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Maple Grades

You’ve probably noticed that the bottle of syrup in your fridge has a grade on the label. These labels inspire some of the questions most commonly heard by sugar makers: What are the grades and what do they mean? How different do they taste? Which one is the best?

Contrary to many rumors, maple syrup is graded mostly by color. We take a small sample from each barrel of syrup we make and compare it to an industry standard sample kit. If the syrup we made is lighter in color than the Amber Rich sample, for example, that barrel of syrup is designated with an Amber Rich Grade. Seems simple enough, right? Well just to confuse everyone who thought they understood maple grades, the International Maple Institute slightly altered the color gradient and renamed the grades. The chart below should clear up some questions for folks used to the old maple grading system.

Though syrup is graded by its appearance, many an old sugar maker could tell you a syrup’s grade by flavor alone. We like to describe the different tastes of the grades as a flavor gradient. With lighter syrup, you will taste more of the pure, delicate maple flavor, accented by buttery and vanilla notes on the back of tongue. With darker syrup, you will notice a more carmelized, robust flavor, sharper on the sides of your tongue. A given syrup’s flavor will lie somewhere on a continuum between these two extremes, with additional flavor notes depending on the syrup’s origin and time of production. The flavor of syrup can vary greatly from orchard to orchard and from year to year, so a syrup’s grade is best used as general indicator of its character.

So what makes some syrup light and some syrup dark? There are a lot of different elements that account for syrup’s grade, but the most important ones are time of year and temperature. Earlier in our season, when the trees are fresh and the sap is cold, we generally make lighter syrup. As the season progresses and temperatures rise, changes in the sap usually result in darker syrup. As you’ll see in our shop, we make and sell mostly Amber Rich maple syrup. We find that its has the best all around flavor, combining the delicate buttery elements of lighter grades with the caramelization that makes the maple flavor pop when used in a variety of dishes. We do have limited quantities of our other grades available by special request, so if you can’t live with out a grade not found in our online store, feel free to contact us.