Crafting cannabis oil flavors is not an easy task. Caliva’s oil manufacturing and white labeling capabilities include custom formulations. Our formulations team is headed by Nelson Ricardo; part scientist, part chef/sommelier. Working alongside our Director of Research Maya Kochman, the two combine artisan flavor testing with data-driven decision making. We took a moment to chat with Nelson about all things formulations, flavors, and cannabis oil.
Cannabis Wholesale News (CWN): When companies come to Caliva, how do you start the process of custom formulations?
Nelson Ricardo (NR): For strain specific formulations we first run a terpene and cannabinoid test in our in-house laboratory so we can see what compounds are present in a specific strain. This tells us the ingredients that we need to use to replicate the same aromas and taste in our final product. We can also reproduce formulations that a customer has already developed following ratios, enhance it or make it better on request. The idea is to interpret the request of a customer and convert them into aromas, flavors and effects. To be able to do that we have and amazing library of compounds like terpenes, distillate oils, live resins, etc that allow us to create those custom formulations.
CWN: What is most important for people to think about when trying to create unique vape formulations?
NR: Sourcing quality materials that are safe, compliant, pesticide and solvent free is the first step. Then it’s all about how creative you want to get as there are many routes; you could want to create flavors that are fun like Pina Colada, Mango, Bubblegum, or you can try and mimic the specific aromas found in the cannabis plant and try to recreate those same smells and taste profiles. Its a matter of having a cannabis flower next to you while you smell other elements that have similar aromas like terpenes and essential oils and you build your layers of flavors until they match.
CWN: Are there flavors that people may think are good for cannabis oil, but are not?
NR: Not necessarily. We all have a different palate, and the same way cannabis has different effects in each one of us. it all depends on what you like or not. That’s why we always put together focus groups to gather data on how those flavors are received within a diverse crowd and based on that we can make accurate decisions for product development.
CWN: How do you achieve consistency when mass producing a formulation?
NR: By sourcing the same quality ingredients for every batch and having data and tracking of all formulation ratios in a precise and organized way.
CWN: What kinds of things do you do to develop your palate?
NR: The more you try the more you know, I like to see cannabis tasting the same as wine and beer tasting. Focusing on the aromas to find complexity and depth. You can get out there and start smelling flowers, herbs, fruits, etc. A good way to do this is when you go grocery shopping or to the farmers market and you get to experience all these fresh aromas from nature and build up your palate and nose memory same as muscle memory.
CWN: How has your palate changed over the years?
Thanks to being able to work directly with many cannabis strains, analyzing, tasting and smelling your palate tend to get faster at identifying and recognizing them, it makes you have a stronger base to say for example, “That doesn’t smell/taste like Black Jack.” Also, you get more critical trying to replicate those specific aromas that your nose has been trained to feel after time and experience this is great because it’s the main tool to resolve the puzzle that is matching the cannabis smell in an oil formulation.
Any flavors that are under the radar you see getting more popular this year?
I think flavors and aromas go with the seasons. Its natural to be drawn to a cool lemonade or citrus in the summer and then go to aromas like cinnamon or ginger during the winter. I also notice a trend of more herbal like flavors like sage and rosemary as well as exotic tropical fruits like passion fruit and guava.