Distillate vs. Live Resin vs. Live Rosin

For many in the cannabis community, having a vape cart and battery on hand or stashed somewhere in the car is a must. They’re discrete, compact, and the smell won’t linger as strongly or for as long as it would if you were smoking flower. But generally speaking, how are they made? And, what is it to begin with? Today, we’ll go a little more in-depth on this topic. To start, cannabis vapes are concentrates extracted from the cannabis plant and then placed into a glass container, typically in half or full grams. They’re three main types of cannabis concentrates that can go into a vape cart: distillate, live resin, and live rosin.  The key difference among these types is the extraction process used. Distillation, generally, speaks to the process of separating compounds based on their unique physical properties, with the most common form of distillation being the boiling point of said properties. When these compounds are heat-sensitive, they take advantage of the short-path distillation method, as in the case of cannabis. 


By far, the most common type of vape concentrate is distillate. Distillate speaks to cannabis concentrates isolated for one potent cannabinoid (such as THC, CBN, or CBG) and typically carry a very high THC potency (i.e., 90% or higher). Distillate production follows a series of steps. First, the harvest is dried and cured prior to extraction. Then, utilizing a solvent (e.g., butane or propane), cannabis compounds are extracted from the plant’s trichomes. The plant, in turn, becomes exposed to cold temperatures to remove unwanted plant compounds, filtered to remove unnecessary solvents, and exposed to high heat to manipulate the cannabinoid profile, finishing with a fractional short-path distillation process. This method speaks to the concentrate undergoing a series of heating and recooling to remove all remaining and unwanted solvents and isolate the desired cannabinoid formula. The final result is a clear liquid free of terpenes, flavors, and imperfections. Due to the near-pure form of THC that the distillation process can produce, it’s pretty commonplace for cannabis companies to add some of those terps back into the concentrate to give back that aroma and flavor lost during the extraction. Once finished with the production process, distillate typically has a nice light yellow or golden color and viscous consistency to it. Distillate can have a pretty controversial take within the cannabis community. Given that it primarily isolates one compound (i.e., usually THC) and the heating it undergoes removes the majority of the plant’s specific cannabinoids and terps that benefit and enhance the entourage effect –many don’t favor it.  If you aren’t too familiar with the entourage effect, it speaks to the symphony of effects that accompany your cannabis high as a result of the terpenes and cannabinoids coming together. Our terpene article described the entourage effect as similar to how an artist might create a visual experience on a canvas. Cannabinoids would be the pencil to your sketch, terpenes your color, the outcome of the painting would be the strain itself, and the interpretation of the art by the viewer would be the effect a particular strain has on the toker. In the same way that there are a vast amount of color combinations to create a different pictorial experience for the viewer, there are hundreds of terpenes and cannabinoids that come to life to give off the therapeutic effect we seek when we consume cannabis. In this case, “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” However, with all that said, distillate is still preferred by many due to its potency and purity. Plus, it makes a great addition to edibles, given their lack of aroma and flavor. 


Next up, we have live resin. Live resin speaks to cannabis concentrate made from flash-frozen fresh flower. This form of vape concentrate is produced by immediately freezing freshly harvested cannabis (usually harvested when trichomes are rich and fat with flavor) in frigid temps and, unlike distillate, does not undergo the drying, curing, or trimming process. Instead, flower that’s intended for live resin is kept frozen throughout the entirety of the extraction process. This cold factor is essential as it preserves the plant’s original cannabinoid and terpene flavor, allowing the consumer to have a more flavorful and robust sensory experience during consumption. After approximately 48 hours, organic compounds are extracted using a hydrocarbon solvent (i.e., butane and propane). These solvents are great for preserving the aroma and flavor found in the strain. Heat is applied for purification and decarb (i.e., activation of the psychoactive compounds) to take place, and the concoction is then added into a container for distribution. The final product is thick, sticky and usually varies from dark to golden yellow. Live resin is a popular fave in the cannabis community. Given that the extraction process allows for the preservation of the cannabinoids and terps, consuming it allows for an aromatic experience without really compromising the entourage effect that particular strain may produce. While distillate will be a surefire way to get stoned fast, it does come at the cost of a more diverse and nuanced high. 


