until we come across flower that changes our minds, that is.

Cannabis is an amazing shapeshifter. Its natural ability to imitate familiar flavors is uncanny, but it requires skilled cultivation to maximize this potential. 

Fortunately, our vendors have the know-how to rise to that challenge.

To give you an idea of what’s out there and what terms you can use to communicate your preferences, we borrowed these Flavor/Scent categories from this Cannabis Cup Judging Sheet. So this isn’t just, like…. our opinion, man.


A lot of the conversation surrounding cannabis flavor profiles is centered on terpenes, aromatic compounds present in cannabis and other naturally occurring substances. You’ll notice very little talk of terpenes in this article. This is intentional. 

In our experience, information about specific terpenes doesn’t translate into a shopping setting in a way that’s helpful or beneficial.  Some of our vendors test for terpene content, but accurately interpreting these tests to determine a flavor profile is challenging at best.  

Don’t over-complicate your shopping trip! Use words that are already in your vocabulary.  “A flowery strain” says a lot more about what you’re really looking for than “a strain that’s high in linalool.”



Strains that smell or taste sweet are in high demand- who wouldn’t wanna wash their high down with the flavor of candy? 

Fortunately, sweet strains are also fairly commonplace. Any budtender worth their salt should be able to make heaps of suggestions if a sweet strain is what you’re after.  But because “sweet” is such a broad term, be prepared to be more specific or pick from a broad range in flavor profiles: sweet-sour, sweet-flowery, sweet-fruity, sweet-dairy….you get the picture.  

Strains that capture the essence of this flavor profile



Strains with tart flavor and aroma almost always feature other flavors and aromas- citrus, dairy, and gas are the most common. 

Most people tend to think of Sour Diesel when they hear about sour strains. But Sour Diesel is just one of many varieties that sit on the pucker-y end of the spectrum. Tropicanna Cookies, Zkittlez, and Kushlato could also be considered sour, but they each present with very different flavor profiles. 

Because of this, it’s best to use sour to describe what you’re looking for when it’s paired with another flavor. Asking for something “Sour” with no other criteria could lead you in a lot of different directions.

Strains that capture the essence of this flavor profile



“Spicy” can either refer to a peppery quality, or it can mean spicy in a spice cake sense of the word. 

It’s not every day we get requests for this kind of strain. But when we do, it’s usually someone looking to quit smoking cigarettes. 

These types of strains, particularly the peppery-spicy ones, taste the most similar to tobacco, making them a good option for those who wish to supplement their tobacco use with cannabis. 

Strains that capture the essence of this flavor profile



Of all these flavor profiles, this is one we can honestly say we’ve never heard anyone request. 

Bitterness isn’t usually a desirable trait in cannabis. It can signify heavy pesticide usage, or improper nutrient-flushing techniques, neither of which are things you want. 

However, some strains can take on a profile similar to bitters, the botanical-infused spirit. These strains have a smell and flavor reminiscent of citrus rind or aromatic bark. 

While they’re somewhat hard to come by, we usually have a couple of bitter picks at any given moment. Try Blueberry Margarita by Saints or Purple Lime X Tropical Sherbet by Kindness Cannabis if your interest is piqued.  

Strains that capture the essence of this flavor profile



This is one that confuses a lot of people. Does a strain being gassy mean it’ll smell and taste like petroleum? Exhaust fumes? A kerosene lantern? 

To be fair, it’s not the most specific terminology. When we’re talking about “gassy” flavor profiles in cannabis, we mean it in the same way ammonia is gassy. This isn’t even in reference to the smell or flavor so much as it is the sensation of smelling and smoking it. 

When you smell a gassy strain, it tickles your nostrils in the same way breathing in ammonia does. Taking a giant whiff of it might actually make you sneeze. 

As strange as this sounds, gassy strains are among the most highly requested. For many, the full, robust feeling of smoking these varieties makes their cannabis experience more intense and satisfying. 

Strains that capture the essence of this flavor profile



This is a fun one, but at face value, it seems like a pretty generic term. What fruit are we talking about here? 

