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Solventless Spain

In 2023, more Americans than ever traveled to Barcelona, Spain to attend the week-long festivities surrounding Spannabis. For years now, weed enthusiasts of the world have been gathering at this international cannabis event to meet, break bread, and share techniques. As society continues to focus its gaze on cannabis, the bridges they’ve been building are starting to show up all over social media. This year, along with plates of jamón and a peek at La Sagrada Família cathedral, there was one other must-have on everyone’s lists—the hash.

The week surrounding Spannabis plays host to a dazzling array of competitions, most with multiple categories for hash. Full melt, dry sift, cold cure, fresh press, and just about every kind of resinous expression you can imagine was on display at the judges’ tables and throughout the city’s numerous social clubs where members can consume cannabis safely off of the street. The grey area laws surrounding cannabis in Spain say you can consume privately, but that clubs cannot operate for profit, meaning the things you pick up there are part of your member services. Barcelona in particular has been attracting hashmakers from all over the world and creating a buzz for the level of quality they’re pushing out. To properly talk about hash culture in Barcelona and where it’s going next, we spoke with some highly respected voices in the community.

The Heart of Hash

Doc Hazed is a well-known name that’s secured multiple awards this year for full melt, dry sift, and rosin. According to him, “the heart of the hash scene in Spain, or even Europe, is in Barcelona.” He first came to Spain in 2016 from Italy, where he taught himself how to make hash by studying message boards and forums. For him, moving to Barcelona was crucial to working with the quality and quantity of material he needed to reach a higher degree of success. Over the last few years, he said the work he’s seen, specifically with ice water hash and rosin, has been “raised to another level.”

Around five years ago, he noticed a lot of people switching to processing fresh frozen material.

“After the switch, the full melt that started coming out was better than anything else on the scene,” he said. “Some of the social clubs around the city started adding high-quality dry sift and water hash to their menus and this got a whole crowd of smokers interested in trying higher quality hash.”

As these patrons of the arts grew to understand the effort and costs involved, they were willing to pay a little more. Demand started to grow and over time these resin artists were able to increase production and stabilize costs so that more people could try some at their local club.

One of these social clubs was HQ, where David Madilyan runs not only one of Barcelona’s premiere smoking spots but also its in-house rosin brand and a competition that brings worldwide players in to compete in a single category. For Madilyan, the goal has always been to provide access to these kinds of products. Over the years HQ has become a place known for promoting, offering, and celebrating rosin. When he first opened the doors of the club he had already been a longtime fan of dabbing. Even back then, making rosin with a hair straightener, he could tell this was the wave of the future for cannabis smokers. 

To help bring rosin and full melt further into view, he’s had a string of talented hashmakers come work with the club to make sure the menu always has some for members to try out. After their most recent star finished his tenure and left to create his own brand, Madilyan thought about all the time he’d spent working alongside these artisans. He decided to launch a line of products he would press under the name Babushka Farms as a way to show the people who visit HQ what good material can do when it’s met with what he calls “a passion for hashin’.”

Masters of Rosin, the competition HQ launched six years ago, has grown to become a respected part of the European competition lineup and brings people together to compete in a rosin-only smackdown for the crown.

“People are getting used to what it’s like to take a dab,” Madilyan said. “We’ve smoked in Spain for years now but it’s traditionally been either pure flower or traditional hash. If we look over the last 20 years at how we’ve bred thousands of strains for resin production, or how popular rosin has become in the last five years it’s obvious that hash is making some major strides in a very short period of time.”

Slite23, HQ’s former hashmaker turned solo artist, believes the internet also played a pivotal role in where things are now.

“During the pandemic, everyone was either lurking on their phone or working in the lab,” he said. “Thanks to things like Instagram, we had a chance to see what people were smoking around the world.”

Having relocated to Barcelona from Italy eight years ago, Slite23 says he witnessed this sudden explosion of content create a spike in quality along with a whole new crowd of hashmakers entering the space. What’s taken longer to catch up, he says, is the supply and demand for glass, butane, torches, and all the gear to bring in new smokers.

