A conversation between Thrive Cannabis and Highland Dispensary about the differences between Live Resin and Distilitates, and How to Choose the Quality Products.

Since we opened up our shop in 2020 in Kitchener, our goal has always been to educate our clientele on the robust, quality products in our shop. A lot of our products are sourced locally and curated through the ever-expanding network of master growers and community of cannabis enthusiasts in Ontario and beyond. As our community continues to grow, it only feels natural to highlight some of the products in our shop. 

We’ve been lucky to carry products from our friends at Thrive Cannabis. Thrive Cannabis is a Canadian Licensed producer specializing in premium quality, small-batch, craft cannabis concentrates, and flower products. In its current rotation, Thrive markets its products under two brands, Being Cannabis, which features a THC and CBD sublingual Oral Strip, and The Greybeard Cannabis Co. which highlights Premium Live Resin concentrates vape cartridges & Flower. 

At our shop, we get a lot of questions about Live Resin cartridges, and how those differ from distillates. We thought it would only be reasonable to ask the experts what Live Resin is all about, and what makes them so special. 

Our team had the opportunity to talk to Mat Pridham, VP of Concentrates and Innovation, and Bubba Nicholson, VP of Ethos at Thrive Cannabis about the differences between Live Resin and Distillate and why distillate is referred to as hot dog water. Let’s get right into the science behind it all. 

What is Full Spectrum vs. True Spectrum?

Full-spectrum typically refers to a product that embodies all the wonderful things the Cannabis plant has to offer. This includes all of the Cannabinoids, Terpenes, Esters & Alkyls that work together to bring out the true efficacy of the plant. Pre-legalization, there was an understanding by cannabis producers that the cannabis plant carried complex compounds other than THC and CBD, like terpenes, CBG and CBN, that could be used and would produce more dynamic products. After legalization, with the increase of new producers, Nicholson tells me that the conversation began to move from full-spectrum, to distillates. This shift changed the meaning of what full spectrum means, and distillates cannot be full-spectrum due to the volatile nature of terpenes. 

What Greybeard produces is what Nicholson refers to as True Spectrum. Nicholson hopes to move the conversation away from full-spectrum and towards a more honest representation of the plant. As he shares, “[True Spectrum] is the truest representation of those plants out in that field or indoor…We try to deliver all the things you want from a plant with none of the stuff you don’t. So the fats, the lipids, the waxes, the chlorophylls, we’re able to get rid of those while still delivering the cannabinoids, terpenes, esters and alkyls that the plant provides. That’s why we refer to it as true spectrum.” 

What is Hot Dog Water?

In the cannabis community, hot dog water refers to the distillate. In most cases, distillates use the less desirable part of the plant, including trim and leaf, or essentially the remainders of the cutting room floor. This output of creating concentrates is cheaper, but the quality takes a big hit. During the solvent (ethanol, or CO2 extraction process) all of the desired parts of the plant, which includes the terpenes and minor cannabinoids, are burned off due to the harshness of the process. Ethanol is an aggressive solvent that boils at a temperature much higher than that of hydrocarbons and the result of the extractions leave you with a product lacking all of those coveted terpenes, minors, and other beneficial compounds. Think of it like juice—there are natural, organic juices that are freshly squeezed, and then you have juices that are mostly water with flavouring added afterward to make it taste like juice, but it isn’t really juice. Essentially, that’s what distillates are. 

Mat Pridham explains, “in the process of making distillate—because it requires so much heat—you’re destroying all of the original terpenes. There’s no way to keep those in the process. Even if you started with really excellent material. You’ve boiled everything down to this incredibly generic THC slurry. All of the terpenes had to come off first.”

How Is Live Resin Made? 

Live Resin is made with a  hydrocarbon extraction process. Understanding this method can get a little scientific. “Typically speaking, Live Resin producers don’t look to use the ends that go into hot dog water.” Pridham says, adding, “We’re Always trying to produce something that contains all of those things you want and none of the contaminants and the undesirables you don’t.” Their hydrocarbon process uses propane and butane which has a boiling point of -37°C.  The process does not involve needing to go over 0 degrees to extract the desired compounds of the plant, leaving more terpenes intact and producing an extract that is incredibly flavourful.

Which Option Has More Terpenes? Distillates or Live Resin? 

Live Resin is the better option if you’re looking for a more holistic representation of the cannabis plant. Live Resin honours the true spectrum of a cannabis plant, which includes all of the terpenes. 

“We’ve identified somewhere between two, three, four hundred terpenes. So, you know, when [distillate producers] try and release a Bubba Kush profile… They’ve looked at three or five of the top terpenes… But when you consume it, it won’t be anywhere close to the same biological feeling that you get from the flower itself or a true spectrum product.” 

Pridham warns that it isn’t possible to create the “full-spectrum” product that distillates are advertising because it typically does not contain the cannabinoids, terpenes, and other beneficial compounds that you look for from a cultivar. Most distillate producers add the top three terpenes after the extraction process. As Pridham puts it, “they’re missing the other 200+ that are actually responsible for what Bubba Kush makes you feel like.” 

Live Resin or Distillate – Which One is Better?

Both Live Resin or Distillate serve their own unique purpose. 

We’ve found that Live Resin and True Spectrum 510 cartridges are most appreciated by more experienced consumers who appreciate the taste and nuanced experiences that the cannabis plant can provide from all the cannabinoids and terpenes. 

While distillates or ‘hot dog water’, as we jokingly call them, won’t have the same sought after qualities as Live Resin, they do appeal to customers who dislike the taste of cannabis, and who often prefer and enjoy artificial flavouring. Taking it back to our juice analogy, distillate carts are more like Kool-—they come in a variety of tasty artificial flavours such as berry, melon, mint or lemon – and they’re much cheaper. They typically appeal more to those who are new to cannabis, those who don’t like the taste of cannabis, or those who are simply seeking a value option. 

Both Nicholson and Pridham’s goals at Greybeard are to share knowledge about the quality of premium products, and for consumers to know the ins and outs of what they’re buying. While some enjoy organic juice, others enjoy Kool-Aid—the same goes for solvent-based extracts. It all boils down to preference. Pridham leaves us with a thought to consider, “[We] try to deliver as true to the plant spectrum that we possibly can, knowing that nature very likely got it right.”

Whether you’re looking for Live Resin or Distillates, our team at Highland in Kitchener can help. For more cannabis information – check out our blog.