To find out, we can look to the molecular structure of cannabis.

 A lot of the same compounds that give certain varieties of fruit their flavor are also present in cannabis in the form of terpenes. So when a strain presents as fruity, it can go in a few different directions. 

Some strains taste like mango, because Myrcene, the most common terpene, is also present in mango. There are strains that taste like blueberry, pineapple, blackberries, and cherries for the same reason: they share the same chemical elements as the fruits they taste like. 

That’s why we’re quick to correct anyone that says recognizable flavor in cannabis is “artificial”. It’s actually the most natural form of flavoring possible. 

Strains that capture the essence of this flavor profile



Cannabis can smell flowery for the same reason it can spell like specific fruits: terpene similarity. 

Although the flavor and aroma likeness in these varieties is on the subtle side compared to their fruity counterparts, the likeness is still there, and you’d be shocked at how specific they can be. 

Take Creme Rose by Canna Organix, for instance: this lovely hybrid immediately brings to mind rosewater Turkish delight. 

There’s Lavender, an indica-leaning paramour from Saints Joints that rivals actual lavender in its soothing nature. 

And if the smell of honeysuckle on the breeze makes you homesick, well, don’t smoke Golden Ticket by Gold Leaf. It’ll have you running back. 

Strains that capture the essence of this flavor profile



You might be thinking, “Wait, wouldn’t that fall under fruity?” We know, we know, citrus fruits are fruits. But in the world of weed, a whole different terpene is responsible for this flavor profile, so it deserves its own section. 

That terpene is called Limonene, commonly associated with energizing strains. However, in a contemporary context, this association falls flat. With the amount of crossbreeding that’s been done, any strain, regardless of its effects, can be citrusy. 

And while Limonene is present in high amounts in citrus fruits, it’s also in rosemary, peppermint, and juniper. 

The wide variation in citrusy strains reflects this terpene’s multifaceted nature. Some citrus strains can present as sweet and fruity: Lemonato by Tranquil Forest, for example. But others can mimic the flavor of herbal tea with lemon. Fifty Fold’s Trainwreck would fall into this “herbal citrus” subcategory. 

Strains that capture the essence of this flavor profile



“Weed can taste like dairy?”

It sure can! And for all you plant based folks, don’t be alarmed: unlike the last few groups, this flavor profile doesn’t share much chemical similarity to the thing it’s supposed to taste like. 

Cannabis in this classification has a smooth, creamy flavor and a rich, buttery fragrance. It can simulate the flavor and aroma of a velvety panna cotta, like Sunset Dosi by Kindness Cannabis. Or it can favor strawberry cream cheese, like Raspberry Ice Cream Cake from Gold Leaf Gardens. 

“Cheesy” is commonly used to describe dairy strains, but we find this to be a bit of a misnomer. Most people hear “cheesy” and think of Cheddar or Bleu cheese, and neither of those are really the flavor being described here. Think: brie, cheesecake, or kunefe.  

Strains that capture the essence of this flavor profile



The nutty cannabis flavor and aroma profile is similar to the dairy flavor profile, with a few distinctions. 

Although it has a creamy, rich scent like the dairy flavor profile, there’s less linger. When you take a big whiff of a nutty strain, instead of the aroma wafting gently and gradually through your nostrils, its presence is more pronounced and sudden. 

Nutty strains also lean more to the gassy side, while dairy strains are often fruity and sweet.  

Some of the most popular strains on the market epitomize this flavor profile. Dosidos is a prime example of a nutty strain. MAC by Gold Leaf Gardens is also highly sought after; its toasty, supple flavor profile is emblematic of this category. 

Strains that capture the essence of this flavor profile



A “vegetal” strain will have a flavor or aroma similar to grass or legumes. This is one of the few flavor profiles to be considered undesirable, across the board. 

But….if weed is also called “grass”, why would it be a bad thing for flower to taste like it? 