Sunset Sherbert live rosin, Slite23

La Sagrada Farm, another favorite of the Barcelona community, believes recent advancements in electronic rigs and vape pens are breaking down the barrier quite a bit. The team feels these devices have helped people understand how and why we smoke hash by, as they put it, “unlocking the power of fashion and industrial design.”

Known for their insanely flavorful work, which took first at Spannabis Champions Cup and second at Masters of Rosin this year, La Sagrada’s head hashmaker and collective founder Arturo went into more detail about how full melt and rosin are cresting the hill after an uphill battle with a combination of tradition and mindset.

There’s a longstanding history of Europeans mixing hashish with tobacco and, in Arturo’s opinion, Catalonians have been at it for so long that smokers there feel like they have an innate understanding of what something should look like and how much it should cost. To him, it makes their job harder but it’s this familiarity and ease with cannabis that also makes Barcelona one of the only places they could do something like this.

“Here, even a 50-year-old taxi driver has smoked more weed and seen more drugs than you,” he joked.

In Barcelona, he said, people seem to have this idea that a higher price for these newer items is in some way due more to hype than cost. Slite23 brought up how most of the people he knows have grown up smoking Moroccan hash, with a gram running you the price of a fast-food meal. Getting someone used to a jar of hash, let alone one that can cost up to eight times more than that, takes time. Along with pricing, there’s still a stigma they’ve had to overcome. Not just with cannabis but with using a torch and all the other accessories needed to take a dab.

Fruittella Piattella, Uncle’s Farm

Introducing Piattella

With it still being illegal to grow anything above personal, non-profit use, part of what makes the Spanish hash scene so special is the result of their limited cultivation space. Many find themselves producing single-source and small-batch simply by necessity. Every round has to count and there’s little room for error, so breeding and growing specifically with resin production in mind is of prime importance. Slite23 and Doc Hazed both expressed how farmers and breeders have been crucial in helping them thrive by providing reliable genetics and desirable options for the European community. This innovation and desire to keep pushing are what’s helped lead a group of them to develop something that’s begun to create a stir, bringing even more eyes to their arena—Piattella.

You’ve seen it all over the internet, this single word rattling through countless Instagram posts and memes, but what exactly is Piattella? Hassans710, a European hash brand that’s been working with the stuff since 2019 described it as the result of “cold curing full-melt [hash] to achieve a premium level of terpene retention.” Looking like a wet piece of spice cake, the growing interest in these soft bricks is something like when that awesome track you dropped four years ago suddenly goes viral on TikTok.

Speaking with Uncle’s Farm, a social club and grow operation which is accredited with its creation, Piattella (pee-ah-tell-uh) is cold cured Ice-O-Lator hash named after the Italian word piatto meaning “flat.” Adding the diminutive suffix “-ella” changes the definition to something more like “little brick,” a reference to the most popular way of presenting these concentrated hash cakes. The word has a few other meanings as well, including plate, which is why googling Piattella often brings up a list of nearby Italian restaurants. When asked if the word was spelled with one T or two, the overwhelming response was that since it’s based off of the Italian word, it should have the traditional Italian spelling. Arturo of La Sagrada Farm, which is also credited with the creation of this new form of hash, pointed out that there is also a connection to the slang term piattello, which is a clay hunting target known in English as skeet. Again, referencing that shaped appearance, which Uncle from Uncle’s Farm says is one of the steps in their cold curing process.

Barbara Bud Hash, La Sagrada Farm

Each glistening loaf of Piattella is aged, full-melt hash, meaning the brick is actually made up of thousands of tiny trichomes. While it might look sticky, if you rub a dot of it between your fingers,it actually feels like wet sand. As Uncle put it, “you can dab it, drop some in a hash pipe or even roll it into a joint,” which he calls cannolos. This terpy mixture of American and European techniques has been refined over the last five years but only in the last few months has the fire been brought to a furious boil. La Sagrada referenced posts from back in 2018 and 2019 where they showed pictures of the technique in its early stages.

