In March of 2020, ABSTRAX, a leader in the study and production of botanically-derived and cannabis-inspired terpenes, made a discovery that has shocked and pleased innovators in the cannabis, vape, and food and beverage industries.
Our team of ABSTRAX scientists cracked “the Gas” code and uncovered the secret behind what is officially responsible for the gassy, dank, and skunky cannabis aroma and flavour that has left flavourists and scientists alike stumped in their efforts to recreate it.
Why “The Gas” Discovery Is a Major Find
From a fundamental perspective, identifying the compounds contributing to the Gas is one of the “Holy Grails” of cannabis chemistry research, especially regarding its aroma properties. Cannabis consumers regularly use the aroma of a product to help them select which one to purchase. As the gassy aroma is often associated with high-quality products, having this aroma has economic implications as well. Being able to identify and quantify the compounds leading to this aroma could help cultivators differentiate themselves as well as help educate consumers.
Identifying the Gas also has implications in the cannabis extraction industry. Until now, botanically derived terpene blends have been missing this quintessential cannabis aroma that is so desired. Our identification of the Gas now allows us to include it into blends.
Thanks to ABSTRAX, and its key partner on this project, this is now possible.
How “The Gas” Was Discovered
ABSTRAX partnered with Josh Del Rosso from Josh D Farms, the iconic cultivator responsible for popularizing OG cultivars and developing some of the best original genetics in the industry, and together they sought to discover the elusive aroma that is essential to the powerful cannabis experience.
The research took place at ABSTRAX’S Type 7 licensed research and manufacturing lab where PhD chemists leveraged state-of-the-art extraction processes and the most advanced cannabis chemical analysis technology available on the market today. The groundbreaking technology relies on multi-dimensional gas chromatography, which allows for a plethora of compounds (terpenes) within a plant or extract to be studied and named.
With this enhanced separatory technique, researchers at ABSTRAX identified the compounds responsible for the gassy aroma in cannabis by conducting a rigorous series of experiments. Different cultivars possessing a wide range of aromas, including some with very high Gas aroma and some with little-to-none, were curated and analyzed to establish trends in the aroma compounds. Those found to be unique to cultivars with moderate-to-high gassy aromas were then taken and experimented with individually in terpene blends to determine which ones contributed to the gassy aroma.
To further confirm that the compounds contributing to the Gas were correctly identified, time dependent experiments were conducted to monitor the change in aroma and then correlate to the change in concentration of the compounds of interest. As time went on, the gassy aroma decreased: this change was directly related to a decrease in the concentrations of the suspected compounds. This data, along with the aromas of the experimental terpene blends containing these compounds, unequivocally confirmed the chemical identity of the Gas in cannabis.
After confirming the chemical composition of the gassy aroma, we developed a metric we call the “Gas Factor” to easily quantify how gassy a specific cultivar is. This allows us, for the first time, to directly compare the “gassiness” of cultivars in a completely unbiased manner.
What This Means for the Future
The discovery of the Gas in cannabis may have much larger implications beyond use in flavour and fragrance applications. Understanding the chemistry of the Gas gives us the tools to possibly engineer the cannabis plant to express this aroma in higher (or lower) quantities.
Lastly, these results provide the framework for botanists, plant biologists, and microbiologists to start uncovering why certain cannabis cultivars produce these compounds while others do not, as well as the biological pathways that lead to these secondary metabolites. These experiments will further help our understanding of this complex plant and the origins of the Gas.
Dr. Iain Oswald is lead research scientist at ABSTRAX.