Most flower has hints of vegetal flavor- it is, after all, a plant. As flower cures, however,  it loses this vegetal bouquet, and its other fragrant notes become more pronounced.

Overwhelming or dominant vegetal flavor is a sign that mistakes were made during the cultivation process.  If flower tastes like lawn trimmings or smells like your hands after you pick up a bug, it means it wasn’t cured for long enough.



Sharpness is another less-than-desirable attribute, although there’s no specific smell or aroma associated with it. When flower is described as “sharp”, it means its scents and flavors are poorly balanced. 

In our experience, citrus strains and spicy strains are the most susceptible to sharpness. A lot of strains that smell and taste like orange can have a cloying, overpowering citrusy flavor if they’re not cultivated correctly. Peppery notes, which are harsh and unpleasant in excess, are another common culprit. Some folks have sworn off orange and/or peppery strains altogether because of this tendency.

If you’re one of those folks, we have some good news: you don’t need to rule out any strain that’s orange or peppery. 

Just like a good perfumer would never take one single scent and call it a fragrance, a good cultivator works to make sure their flower has depth and balance in its smells and flavors. Strains lose their nuance when the process is rushed or done inattentively.

Our advice? If you’re purchasing a strain that’s known for tasting like orange, or pepper, or lemon, or pine, or any other flavor you may not enjoy in excess, understand that weed is no different than perfume, or any other consumer product: you get exactly what you pay for. 

You’re not going to get Tom Ford-level attention to detail at a Bath and Body Works price point. Opting for flower from experienced growers with a medical cannabis background is a much more effective way to avoid overpowering flavor than avoiding certain flavors altogether.  



“Warm” doesn’t refer to a particular flavor; like “sharp”, it’s more of a feeling. But unlike “sharp”, this one’s pretty self explanatory. Strains can be described as warm if smoking and smelling them feels…..wait for it…..warm.

Imagine walking into a steam room and taking a deep breath, or smelling a cup of hot cocoa. That sensation you’re thinking of is what we mean here: in cannabis, warmth refers to a humid, full-bodied, encapsulating quality. 

Warmth isn’t really attributed to any particular strain so much as it is particular cultivators and even particular harvests. It’s typically observed when flower is at its peak freshness. 

While we’d love to give you a few examples, there’s no strain we can promise will be warm 100% of the time. If you want to experience this for yourself, your best bet is to ask your trusty budtender for current suggestions. 



The most recent addition to the 5 basic flavors humans can taste, Umami refers to savory flavor, like that of mushrooms, broths, and cooked meats.

At face value, applying this to cannabis seems like a stretch. 

But dig a little deeper, and you’ll find out it really isn’t. 

In traditional Thai cuisine, ground cannabis leaves are a widely-accepted substitute for monosodium glutamate, or MSG. If you can replace MSG, a hallmark of Umami flavor, with cannabis, then logic follows that cannabis can be classified as Umami. 

GMO is the most obvious example; its garlicky, meaty flavor profile is about as Umami as cannabis could be. Any strain descended from GMO, especially the “burger” strains (Jelly Burger, Donny Burger, etc.) should have savory qualities, as well.

Strains that capture the essence of this flavor profile



Most people know this profile already, but under a different name: “earthy”. 

Terroir strains have a soil-like flavor and scent, like that of wet dirt after it rains. Like the term “vegetal”, the term terroir can be used to denote lower-grade product if earthiness is present in excess. But more often than not, it’s a positive attribute.

For instance, Blackberry Kush by Washington Bud Company is earthy, but in a way that complements its other flavor and aroma components. There’s a big difference between this kind of earthiness, and weed that tastes like straight up dirt. 

Simply put, Terroir is at its best when it’s paired with another dominant flavor, not when it *is* the dominant flavor. 

Strains that capture the essence of this flavor profile


Feeling inspired to do some strain tasting?

We can’t wait to help you! 

Stop by any Lux location today, and we’ll point you in the right direction. 

Veronica White

Veronica White

Writer. Cannabis extraordinaire. Master mushroom forager. Reality TV connoisseur.