Welcome to backstage at the red bench. Let’s talk about our review process…
Cannabis reviews are, by nature, very subjective. While a number of verifiable facts like THC content, weight and price are available, most of the smoking experience is individualized by the person doing the review. For instance, we all smell things similarly, but we perceive those smells differently. The smell that triggers a memory of Lemon Lysol in me may be interpreted completely different by someone else.
The Review Begins
The first thing I look at is the jar presentation. In California we have come a long way since the days of picking up an eighth of herb in a plastic baggie from your dealer. The brands we review tend to have a professional packaging job with lab testing results printed on the jar. I love herb packaged in glass jars, but tend to disfavor brands that package in flavor-seal zip lock bags. Presentation is a big part of herb buying experience and I know I lean towards brands that put attention to packaging… it makes me think they’re paying attention to the whole process.
After I open the jar it’s all about the look, feel and smell. The nose is one of my best cannabis reviewing tools. I usually inhale from the jar several times, as different smells will hit me each time. This is usually the beginning of the process of getting high. The smell helps prepare the mind and body for what’s coming next. At this point I usually pause to take photos of the nugs and weigh the jar’s contents.
As I examine the nugs I’m mainly interested in how well the herb was cured and trimmed. Is it leafy or well-trimmed? I cut up the nugs with trimming scissors so I can feel the blade against the bud – is it dry and crumbly or do the buds give a little when you cut them? What is the moisture level? This will affect the quality of the smoke. Too wet and the herb will scorch your throat and too dry will mean the nugs aren’t very fresh and the smoking experience is going to be harsh with very little of the flavor you’re expecting. Not the experience I’m looking for…
After I cut up a nug comes the heart of the review, and truly the most subjective part of the review– the bong rips! I use clean glass for every review. I want to experience the full taste of the herb so I light the bong with hemp wick. Butane alters the taste of cannabis and is rather poisonous. Hemp wick is hemp string covered in beeswax. It’s very healthy, as smoking goes.
During my first bong rip I’m experiencing the taste as my number one priority. The flavor of the herb is another factor that’s going to affect my high. Good quality herb will have a pronounced flavor, usually a combination of flavors, that helps put my mind on the road to a place called High. About the time the flavor is registering in my mind the THC – and numerous other cannabinoids – have hit the bloodstream are rushing towards my brain and spreading throughout my body. My first thought – is this hitting me immediately or is it going to creep up on me?
By the second bong rip I usually know if this is a creeper or not. Even with my high tolerance two hits of great herb will set me back in my heels…
The Break – Back In Ten Minutes
By this time I’m ready to take a break for about ten minutes to let the effects fully manifest themselves. I sit at the bench and make notes about the experience in real time. I have a form I created that helps me turn all the data points into useful information and grade each herb. (Download a PDF of the form.)
I grade the herb on a scale of 1-5 with 5 being the Holy Grail of herb. Nobody gets a 5 rating unless it’s the most amazing herb I’ve ever smoked. If I give an herb a 4 rating you know I think that’s some outstanding cannabis.
After ten minutes filming usually begins again. Now is the moment to let my mind go and spontaneously respond to how the herb is making me feel at that moment. This is very subjective. Some effects are generalized like “relaxing”, “creative”, “motivating”, but I’m looking for even better words to explain the smoking experience I’ve just had – it’s relaxing in that way where I just want to sit and think or it’s motivating me to get up from the bench and get stuff done.
I like to give myself 3-5 minutes to explain the effects. I tend to ramble a bunch (because I’m stoned!) but we can always fix things in the edit. Tania usually throws a few questions at me, and then we film my response. The method is working pretty well so far.
Wrapping It Up
After that it’s wrap-up time and then the filming part is done. Next comes the editing where my raw responses are turned into a coherent video… and then comes about a thousand and one steps before the review is ready for public consumption including building a web page for the review, editing the transcript, uploading to YouTube, getting links, etc.
Of course, the reason we’re doing this is because we’re having fun going though the process every week to create a new video. If you’ve enjoyed our videos please consider subscribing to our YouTube channel. That would help us immensely.
That’s the latest from the backstage, we hope you’ve enjoyed this glimpse into our reviewing process. Below you’ll find a link to download a PDF of our review form. Feel free to use it to help yourself judge the herb you’re smoking.
Until later, best of health.
DOWNLOAD: Red Bench Reviews Cannabis Review Form