Taste of maple syrup

A research team made up of sensory evaluation specialists from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) and maple product scientists from Centre ACER developed a glossary for use in describing the flavours of maple products. This Maple Flavour Wheel provides a scientific basis for accurate, reliable descriptions of the taste of maple syrup. The Flavour Wheel was only one of the flavour research project’s goals. The study’s overall goal was to develop the tools needed to explore the range of maple product flavours and reveal the secrets behind their complexity.

Source: Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

Canadian food regulations on the maple syrup state that maple syrup must be free of any objectionable odour or taste, non-maple taste, or the “buddy” flavour it can acquire at the end of the production season

Evaluating maple syrup by its taste requires a certain amount of training in order to detect a syrup’s defects and characteristics. Some of the main defects singled out by judges are a “wet wood”, “buddy,” smoky, salty, scorched, or oily flavour.

Various parameters are evaluated: texture, colour, odour, taste (sweet, sour, salty, bitter), and aroma. Naturally, the nearer a syrup is to the top of the quality scale (No. 1 Extra Light), the more its taste will resemble a “sweet maple” flavour.

The following table shows how syrups are classified on the basis of their flavour.

Syrup Category

Descriptive Name

Flavour Description


Sweet maple

Sweet, fresh, scent of concentrated sap, fresh-boiled taste.


Standard maple

Faint woody flavour in balance with slightly caramelised taste.


Caramelised maple

Caramelised taste covering the faint woody flavour.  Reminiscent of the taste of taffy.