“We were so excited when we finally found a resin that would stay wet after curing from six star,” Arturo said. “We asked people online what they thought about curing full melt and after four months we still hadn’t seen the level of impact we thought this project could have.”

Throughout 2019 La Sagrada continued to make small batches locally as they, along with Uncle’s Farm and a few others, worked on identifying what cultivars would create the best expression of this product.

Hassans710, who apprenticed under Uncle’s Farm said that, for him, the biggest difference between this and uncured full melt is the humidity the material holds. He added how the process takes time, patience, and comprehension of resin in order to create not just a batch but also to break that down into smaller pieces. He prefers Piattella for its high level of terps and the experience of slicing into a nicely matured piece, believing that “all hash flavor, in general, translates better when it’s cured and aged properly.” When asked how he felt about the sudden explosion of interest, he asserted, “Piattella is the next big thing out there and has been for a while now. It’s about time we get to share it with the world.”

For the growing crowd of people interested in curing up a batch themselves, Uncle’s Farm summed it up like this: making Piattella is more about practice than any one specific trick or method. This was something that La Sagrada also stressed. Not all strains will make that nice, wet brick of Piattella. Arturo was clear that you have to “work with the resin on each plant to see how well the material will hold those terps and how long it can be stored before beginning to dry out.” Hashmakers who want to try this out should know that there’s a large degree of trial and error that went into compiling the list of cultivars they now know can produce the level of product that people travel to Uncle’s Farm to experience.

Watermelon Zkittlez live rosin, La Sagrada Farm

A Global Movement

This giant, ongoing discussion about Spain’s hash, its makers, and their techniques represents the heartbeat of a global community and shows just how highly Spain has risen in the hash scene in such a relatively short time. Not to say they weren’t already in the room with their name carved into the desk, but with over 25,000 confirmed cannabis lovers roaming the streets of Barcelona this year, many of them scarfing ham and smoking hash, the Catalan’s out of the bag. We have to stand in awe of the level of professional work that’s coming out of an area that doesn’t have the same large consumer pool we enjoy here in the states. La Sagrada said they always try to keep in mind how cannabis is a product that, in Spain, is consumed by people who don’t want to spend a lot of money on weed or dabs. In a sophisticated country that still pays on average $8 to $9 per hour, the incredible artisan products we’ve been talking about in this article might be borne from unlimited passion but they’re served to a limited crowd.

Everyone we spoke with agreed the next big push in Spain is the one toward legalization. A couple even said they’ve been standing at the gate saying “any minute now” for the last five years or more. This current system of loopholes is one that they’re happy to work with for now but there are dreams and aspirations about no longer fighting with large governing bodies about the value of what they do, or worrying about being caught delivering to the clubs. The tone seemed to be one that was hopeful but not in a rush. They’ve watched the way things have evolved elsewhere and they’re wary of losing what they’ve already built.

This current relationship between the American and Spanish hash communities has been taking root for almost a decade. Now, with people asking for a Masters of Rosin U.S. and companies offering to bring Europeans over for residencies, this connection is gaining speed like a bullet train. Slite23 said his inbox has been stuffed with new faces and requests for info about his work.

“With vaccine restrictions lifted, so many came to the city for Spannabis this year and we finally got to show all of our efforts in person after two years of waiting,” he said.

The sound of all these stories, posts, and reposts has been reverberating through the hash halls of the West and East coasts. This 4/20, Madilyan of HQ was walking down the streets of Manhattan in his Masters of Rosin hoodie and was stopped by someone who recognized the design from following NorCal hashmaker Professor Sift.

There’s history being made on the streets beneath the breathtaking La Sagrada Família cathedral, one that no doubt will be part of Europe’s advancement into the next age of cannabis. Whether it’s full melt, dry sift, rosin, or Piattella, the solventless scene around Barcelona is a lightning rod—attracting a renaissance of resin that’s inspiring and reminding us of the love and passion that brought us here in the first place. Whatever they do next, the world will be watching.

This article was originally published in the July 2023 issue of High Times Magazine.

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