To discover the optimal way to smoke the world’s best weed, the team of iron lungs behind Proper Doinks worked their way backward. After rolling up the same selections side-by-side, the cannabis wasn’t always revealing its best expression. To uncover why they broke down the smoking process step-by-step. Embedded in the California cannabis scene, Adam Pain and Paul Christmon already had access to incredible weed. But was the key to an impeccable puff in the grind? The tightness of the roll? The way a joint is hit and ashed? Proper Doinks offers an answer to an important cultural question of our time: How do we achieve the perfect high?
To tell the tale, I’ll start from the ending and work my way backward. Pain, Christmon, and I have finished our interview and the still-smoking doink is sitting on the table upright, twisting smoke upward like an incense cone. We’ve been smoking that singular doink for the entirety of our 40-minute conversation held within the comfortable confines of the Chronic Culture lounge in San Francisco and I am absolutely blitzed. It’s only after I turn off my audio recording that I learn it was Blueprint’s new strain, Chef, that left me so stoned. That’s because we haven’t been discussing what we’ve been smoking, but how we’ve been smoking.
The differentiator between joint and “doink” is in the quantity of weed.
“A doink is an eighth and up,” Pain explains. “Roll up an eighth or higher? That’s a doink.”
“If it’s over 5 grams the ‘d’ now includes a ‘th,’ it’s a thoink,” Christmon says. “You know? You gotta put the tongue between the teeth when you say it.”
If you want the TL;DR version of this quest for the best, in the Proper Doinks philosophy, judging the quality of cannabis flower all comes down to two categories: flavor and smoothness. When smoking a doink, grab it by the glass tip, take quick, strong hits, and never ash.
But to judge entries in elite exotic cannabis competitions like the Greenwolf-presented Zalympix, these guys don’t just talk about the cornerstones of cannabis appreciation in one dimension.
Within flavor, there’s an assessment of flavor accuracy, or a judgment of whether a strain’s smell matches its taste. The Proper Doinks team asks if there are secondary notes within the flavor. Can you taste the flower, or does it just taste like burning? What’s the strength of the taste?
“Is it a flavor that comes and goes that you have to look for, or can you taste it 20 minutes later,” Pain asks. “Is it like juice? Or like thick syrup? Or like watered-down juice that like, ‘Yeah, it’s there, but it’s not slapping me in the face.’”
In terms of smoothness, is the smoke hollow and empty, tinged with harsh tar and ash, or is it thick, soothing, and medicinal?
The idea behind Proper Doinks—now folded into a curated cannabis distribution company, Proper Selections, that sells branded merch including $42 glass rolling tips—was to be able to say what the best weed is.
“We realized that we couldn’t quite say what the best weed is until we locked down the best way to consume it as an ‘x’ constant variable,” Pain says while grinding up Fugazi from Good Pizzza in a chrome red Santa Cruz Shredder. “There’s so much user error that can stop someone from experiencing the full potential of a flower.”
The idea is that by consuming with “the exact same doink every time,” the weed can be appropriately assessed and valued.
Pain and Christmon—who, unplanned, show up to Chronic Culture in the same branded black Blueprint sweatsuits and Proper Doinks hats—met through work at the Sacramento headquarters of Connected Cannabis. After establishing an online rapport through Instagram, they learned that they lived about 12 houses down from each other in Fairfield, roughly an hour south of Sacramento. By 2018, that close proximity and shared interest in smoking elite strains fueled a friendship that allowed them to get together often and roll up joints side-by-side.
“We went on this tear of finding the best weed in the world and perfecting the art of the doink,” Pain says.
They believe a doink is the best way to appreciate the taste of weed, and their strategy follows techniques cigar aficionados will recognize. Doink smokers should not draw in the hit too long, an action that can overheat the cherry and make a smoke taste like char. Doink smokers also should not ash them. Keeping the ash insulates the heat and knocking it off can cause the doink to burn hotter, which affects the taste.
“We don’t ash,” Christmon says. “It will fall of natural causes when it’s ready.”
On the road, these guys sometimes literally cup their free hand beneath their doinks so the ash doesn’t drop on the floor. The doink is also always held downward.