Finally, we have live rosin. Live rosin is similar to live resin, except the key difference is the lack of solvents used in the extraction process for live rosin. Instead of hydrocarbon solvents, live rosin utilizes heat and pressure to extract the oil from the freshly frozen cannabis. If the flower used is dried and cured instead of flash-frozen, then that would be considered just rosin. The “live” factor, in both resin and rosin, is the flash-frozen freshness of the flower. Typically, live rosin is handmade and yields a small amount in production, making it a less common and more expensive product on the market. The final product is usually golden or amber in color and has a butter-like consistency at room temperature. Live rosin is another popular fave in the cannabis community. Similar to live resin, the extraction process allows for the preservation of the cannabinoids and terps, making for a beautifully aromatic experience that’s true to the original flower without any of the solvents. And though live resin cannabis products go through third-party testing to ensure all solvents used are removed, live rosin’s lack of solvents, period, allows for a more natural smoke and, therefore, potentially has a safer impact on your overall lung health. 


To quickly summarize: 
  • Distillate – POTENT & PURE; THC levels usually above 90% but has no OG terps. Much of the natural cannabinoid and terp profile of the original cannabis plant is lost in the extraction process. The strain’s entourage effect cannot be truly appreciated as a result. I might consider this one the Walmart of concentrates.
  • Live Resin – Flash-frozen fresh flower. Mimics the strain’s original cannabinoid and terp profile and delivers on the entourage effect. Utilizes hydrocarbon solvents (e.g., butane and propane) in the extraction process. For this cannabis concentrate, I’d consider it to be like the Whole Foods of concentrates.
  • Live Rosin – flash-frozen fresh flower. Mimics the strain’s original cannabinoid and terp profile and delivers on the entourage effect. Does not utilize solvents but instead heat and pressure during the extraction process. It’s giving the Erewhon Market of concentrates (if you haven’t heard of this grocery store, all I can say is…$28 for a loaf of bread).


While vaping isn’t the only way to consume these cannabis concentrates, it certainly is a convenient and popular favorite in the cannabis community. If you’re interested in a more robust, aromatic, and true-to-flower vape experience that doesn’t compromise the benefits of the entourage effect, then you want to search for live rosin or live resin vape carts. If you’re looking for potency and purity, distillate is your best friend. We have a couple of live resin vapes by Fernway and AIRO here at COW. We also have rosin-infused gummies from Treeworks (like the Focus Citrus Hummies, a personal favorite of mine) and a buttload of distillate-infused edibles for your enjoyment. Browse our menu, see what you like, and if you love what we have to offer you at COW, leave us a Google review! We love hearing from the Worcester community!  


Distillate. (n.d.). Leafly. Retrieved June 30, 2023, from https://www.leafly.com/learn/cannabis-glossary/distillate  EUREKA Vapor. (2023, February 2). Cannabis Concentrates for Beginners: THC Distillates, Rosins, Shatter & More. EUREKA. https://eurekavapor.com/learn-about-cannabis/cannabis-concentrates-for-beginners-thc-distillates-rosins-shatter-more/  Live resin. (2021, July 6). Leafly; Leafly. https://www.leafly.com/learn/cannabis-glossary/live-resin Live rosin. (2023, February 24). Leafly; Leafly. https://www.leafly.com/learn/cannabis-glossary/live-rosin  Precision Team. (2021, May 10). A Guide to Short Path Distillation. Precision Extraction Solutions. https://precisionextraction.com/2021/05/guide-to-short-path-distillation/  Schmidt, E. (2023, February 21). Live Resin vs. Distillate: What’s the Difference? Leafwell; Leafwell. https://leafwell.com/blog/live-resin-vs-distillate/  ‌Timber Cannabis. (2022, September). What’s the Difference Between Distillate, Live Resin, and Live Rosin? Timber Cannabis Co.; Timber Cannabis Co. https://timbercannabisco.com/whats-the-difference-between-distillate-live-resin-and-live-rosin/