Reviewed: Panama Red

When we think about landrace strains, there are two that inevitably come to mind as classics that have attained pop-culture status, both of which have had a significant influence on literature, music, art and cinema. Acapulco Gold was first immortalized in an 1973 eponymous documentary, and was introduced to a wider audience as the favorite strain of America’s first stoner comedy duo Cheech and Chong in their debut film Up in Smoke (1978). Acapulco Gold was so beloved by the North American counter-cultural scene of the 1960s and ‘70s that several authors, including L. Ron Hubbard, memorialized the strain.

And the other of the two iconic landrace strains? Panama Red, of course! This landrace sativa also became legendary in the 1960s and ‘70s for its potency. In Coppola’s Apocalypse Now (1979), a supply clerk offers to furnish the mission with Panama Red. American novelist Thomas Pynchon wrote in “The Doper’s Dream” in Gravity’s Rainbow (1973): “We dallied for days, just a-ballin’ and smokin’,/ In the flowering Panama Red,/ Just piggin’ on peyote and nutmeg tea,/ And those brownies so kind to your head.”

Cool history lesson, you may be thinking — but why should we care? Those of you who are too young to have enjoyed Panama Red in its heyday probably don’t know what you’re missing. If you’re like me, you’re probably a little sad that classic landraces can be hard to come by. But if you have a medical marijuana card and live in the DMV, rejoice! Gentleman Toker’s Best Medical Cultivator of 2021, Alternative Solutions (AltSol), revived this incredible landrace sativa with two batches in 2021 that knocked our socks off.

The town made a run on both batches of AltSol’s Panama Red as soon as it hit dispensaries, so at the moment you’re just not going to find the flower anywhere. (There are still some pre-roll packs floating around the medical market here in DC, for those of you who missed out.)

The Truth Behind the Red Legend

Is Panama Red really red? You’re damn right it is, or at least the AltSol batches were. It is some of the prettiest flower I’ve ever seen, with dark red buds absolutely coated in trichomes, tiny brighter red sugar leaves and gnarly orange stigma climbing out from mighty frosted buds. You can bet I’ve kept a stash in the jar until we see it again in abundance.

I’ve read a lot of descriptions of Panama Red as having earthy, flowery notes, and I do not doubt that this is the original strain’s aroma. But we are talking AltSol’s Panama Red, which has that absolute gas to it that modern consumers love so much, combined with a slight spice that I have yet to pin down, and back-end notes of sweet fruitiness. The gas on this flower has to be the AltSol touch.

The nugs are broad at the base, tapering into points like beautiful little pinecones. They’re slightly on the dry side, and grind into fine piles teeming with shiny crystals. The manicure is nothing short of perfect.

How Does Panama Red Make You Feel, Man?

Dig their music, but don’t take their word for it on the Panama high, if you’re familiar with the New Riders of The Purple Sage: “My woman said, Hey Pedro/ you’re actin’ crazy as a clown,’/ Nobody feels like workin’/ Panama Red is back in town.” Nonsense, friends — P-Red may be back in town, but it’s a get-up-n-go sativa. It’s racy as hell and really hits ya’ in the melon. If you are prone to paranoia and anxiety, maybe don’t start your day off with this one. True to classic descriptions of Panama Red, it gets you very stoned, but is much more conducive to an active mind than one at (or seeking) rest. 

How’s it chief, Cheech? Whether you’re smoking on one of AltSol’s .7g pre-roll three-packs, or hitting Panama Red flower right out of your favorite water pipe, the smoke is so smooth. The fruitiness arm-wrestles the distinct gassiness for first place in the flavor profile. If you smoke it indoors, your sesh room will retain a spicy, dank aroma.

The Takeaway

Now that I have to hoard my stash in anticipation of AltSol’s next drop (seriously folks, get out there and grab up those pre-roll packs if you can still find them), I reserve Panama Red for serious, cerebral tasks. Despite its edge, Panama provides a very clear-minded high—I feel like it would be great for this town’s many lawyers. Just sayin’!

Until our friends at AltSol bless us with another flower drop, “I’ll be searching all the joints in town for/ Panama Red.” Thanks, AltSol, for giving a young millennial a toke at your classic-on-steroids, Panama Red.