According to Julia Bechtold, sales director of the KGB Reserve, their brand grew in a ‘moment’. The company rolled their first joint in May 2019 and just a few weeks before 4/20 got approval to sell in the recreational market at five dispensaries. Now, just over a year later, they have their premium pre-rolls in over 70 locations.
“Once we got to a pharmacy, they would reorder in 10-14 days,” Bechtold says. They were a small, self-funded social equity firm, and they knew they couldn’t attribute their meteoric rise to remarkably unique packaging or a massive sales force. “It has to be what’s in the doobe tube that keeps them buying,” she says.
Unlike many corporate-backed cannabis companies, the independent KGB Reserve focuses on one specialty product: a 1-gram infused pre-roll called the Torpedo (although they do sell “baby” half-gram versions in certain locations, aptly Bambinos called) ). The product is not for the faint of heart: filled with top quality cannabis flower, infused with premium distillate and diamond sauce, and sprinkled with locally sourced kief, smoking a full gram can send even the experienced head into a tailspin. The joints are also hand turned, hand painted with the cannabis oil infusion and hand dusted with keef. In a world of machine-made pre-rolls and matte add-ins, KGB Reserve’s team of experienced cannabis enthusiasts craft a truly artisanal product.
The way those ingredients are chosen, tested and ultimately rolled can make a huge difference, and it’s KGB Reserve’s sourcing and rolling process that sets them apart from the first pull. We spoke to Bechtold about how they create the perfect pre-roll and the thought that goes with each part.
Killer Green Bud
The “KGB” in KGB Reserve stands for “Killer Green Bud”. While slightly less common than “reefer” or “Mary Jane,” it’s the slang the KGB Reserve team grew up with in Sonoma County. “It used to be ‘Okay, I’ll see you in the parking lot and we’ll smoke a KGB,” says Bechtold.
However, the moniker has a double meaning: Not only is the brand rooted in decades-old NorCal cannabis culture, but they also consider the “button” in the middle of the pre-roll to be the most important part. CEO and Founder Mike Davilla smokes each strain before buying, paying special attention to whether the ash burns white (an old-fashioned measure of how well the buds have cured and “flushed” with fertilizers), or whether it has a soft throat feel. has, and the overall taste and smell. Terpenes, or the molecules that a consumer can smell when they put their nose in a jar, are one of the main components that give a strain like Sour Diesel, for example, a different high than a Lemon Skunk. The smell and taste of the chosen killer green bud is the most crucial indicator of quality.
These buds are then thoroughly destemmed and broken down into perfectly sized small chunks that allow air to flow through the joint while maintaining a uniform shape – two critical steps often overlooked by companies using a conventional grinder. And while the joints are rolled with a machine roller for consistency, each top is turned by hand for a handcrafted finish.
Distillate is a highly refined cannabis oil that strips most of the qualities of the original plant, except for the famous psychotropic molecule THC. The resulting extract is potent, although it has no flavor and most of the special characteristics of the strain. Sauce, on the other hand, is high in terpenes and is probably the most flavorful and fragrant extract you can buy. Combining the two in one joint combines the best of both worlds.
“Diamond sauce gives it this wonderful taste and distillate gives it a boost in THC, so we can create a coating of that entourage effect that the cannabis oils are known to give to consumers,” says Bechtold.
The “entourage effect” means that the final product contains all the thousands of types of cannabinoids, terpenes and molecules present in the cannabis plant that we still don’t fully understand, but which enthusiasts believe work synergistically to produce the famous effect of cannabis. Cannabis flowers always have an entourage effect, but KGB hand paints the outside of their joints in a second coat, giving the user an immediately potent, full-bodied high.
For Bechtold, inserting the joints isn’t about sitting on the couch, but if you’re not careful, these joints can certainly send you off the deep end. She is a busy mom of three and only smokes a few puffs at a time to keep her centered. But she says the infusion elevates the pre-roll to a more pleasant high, whether your goal is to get baked or buzzed.
“I can’t even smoke a normal joint anymore — I absolutely need the sauce,” she says. “And if I try other joints, I buy the sauce separately.” In other words, once you unpack, you’ll never come back.
Locally produced Kief
You might think that the thick layer of fuzzy-looking kief dusted on the outside of these joints is just for show – after all, these dazzling joints are hard to miss in the rotation. But the kief they use is almost entirely made up of trichomes (those tiny sticky hairs on a cannabis nug that are only visible under a magnifying glass). These trichomes are normally sieved from cannabis buds using wire mesh screens and sieved again, sometimes several times, to obtain a pure product. Kief from this variety can contain up to 80 percent pure THC and also contains the “entourage” of other cannabinoids and terpenes.
The kief is hand dusted after the pre-rolls are painted with sticky oil, making them easier to hold and carry. The combination of a layer of kief, a dollop of extract and a longer-than-usual twist on the top ensures that the joint ignites when lit. The resulting effect is a joint that not only smokes strongly, but also lights up like the candle on a birthday cake. Smoking a KGB is an exhilarating experience from start to finish – and at around $25 each, it’s also a fairly affordable choice among their competitors.
Despite their special pre-roll focus, KGB still has new developments in the coming months. First, the brand will soon be launching a non-infused joint for cannabis flower purists. They will also be releasing a travel pack of mid-sized Bambinos, ideal for smokers who may want a small dose of Torpedo on the go (or usually share a Torpedo with friends, but opt for simultaneous mini-joint smoking during the pandemic).
The developments and the final product are impressive for an operation of their size. As a small social equity firm with less than 10 employees, even getting shelf space in large pharmacies is a coup. When a customer thinks of KGB Reserve, they should not only think of a premium product, but also an opportunity to shop locally, shop small and keep a just cannabis culture alive.
“One of the reasons we’ve come this far is that people can really choose what they smoke,” Bechtold says. “Buying KGBs supports equity and helps us fight corporate cannabis.”