Food and Drink

This CBD Brand Rolls Hemp Blunts for a Better Smoking Experience

Sway founders talk origins, inspirations, and hopes for a more modern blunt culture.

Photo by Christina Stoeve
Photo by Christina Stoeve
Photo by Christina Stoeve

When it comes to subcultures within cannabis, few are more established than blunt culture. From the lyrics of hip-hop legends to the iconic visuals of on-screen tokers, they have a rich, romantic set of associations that can make every puff feel special-and a little badass.

If you’ve never partaken yourself, a blunt tastes and smokes very differently from a joint: There’s more weed per inhale because of the wider size of a blunt and a more potent, heady high from the traditional tobacco wrapper used as a paper.

Compared to rolling a joint, it’s a different art altogether. Roll a crappy joint with a tiny amount of weed, and you can make a sesh out of it. Roll a bad blunt? It’s back to square one. It requires too much weed to waste on a poorly assembled blunt, and because it requires an ample supply of flower, it’s not always a practical mode of smoking.

For all of these reasons, Melody Wright and Sonia Stolfo founded Sway in 2019-a CBD brand rolling hemp blunts that can ship nationwide. Their blunts are filled with CBD-rich hemp flower and wrapped in fan leaves from hemp plants, so they don’t contain any tobacco. They come in a mini Pinner size, a .5-gram Slim size, and a 2-gram Thai Stick rolled in a mat√© and cacao hemp wrap to impart more of the traditional Swisher Sweet blunt flavour. The brand also experimented with other non-tobacco wraps like banana leaf (“almost a chicory taste”), and they collaborated with smoking herbs brand Barbari on a beautiful custom blunt coated in blue lotus petals.

Wright and Stolfo sat down with us in their manufacturing space in Portland, Oregon to talk origins, inspirations, and hopes for modern blunt alternatives.

Photo by Valarie Sakota
Photo by Valarie Sakota
Photo by Valarie Sakota

Thrillist: Tell me about your first blunt experience.

Melody Wright: I was 17 or 18, and I wanted to wear my big brother’s shoes to school. I grabbed them out from under his bed, and when I went to put them on, I found like an ounce of weed inside. I not only wore the shoes that day-I took his weed, too. I went to my friend’s house down the street later, and she was like, “I know what to do with this.” She rummages in her garage and pulls out an ancient Swisher Sweet package, and without breaking up or grinding the weed at all, sort of smashed it into a cylinder. A lot fell out of the blunt, it didn’t smoke well at all, but it was perfect.

Sonia Stolfo: Honestly, I think my first blunt was with Mel. A profound early smoking experience happened when I was in college, though, while on a sort of homestay in East Africa. We spent time with hunter-gatherers in Tanzania, and each night, we’d spend hours with them around the fire, drinking beers and playing each other music. One of the ways the touring company would pay these people for hosting us was giving them a huge bundle of tobacco wrapped up in newspaper. These people would just tear off little bits of newspaper and roll up the tobacco with it. I tried it-very harsh-but such an interesting experience that I brought with me into Sway.

Here are people who still built a fresh grass hut home every couple of days, depending on where they ended up. And here we are, rolling up stuff to smoke together. It struck me how this tradition of humans smoking plants is a very, very, very old tradition, and very much a part of the human condition. We just love to smoke plants.

How did Sway get started?

SS: When we first started dating in 2016, Mel had an idea to make Thai stick blunts for the THC market. I decided to help her try to do that, although we soon realized you basically have to have millions of dollars to get a cannabis producer license in Oregon, get a facility, and all of that. We found a partner to make it possible, and then that fell through. By now, it’s 2018, and the Farm Bill is kicking off the hemp industry, and we were like, ok we can still do this.

Where did the name Sway come from?

SS: It comes from this idea of what your smoking ritual does to your state of mind and body. To me, I think of those heart monitors at hospitals, and how cannabis makes me go from rapid, up-and-down, zig-zag patterns to a calm, steady beep. When you’re meditating, sometimes you’ll find your body naturally moving back and forth a little. It’s that concept of getting centred and calming the extremes.

Do you think your customers are mostly traditional blunt smokers looking for a healthier option?

SS: We tend to serve two groups of smokers: one being people who enjoy blunts, spliffs, etc., but don’t want tobacco, and the other being the people who like smoking pot but realize they aren’t very functional on it. That’s me-I’m one of those people who has to stop myself from smoking all the time. I love smoking. But I can’t smoke as much weed as I want, because then I’ll just take a long nap, and then my whole day has gone to shit.

MW: Our Pinners are that perfect little throat hit to help you satisfy the craving and quit tobacco. They’re ideal for smoke breaks when you need to take a beat, and the Thai Sticks are more ceremonial and celebratory.

How are the blunts constructed?

MW: We don’t condone littering, but you could litter a Sway roach. The hemp filter; the hemp paper-it’s all compostable, biodegradable hemp. Right now, I roll every single blunt. I use a mould for Thai stick construction, using a dowel to stack the flower around, and wrapping the fan leaves around as the paper. The pinners are rolled with a hand roller to keep things a little more consistent at that size.

What makes blunts special to you?