When they started rolling the same weed together and found differences due to the roll, they started experimenting with the grind, which is fine and compacted for the doinks to burn consistently and slowly. While demonstrating the art of rolling a doink during our interview, Pain meticulously picks out stems and unsmooth sugar leaves.
A proper doink will always have a glass tip, which prevents things that can sour the smoking experience, such as resinous oil on the lips or scooby snacks. The idea behind the glass tip is that the holes inside create drag that slows the burn and stops the cherry from getting too hot and burning the flower’s terpenes.
To get to a proper doink, Pain and Christmon broke down all the steps applied towards rolling up. The battles were on! Short joints vs. longer joints. Skinny joints vs. thick joints. A looser vs. tighter roll.
“We would do each scenario 10 to 30 times in a row until there was, just absolutely beyond a shadow of a doubt, no other option,” Pain says.
The joints that they smoke take 25 to 30 minutes to roll and burn for at least half an hour. The way that you hit a doink is also important. At our smoke sesh, I followed their instructions by turning the doink in my hand (ensuring an even burn) and hitting it as if I was blowing smoke o’s (a strategy to cool the smoke in the mouth before it’s inhaled.)
“Short, strong hits with a small rotation in between, it’s the same thing with cigars,” Pain says of the Proper Doinks technique. “So it’s perfectly burning with no runs or long spots.”
Pain and Chistmon focus on the flowers’ interaction with the palate. The fact that the weed is good and will get them high is a given. To share the experience of judging the cannabis they smoke—including $4,000 worth of Zalympics judging kits that they rolled into over 100 joints smoked over two days in the summer of 2022—they started a Proper Reviews account on Instagram.
“When we started trying to find the best weed, people started selling us really expensive weed. We don’t bargain for art, and boutique weed, we believe, is art, so you name a price and we’ll pay it if you’re saying it’s the best,” Pain says, noting they have ruffled feathers in the cannabis industry by calling out strains they think are subpar. “We started getting a really deep connection with a lot of the consumers just from telling the raw truth.”
Christmon calls himself and his partner “blue-collar guys.” He’s a single father of two girls who previously worked as a loan officer in a bank and says he approaches cannabis from a consumer perspective and represents the consumers who are living paycheck to paycheck but still splurge on a $450 ounce.
“You can’t take it back; there’s no refunds in this industry,” he says. “It is what it is. You’re stuck with it until your next paycheck, when you can hopefully buy some more. When you come at something from that aspect, people relate to it. They respect the honesty because they want to know where to spend their money wisely.”
One of the connoisseur topics they often dive into online is the controversial topic of white ash. Heady smokers argue about whether or not white ash denotes quality cannabis. The topic of white ash touches upon a widely-adopted growing step called “flushing” where cultivators flush a plant of nutrients and provide only water in the last week or two before harvest. The idea behind white ash in cannabis is that it occurs when a plant has been properly flushed, dried, and cured. Many within cannabis culture will argue white or black ash doesn’t signify anything pertaining to quality. In cigar culture, white ash has come to be known as a signifier that the tobacco was grown in nutrient-rich soil, although it’s debated whether this has an effect on flavor. Tobacco is also deprived of nutrients when it begins to flower. Pain believes flushing is not the cause of white ash and actually makes the smoke worse. He weighs in on the white ash topic in the same sort of hushed tone you’d hear when someone tells a spooky story around a campfire.
“There’s good, there’s great, there’s excellent, and then there’s just the unicorn batches, unreal, they’re unearthly,” he says. “We generally smoke great weed all the time, and once or twice a year, we’ll come up on a batch of something that was just excellent. And then, every couple of years, there will be a unicorn batch. It’s usually like some Zkittlez or something… When we notice every single box has been checked, it’s been perfect to the glass, not losing any quality, the ash just so happened to be bone white and a solid structure. And it’s a very specific type of whiteness and a specific type of structure. It’s like a sandcastle-smooth structure.”
The merits of the optimal way to grow and consume cannabis—the elements that make certain strains stand above the rest—will be debated endlessly, but the team behind Proper Doinks has put in the hours to defend their brand and smoking philosophy. They’ve developed a standard to find the world’s best weed, and can’t stop now. After all, once you’ve hunted and found unicorns, there’s no turning back.
This article was originally published in the April 2023 issue of High Times Magazine.