Gold Drops is a highly regarded company, having won more than 28 awards in just two years, including industry awards at the High Times Cannabis Cup and HempCon. Much of that attention has been for their potent shatter, but they also offer pre-filled oil cartridges, which just so happened to come highly recommended at my dispensary.
My budtender explained that Gold Drops uses a gentler extraction process than those used for most CO2 hash oils, leaving more of the whole plant medicine intact. Additionally, much like several cartridge brands that seem to be on the rise lately, they “enhance” their oil with added terpenes after extraction. Unlike several of those other terpene enhanced cartridges, my budtender said Gold Drops has been tested and found to be totally free of pesticides and solvents. Hopefully we can move toward a better regulated market where such things won'tbe taken for granted – but, for the moment, this is definitely a strong selling point.
Also, the cartridge itself is composed of only metal and glass, instead of the plastic and rubber cartridges that seem, thankfully, to be falling out of style. I see those less often these days, and I for one definitely won't be missing them. Metal cartridges allow for a more pure taste, as well as avoiding the dubious act of applying heat to plastic.
The oil itself is light, golden, and almost clear, similar to other cartridges brands such as Lola Lola. These golden, clear oils are said to be smoother and easier on the lungs. With about half a dozen Gold Drops cartridge strains available at my dispensary alone, including several of my favorite indicas. I chose Northern Lights, one of my all-time favorite strains thanks to its reliably mellow and calming properties. My cartridge was marked at 75 percent THC. I was interested to see whether the strain’s effects that I know and love would have survived the supposedly gentler extraction process.
So far, I’ve tried a handful of “terpene-enhanced” hash oils, and haven’t been too impressed with any of them when it comes to taste. This cartridge fails to shake that trend, although the taste rates higher than other cartridges that use terpene enhanced oil. It’s not that it doesn’t taste good in its own way, it just doesn’t particularly taste like authentic hash oil -just like other cartridges with added terpenes.
The vapor hits the tongue first with a smooth, lightly perfumey taste, followed by a bubble-gum like sweetness on the aftertaste. It is totally pleasant and enjoyable, but not particularly deep or complex, and almost entirely missing the cannabis taste itself. It resembles the taste of flavored e-liquid used in nicotine based e-cigarettes. I suppose this could be useful if being discreet is a high priority - vaping oil already produces minimal odor, and the vapor from this one doesn’t smell like cannabis at all. While it doesn’t taste as artificial as other terpene enhanced cartridges I’ve tried, it still mostly lacks the distinctive hash taste.
I wanted to dig deeper to find out why this happens. I’d been assuming that companies like Gold Drops are using terpenes from cannabis, hopefully even the specific strain used to make the oil. Optimistically, I figured a Northern Lights cartridge with terpenes added after extraction would use terpenes from actual Northern Lights flower.
Apparently, this is not always the case. As with most cartridge companies, Gold Drops doesn’t offer much specific information on their process, so it’s unclear where the company sources the “natural terpenes” they describe on their website. But my research did produce some other answers about this practice more generally.
On the Ganjapreneur podcast, hash expert Jeff Church, Vice President of Research and Process Development at the Washington extracts company Thinc Pure, explained that there are 3 types of sources from which companies derive terpenes to add to cannabis extracts. Terpenes are not only responsible for the aroma of cannabis, but other plants as well. Some companies will extract natural terpenes straight from plants, such as myrcene from mangos, or linalool from lavender. These plant-based terpenes are one option for companies looking to enhance their hash oil.
Another option is to produce entirely synthetic terpenes in a lab setting, essentially creating customized molecules. Finally, there are cannabis derived terpenes. These are terpenes extracted from specific strains of cannabis. Using these lets producers preserve the entire terpene profile of individual strains. This is the best option for preserving the way a set of terpenes modulates the effect of the THC in a given strain. In other words, synthetic and plant-based approaches will bring a certain taste and aroma, but without the full cannabis terpene profile, they may not offer the “entourage effect” of a given strain’s full terpene fingerprint. Cannabis strains may have the highest proportion of certain common terpenes like myrcene or humulene, but also include a range of smaller amounts of lesser-known terpenes such as eucalyptol or phytol. It is this overall profile which modulates the effect of THC, creating the distinctive effects of each strain. From synthetic or plant-derived terpenes, companies may only add a few primary terpenes like myrcene or pinene.
I don’t know for certain, but from the taste, my instinct says that Gold Drops probably do not use cannabis derived terpenes. They say their oil is enhanced with “natural terpenes” so it seems likely they at least use plant-derived terpenes instead of synthetics. There is nothing wrong with this approach, but what’s needed is a clear line drawn in the sand when it comes to cartridge marketing – something to tell customers whether they can expect a real hash oil taste or more of an e-juice taste when choosing a cartridge, without looking into the fine print to see whether a cartridge is terpene enhanced, and from where the terpenes are sourced. Cartridges enhanced with plant-based or synthetic terpenes may have a place, but it seems like they would cater to a different market than for cartridges with a more natural cannabis taste and a full, strain-specific terpene profile.
When it comes to the effects, however, this cartridge does not disappoint. Calm yet robust, the defining trait is a not-too-sleepy body buzz that begins with a little bit of energy and winds down gradually into pure relaxation. While strong enough to make an impression, the effect of each hit is mellow enough to easily control and calibrate the intensity of your experience. This would be a good choice for novice users.
As you would expect from a Northern Lights product, this is great for pain and tense muscles, as well as stress and moderate insomnia. It also packs a bit of a mood lift, helping you take life less seriously and hopefully putting a smile on your face, so it does seem that the gentler extraction process preserves at least some traits from Northern Lights flower.
For many cannabis users, the quality of the effect vastly outstrips the importance of taste when it comes to choosing a product. If that’s the case for you, Gold Drops Northern Lights cartridge may be a good choice – especially if you like mellow indicas with a potent yet not overwhelming effect. If you appreciate the lack of cannabis odor, this also might be a good choice. However, If you’re looking for the taste of cannabis and want a hash oil that tastes like hash, though, this cartridge may disappoint in that department.