When I am initially asked to participate as a judge in The Monsters Cup 2018 (being held in Barcelona during Spannabis week), I am quite confident that, based on the type of Hashish I produce, that I am being asked to judge the Old School Hashish category. Rather, I am asked to judge Rosin. Though I am more than satisfied to take endless dabs of tasty flower and hash rosin, I really long to taste some of the old school creations. Imagine my surprise when after the awards presentation of the competition has ended, as I am standing at the door of the rapidly emptying venue, a handsome, young man introduces himself to me as Richie (IG: @richie_method_). He is practically glowing and I quickly learn that with his Gingerbread Hashish, he has just taken first place in the Old School Hashish category of the competition. I glance down at his hands and he is lovingly fingering a flat piece of shiny resin. When I explain that I would be interested in writing about his Hashish, he hands me the resin as a gift. We arrange to meet in a few days when he can secure an interpreter.
I initially arrange to meet him a few days later at HQ Barcelona, but opt for a quieter, but no less charming, social club called WeedYou BCN. We approach the club by foot from separate directions and meet up right as we are about to walk into the club. He flashes a grin, waves and holds open the door for me. His affable smile is charming and his eyes twinkle with anticipation. Stepping into the darkened interior of the club, the first to notice us is the club’s owner Emilio, who immediately sets about to prepare a comfortable space for us to do our interview. Staring at the bright, modern paintings and artwork that cover the weathered stone walls, I remove my long sweater and scarf and settle into one of the plush turquoise leather sofas. Remembering my love of dabbing, Emilio offers a dab rig connected to an electronic nail. Richie assures me that the Hashish is full melt and I am eager to see whether the bubble is worth the trouble.
Earlier in the day I had taken a few puffs with a regular pipe and as the flame had neared the mass of Hashish that I had expertly stuck on the rim of the bowl, the surface of the Hashish had transformed into a writhing mass of heated resin. I adjust the temperature of the e-nail down to 290° C because fine quality Hashish does not need to be overly heated in order to release the magic within the trichome heads. Rather, a low temperature dab is ideal to allow the flavor to blossom in one’s mouth and lungs. Taking a small scoop of the sticky material, I flick my wrist and the mass lands on the heated quartz. As soon as the resin lands in the bowl, it begins to dance furiously. I watch, entranced by the jig of the consciousness-shifting Hashish, as the blue trails of smoke are sucked from the banger, through the rig and into my rapidly expanding lungs. I breathe out fully and smoke pours out; tasting distinctly of pine. I am not surprised at the thickness of my exhaled smoke. When I smoke good Hashish, I feel it filling every crevice of my body, altering it slightly, before bellowing outward with the force of a tempest. This time is no different. The Hashish becomes one with me. As Emilio sits contentedly beside me, Richie beams with pride as I extol the virtues of his product. He responds to my praise with a grateful smile and then, through his interpreter Uri, he opens up about his journey up to this point.
Richie has been involved with growing cannabis since he was a teenager in Italy; following in the footsteps of his family members. Unfortunately, the illegality of cannabis in Italy limits the availability of good product, especially Hashish. In an effort to secure plentiful quality Hashish for his family, he began making it himself. Traveling to Morocco often, he was exposed to large scale guerilla farm growing with plants numbering in the thousands and the Gingerbread Hashish was processed from plants grown in Morocco from feminized seeds. A dynamic cross between Mileys Cookie 63 x Mandarina, the Gingerbread is known for its sweet and dank smoke. Using dried and cured plants, Richie performed the typical Moroccan method of beating the material to shake off the trichomes, but his process had another twist. He tells me that usually, “00,” aka double zero Hashish is achieved after furiously beating plants over one screen for 1 hour. On the contrary, over the course of just 10 minutes, and merely tapping lightly, he used a combination of two meshes to separate contaminating plant matter from the fine, first quality of Hashish that he desired. Those precious heads were then cleaned using standard dry sift screens, carding, and static tech. Initially presenting as delicate powder, due to heat and the rigors of transportation, the sift contracted within itself, turning from a pale amber to a deep and rich brown. Where oil has escaped from the trichome heads, the surface glistens like glass.