MW: Joints are special, they just burn so fast. When you really take the time to roll a good blunt, pack it well, it just keeps going. Around and around. They give you more time in your sesh, and more time in that head space.

SS: Also, you don’t have to hesitate to take a pause with a blunt. If somebody passes you a joint, and you take a minute to keep talking, someone’s going to tell you to hurry up. With a blunt, you have time.

MW: Exactly-you can’t rush a blunt. Also, a great blunt roller is just something to behold. You know it when you see them inspect it as they roll it up, carefully ensuring there are no flaps, no air pockets that will affect the burn. They take a lighter and run it along the finished product to finish the seal. Rolling a great blunt is like casting a hypnotic spell.

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Lauren Yoshiko is a freelance writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. She writes The Broccoli Report, a bi-weekly newsletter for creative cannabis entrepreneurs.

Food and Drink

Why Makrut Lime Makes a Star Ingredient in Cocktails

The Southeast Asian citrus is intensely aromatic and pairs with rum, gin, tequila, and more.

Photo courtesy of Fish Cheeks
Photo courtesy of Fish Cheeks
Photo courtesy of Fish Cheeks

I grew up with a makrut lime tree in my backyard, admiring the double leaves and dimpled citrus fruit that frequently made their way into our family dinners. Makrut limes, which are sometimes referred to kaffir limes (although the term is controversial and has been widely retired), are native to Southeast Asia, but somehow my mom willed a tree to grow in our Southern California home with great success.

To me, makrut meant savoury Thai food: steamed fish curry wrapped in banana leaves and sprinkled with chiffonade makrut, simmering tom kha gai with floating bits of the hand-torn citrus leaves, and glistening green curry accentuated by the plant’s aroma.

But to others, makrut is an ideal ingredient in cocktails and other drinks. Such is the case for Fish Cheeks, a Thai restaurant in Manhattan known for its seafood dishes and eclectic, complementary cocktail menu. Beverage director Beau Fontano knew he had to include makrut in his creations, especially because the ingredient is so prominent on the food menu. Makrut lime finds its way in several drinks, most notably as a garnish atop the Thank You Kha, a riff on the acidic coconut stew tom kha gai, and the Manao Mao, a rum-based drink that uses makrut lime bitters.

“I don’t love using the word tiki, but if you think of those tiki rum cocktails, makrut definitely works well in those,” Fontano says. “But I also love it in martinis-there’s something really clean about it. And with makrut lime, if you’re just using the leaves, you can do a lot of rapid infusions.”

Fontano only uses the leaves, because the rinds and juice of makrut limes are famously bitter. “Regular lime has a little bit more sugar content, so that’s why it’s much more approachable in cocktails. Makrut limes tend to be more dry,” he explains. “But when you use the leaves in cocktails, you just smack it to wake it up a little bit and it gets that nice citrusy, refreshing aroma which is really fun.”

The leaves are cut fresh, so each drink has the scent of makrut lime leaves wafting off of them. “I’m sure at one point I will get around to it and try to figure out how to use the juice,” he laughs.

Further north at Paper Tiger in Portland, Maine, makrut lime leaves are also prevalent in a cocktail called Something Scandalous, a tequila-based drink intended to be, in the words of bartender Nick Reevy, “crushed easily.”

Paper Tiger
Paper Tiger
Paper Tiger

“I went with tequila, specifically, because in Maine it’s 80 degrees and humid pretty much all summer,” Reevy explains. “So I made something you kick back easily. Agave has a really nice softness that elevates the makrut lime, and the main flavour in that drink is the Thai basil.”

The drink is an alluring shade of green and is rounded out by cinnamon syrup and falernum. “Makrut lime is really herbal and bright in a way no other citrus is,” Reevy adds. “It’s interchangeable with other limes, but it just adds this whole other depth of flavour.”Makrut lime has even made its way into hard seltzer, albeit a limited edition drop from Lunar. Founder Kevin Wong knew he wanted to add another citrus drink to his rotation as he witnessed the successes of hard lemonades, but already had a yuzu iteration. Makrut lime seemed like a natural follow-up.

Photo courtesy of Lunar
Photo courtesy of Lunar
Photo courtesy of Lunar

“It has a very intense citrus fragrance, almost perfumey or soapy,” Wong ponders. “Like I could see Le Labo putting out a makrut lime fragrance. It has such a commanding presence and body.”

To tamper down some of the boldness of the makrut lime, the hard seltzer uses makrut lime leaf extract, lime juice, and cane sugar. The aromatics of the lime are present without too much bitterness; instead, the seltzer is grassy, acidic, and dry. Wong recommends pairing the can with spicy foods, especially Szechuan dry pot.

The makrut lime seltzer is currently sold out, and Wong is unsure whether or not another batch is in the works. “I feel like makrut lime is the greatest secret unknown to the Western world,” he says. “It’s in medicine, candy, herbal drinks, cosmetics and aromatherapy. I think we did the seltzer too early, and I don’t know if the world is ready for us to bring it back yet. Maybe in a couple of years.”

But judging by the growing popularity of makrut lime in beverage menus, the comeback might be sooner than he expects.

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Kat Thompson is a senior staff writer at Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter @katthompsonn.

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