My first reaction to inhaling a Barbari herbal spliff was a vivid scent memory of my teenage self, puffing cloves and making out with one of my boyfriends on a soft green bit of turf that overlooked the 101 freeway in Hollywood.
The overwhelming theme of that memory was less "young love" and more "not being brave or old enough to smoke what we actually wanted to smoke: weed."
The distinct flavor of that memory prompted my 15-year-old inner self to ask, "Why would you smoke this when you smoke actual marijuana?" I'm not actually sure.
Typically, a "spliff" is a 50-50 tobacco-cannabis hand-rolled cigarette. Barbari's blends replace the tobacco with formulations that soften, sharpen or sexify the rougher edges of your weed stash. But more than that, each blend can be burned as incense, steeped for tea, or sprinkled over a warm bath. Smokable herb blends are by no means a new concept, but the Portland company's branding tells a story that leans far more toward radical self-care than head shop. Plus, each pot of herbs delivers precisely the type of complex perfume you'd expect smoldering from the pipe of a wizard.
Eager to test my mettle as a witchy herbal spliff smoker, and quiet my bratty inner 15-year-old, I tried each blend as a spliff, a stand-alone smoke, a tea and, in one case, a desktop aromatherapy feature. Crushed raspberry leaf anchors each blend, and each jar contains 10 grams of the smokable potpourri, retailing for about $25.
My teenage self might have a valid question—why are we smoking things that aren't weed?—but 40-year-old me is steadily morphing into a forest witch and as such is very down to develop an appreciation for flower petals and kitchen herbs atop my OG Kush.
There is a sharp, savory perfume to Barbari's Car Sex blend—the mullein, white sage, and bright orange dagga flowers produce a smoke that is heady and rich. When smoked as a spliff, cannabis flavors tempered the heft of the exhale, but on its own, the blend was weighed down by a bitter, savory aftertaste.
When sipped as a tea, though, the aromatics that weighed on the smoke are mild to nonexistent.
But who cares about flavor descriptions when the product is called "Car Sex"? I can say with relative authority that this blend did indeed light a fire within my kundalini. While neither euphoric nor intoxicating, it did suggest a subtle sensuality that was easily stoked into full-on eroticism, human sex partner suggested but by no means necessary. Frankly, I was dissuaded from multiple Car Sex auditions. I just don't have time to be that level of sexed-up more than once, maybe twice a week.
Airplane Mode's perfume is the most familiar of the potted blends: Its ingredients—lavender, sage and rose—are common curbside plants. But it's the addition of blue lotus that makes this blend a more effective mood-brightener than whiffing your neighbor's roses. Blue lotus has been used as a calming aphrodisiac for hundreds of years, but its most recent brush with popularity was as an ornamental water plant. The dried, smokable version feels a bit more purposeful, but judgment is reserved for those who favor the blue blossom's backyard aesthetic to its reputation as a smokable herb.
The first inhale of Airplane Mode, though, is straight-up reminiscent of soap. The brisk, acetic lavender dominates the profile at first blush, with flowery rose and savory sage playing supportive roles. The blue lotus only makes itself known after inhalation. After a spliff that married the herb blend with a punchy sativa hybrid, I felt my eyes tighten as if the muscles were having their last powerful stretch before bedtime. The tension that lives in my shoulders, jaw and forehead fell away like dominos, and despite all these clear signs of superficial relaxation, I could still capitalize on the zip of the sativa.
As a stand-alone bowl or cup of tea, the mouthfeel was just too soapy to appreciate. Frankly, tossing a pinch across the surface of a glittery spa bath felt like the most effective, smoke-free way to let the herbs ease you into complacency.
Of all Barbari blends, Muse convinced me to integrate smokable herbs into my regular consumption. The profile is a careful balance of crisp peppermint, pungent sage, and airy jasmine flower. Purely as an aromatherapeutic, it opens up the chest and clears the mind. As a smokable blend, it cradled the most creative aspects of the strain I rolled it with, resulting in clear-headed focus that balanced the weed's' dopier effects.
As a tea, that complex perfume is subdued, but the result is calming and uplifting. As a spliff, I found it to be just as effective as a cup of coffee for priming me for focused creativity. But even though I applaud the spliff, this pot of herbs has since come to live rent-free on my desktop—not for smoking, but for sniffing the heck out of when I become distracted during work. It's an unexpected feature I ended up valuing more than any of the other suggested uses.
BUY: Barbari Herbal spliffs and blends are available throughout Oregon. See barbarishop.com.