I squeeze off a piece of Hashish and admire its soft tackiness. Malleable and just a bit oily, it rolls between my index and thumb with ease. As I make a mini templeball with one hand, I lift the larger mass to my nose. Wrapped in a worn piece of parchment paper, the hashish is hardly properly stored, but its lack of appropriate casing detracts in no way. Peering closely at the Hashish, I see the individual heads that have not fully fused. Bringing the Hashish to my nose, I realize that its intense, chocolate color is matched by a rich aroma of freshly baked cookies and sweet citrus. I roll more of the resin into my hands, making a larger, shiny templeball that sits heavily in my hand tempting me. As I play with the resin in my hand, Emilio mentions something about a traditional smoke and the chillum.
Yes! The original way! Using a chillum pipe is the oldest way cannabis has been smoked. Consisting of a pipe and a “stone” on which to rest the smoking material, the chillum pipe is simplicity at its finest.
Richie taps his chillum to reveal the stone. After several attempts, he gives it one hard whack and it comes out, but in two pieces. My face falls and Emilio watches in shock. A few moments later, he shakes off his surprise and presents us with another chillum. It is a simple-yet-exquisite piece from an Italian designer, Daniele. Made of smooth clay, the chillum is painted black with bluish green accents. We begin the process of “making the chillum”. When I visit Europe, a big turn off is the practice of mixing tobacco with Hashish. I understand that this is tradition, but for me it is absolutely gross. However, this time in Barcelona, I have learned that in effort to rid tobacco of most of the impurities and chemicals with which has been laced, many people have turned to a Nicopal machine. When people do not have that, they turn to the low tech practice of toasting the tobacco. Taking a cigarette in one hand, a lighter is run up and down the length of the stick until the formerly white paper is marred with licks of black and brown. Richie spills the shredded leaves into a little bowl and begins to pick off small pieces of Hashish which he mixes slowly with the tobacco. I do not know the ratio of tobacco to Hashish, but I hope it is heavy on the Hashish. He scoops the mixture and, using his thumb, tamps it down into the mouth of the chillum. Positioning his hands to create a tight vacuum, he nods to Uri who stands and fidgets with a lighter. He lights the chillum and Richie takes his first tentative puffs. After a few seconds, smoke rolls out of his mouth. He passes the chillum pipe to Uri who closes his eye, says, “Boom,” and then begins to pull on the chillum. The soft utterance is out of respect to Shiva and to alert others to join in on the chillum smoking. Uri passes it to me and I smile. I have no intention to begin smoking tobacco in earnest, so without anxiety, I allow myself the flexibility of fully embracing something new. I am rewarded with an intense rush that makes me sway drunkenly as if being slowly wound up around a spool. I can feel my brain being stimulated and I imagine different corners of my mind lighting up brightly like the street lamps that give Barcelona a false sense of day even in the dead of night. Will this experience be illuminating like that? Taking a few puffs, I pass the still smoking chillum to Richie. I am not smiling. I am grinning as I feel my body being overtaken by the sweet smoke. I partially close my eyes and imagine I am body surfing in trichomes. The tobacco has an unfamiliar effect on me; both magnifying and diminishing my sense of inhabiting my body. At once I feel like I have filled my skin to capacity and also I have become a pinpoint of consciousness: observing myself in a slightly detached and dissociated way. It is at this moment that I decide that I will mainly smoke bubble that doesn’t full melt on the banger in this particular fashion. I feel connected to the hundreds of thousands of people before me who have enjoyed cannabis and Hashish in the exact same manner. I like the fact that lighting a chillum on one’s own is particularly hard; making the session a necessarily communal experience. Round and round the chillum goes and Richie continues to tell me more about his love of growing and his passion for Hashish. It is his passion that prevents him from dedicating his time to growing as he would like. His frequent stays in Morocco are to add to his growing knowledge of producing the finest sift. He loves bubblehash as well, but must put it to the side until he can ensure that his plants would be cared for in such a manner that the best bubble possible could be produced. He is young and his lust for life is contagious. I find myself laughing gustily at his jokes that I more or less understand through context and mannerisms. Our time together is supremely joyous and carefree. With promises to keep in touch, they leave and I gather my things.
