KGB Crafts Potent, Premium Pre-Rolls
According to KGB Reserve Director of Sales Julia Bechtold, their brand grew in an “instant.” The company rolled their first joint in May 2019, and received approval to sell on the recreational market at five dispensaries just a few weeks before 4/20. Now, a little over a year later, they have their premium pre-rolls in more than 70 locations.
“As soon as we got into a dispensary, within 10-14 days they would be reordering,” Bechtold says. A small, self-funded social equity company, they knew they couldn’t attribute their rapid rise to remarkably unique packaging or a huge sales force. “It has to be what’s inside the doobe tube that keeps them buying,” she says.
Unlike many corporate-backed cannabis companies, the independent KGB Reserve focuses on one, specialty product: an infused 1-gram pre-roll called the Torpedo (though they do sell “baby” half-gram versions, aptly named Bambinos, at select locations). The product is not for the faint of heart: filled with top-shelf cannabis flower, infused with premium distillate and diamond sauce, and dusted in locally-sourced kief, smoking a full gram can throw even the experienced head into a tailspin. The joints are also hand-twisted, hand-painted with the cannabis oil infusion, and hand-dusted with keef. In a world of machine-made pre-rolls and lackluster add-ins, KGB Reserve’s team of experienced cannabis aficionados are making a truly artisanal product.
The way those ingredients are chosen, tested, and ultimately, rolled, can make a massive difference, and it’s KGB Reserve’s sourcing and rolling process that sets them apart from the first puff. We spoke with Bechtold about how they make the perfect pre-roll, and the thought that goes into each component.
Killer Green Bud
The “KGB” in KGB Reserve stands for “Killer Green Bud.” Though a little less common than “reefer,” or “Mary Jane,” it’s the slang the KGB Reserve team grew up with in Sonoma County. “Back in my day, it was ‘Okay, I’ll meet you in the parking lot, and we’ll smoke a KGB,” Bechtold says.
However, the moniker has a dual meaning — not only is the brand rooted in decades-old NorCal cannabis culture, but they also consider the “bud” at the center of the pre-roll to be the most important component. CEO and Founder Mike Davilla smokes every strain before buying, paying special attention to whether the ash burns white (an oldschool measure of how well the bud has been cured and “flushed” of fertilizers), if it has a smooth feel on the throat, and the overall flavor and smell. Terpenes, or the molecules a consumer can smell when they put their nose to a jar, are one of the major components that give a strain like Sour Diesel, for example, a different high than a Lemon Skunk. The smell and flavor of the chosen “killer green bud” is the most crucial indicator of quality.
These buds are then thoroughly de-stemmed and broken down into perfectly sized tiny chunks that allow air to flow through the joint while maintaining a uniform shape — two crucial steps that are often overlooked by companies using a conventional grinder. And though the joints are rolled with a machinated roller for consistency, each one is hand twisted at the top for a hand-crafted finish.
Distillate is a highly-refined cannabis oil which strips most qualities from the original plant other than the famous psychotropic molecule THC. The resulting extract is potent, although it’s devoid of flavor and most of the strain’s special characteristics. Sauce, on the other hand, is high in terpenes, and is probably the most flavorful and fragrant extract money can buy. Combining the two in a single joint captures the best of both worlds.
“Diamond sauce gives it this wonderful flavor, and distillate gives it a boost in THC, so we’re able to create a coating of that entourage effect that the cannabis oils are known to give to the consumer,” Bechtold says.
The “entourage effect” means that the final product includes all of the thousands of types of cannabinoids, terpenes, and molecules present in the cannabis plant that we still don’t totally understand, but which aficionados believe work synergistically to produce cannabis’ famous effect. Cannabis flowers always have an entourage effect, but KGB hand paints the outside of their joints in a second layer, giving the user an instantaneously potent, full-bodied high.
For Bechtold, infusing the joints isn’t about getting couch-locked, though if you’re not careful these joints can certainly send you off the deep end. A busy mom of three, she only smokes a couple puffs at a time to keep her centered. But she says the infusion elevates the pre-roll to a more enjoyable high, whether your goal is to get baked or buzzed.
“I’m not even able to smoke a normal joint anymore — I absolutely need the sauce,” she says. “And when I try other joints, I purchase the sauce separately.” In other words, once you go extract you never back.
One might think the heavy 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 composed almost entirely of trichomes (those small gooey hairs on a cannabis nug only visible under a magnifying glass). These trichomes are normally sifted off of cannabis nugs using mesh screens, and re-sifted, sometimes multiple times, to obtain a pure product. Kief of this variety can be as much as 80 percent pure THC, and includes the “entourage” of other cannabinoids and terpenes as well.
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 dusting of kief, a dollop of extract, and a longer than usual twist at the top makes the joint flame up when it’s lit. The resulting effect is a joint that not only smokes strong, but lights up like the candle on the top of a birthday cake. Smoking a KGB is an exciting experience from beginning to end — and, at about $25 each, it’s a decently affordable pick amongst their competitors, too.
Despite their specialty pre-roll focus, KGB still has new developments coming in the next few months. For one, the brand will soon launch a non-infused joint for cannabis flower purists. They also will be releasing a travel pack of half-sized Bambinos, ideal for smokers who might want a little dose of Torpedo on the go (or would usually share a Torpedo amongst friends, but are opting for a simultaneous mini-joint smoke during the pandemic).
The developments and final product are impressive for an operation of their size. As a small social equity company fewer than 10 on staff, even getting shelf space in major dispensaries is a coup. When a customer thinks of KGB Reserve, they should think not only of a premium product, but also of an opportunity to shop local, shop small, and keep an equitable cannabis culture alive.
“One of the reasons that we’ve made it this far is people really do get to choose what they smoke” Bechtold says. “Purchasing KGBs is supporting equity and helping us fight against corporate cannabis.”