The chillum session has been heady, and after a glass of water to ease my light headedness, I am ready for a change in my surroundings. I assure Emilio that I will return for an intimate jam session later before I jump in a cab and head over to the Hash Marihuana & Hemp Museum. If there is anywhere in the city that can speak to traditional methods of consuming and making Hashish, the museum is it. Housed since 2012 in the Palau Mornau, the Hemp and Hashish Museum is a comprehensive repository of thousands of years of cannabis history that archives cannabis and hemp artifacts from around the world. Through photographs, drawings, crafts and fine art, the collection reveals the deep and intertwined history of humankind and the cannabis plant. I begin my journey through time walking up a flight of marble stairs draped in green carpet imprinted with gold cannabis leaves. Looking up at the recently restored Modernist architecture, I think of how fitting it is that the beauty of cannabis is represented in such a gorgeous building: elaborately decorated in floral reliefs and carvings of unrestricted and unencumbered embellishment. I close my eyes and recall the thick rolls of smoke surfing down my throat; the smoke is growing and surging like an ocean before retreating like the tide once I exhale. I feel the tendrils of smoke delighting every part of my brain. The museum is beautiful, and I feel I truly see the magnificence as the details of the meticulous design seem to pop at every glance.
Walking the circuitous path through all of the museum’s rooms, I revel in the displays of cannabis use. There is a room which shows the propaganda that has fueled the War on Drugs. Some of the advertisements and brochures are so ridiculous; I wonder how anyone believed them. Then again, some of these same arguments about impending psychosis and murderous rages are still floated about today; and we have years of research to disprove it. I am happy to see that the majority of the museum is steeped in positivity and love. The ornate architecture catches my eyes from time to time and I stand with my mouth hanging open slightly; drinking it all in. After about an hour, it is time to go back.
I return to WeedYou excited to hear some good music. Getting ready to play are a few members of the Original Wailers. The crowd is thick as the smoke that barely parts as I make my way to my seated friends. The energy is high and the vibe is good and steady. The show begins and I feel myself getting back into the groove of the club. I look around to roll a joint, and spot the chillum right where I had left it.
Oh yes, this will be good.
As one of the original Wailers pays tribute to Peter Tosh with his soulful rendition of “Legalize It,” I take a deep inhale of the chillum that has been passed to me. Sucking eagerly at the hole between my thumb and my index finger, I coax the smoke into my lungs; taking large gulps of new perspectives. The Gingerbread now reminds me of clementines and oats. The smoke is sweet, barely acrid, and a pleasure to taste. I pass along the chillum and begin to dance in my seat. I feel free and happy. The room throbs and the bass guitarist keeps our bodies pulsing in time with the music. Our heads bob along with the rhythm. We seem to be of one movement and one sound as the tantalizing melodies dance between the swirls of smoke unwilling to dissipate. We are not in the vibe: we are the vibe.
Times change but honoring the traditions of craftsmanship and attention to detail never go out of style. At times, old school Hashish has been derided as being of the past; that the flavor is just not there. Newer techniques of trichome collection and extraction have dazzled those eager for the next, new experience. However, the old ways have never lost their significance, nor their dedicated followers. Gingerbread Hashish, prepared using traditional Moroccan methodologies, can stand up to modern day scrutiny proving that well-made Hashish can always withstand the test of time.
Bred by Trichome Jungle Seeds, Grown and processed by Dr. Ladybug
Words by The Dank Duchess
Originally published in Weed World Magazine Issue 134