Is Golden Delicate the Purest of them All?

When it comes to maple syrup grades there is much confusion especially since the universal grades were put into action in 2015. I thought it was time to review the new grades one more time to make sure that everyone understands the new grading system across Canada and the United States.

Is one grade more pure than another?  Mirror, mirror, on the wall...? It all comes down to personal preference really.  My favourite is Golden Delicate.  It is so pure, delicate and buttery. It's also the first gift from Mother Nature each season!

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Golden Delicate Maple Syrup Tonewood

Pure Vermont Maple Syrup must meet strict quality standards and is graded on four characteristics: color, clarity, density, and flavor.

  • Maple syrup is measured by hydrometer or refractometer to ensure that the density, or measure of sugar content, is within a narrow band of 66.9° and 68.9° Brix. This is important to keep maple syrup shelf-stable and to prevent sugar crystallization within the liquid syrup.
  • To be sold at retail, all Vermont syrup must be clear, meaning there is not excessive mineral haze, a naturally-occurring outcome due to maple syrup’s mineral content.
  • Maple syrup is then classified into four distinct color classes: Golden, Amber, Dark, and Very Dark.
  • Finally, all syrup is taste-tested to ensure that the flavor meets expectations for maple syrup’s characteristic deliciousness.

Fancy Maple SyrupGolden Color with Delicate Flavor (formerly Fancy)





Usually made at the beginning of the new maple season, this syrup was known once graded as Fancy. Subtle maple flavor is best appreciated when used on pancakes or waffles or paired with rich dairy items like yogurt or vanilla ice cream.  Try it over Greek yogurt or for a simple but elegant dessert, simply pour this grade of Vermont syrup over vanilla ice cream. 

Amber Maple SyrupAmber Color with Rich Flavor (formerly Grade A: Medium Amber or Grade A: Dark Amber)

Usually made about mid-season and often seems to be the most popular for all-around use. Full of characteristic maple flavor, this syrup is equally as good over waffles as it is in salad dressings, cocktails, or in a maple-sweetened barbecue sauce. If you're only going to have one grade of Vermont maple syrup in your kitchen, make it Amber Color with Rich Flavor.

Dark Amber Maple SyrupDark Color with Robust Flavor (formerly Grade A: Dark Amber or Grade B)

As the maple season progresses, the syrup darkens in color and develops a more robust maple flavor. Good for all around use, its hearty flavor is a great choice for all kinds of recipes. Pour over baked apples or squash, use as a glaze for meats and vegetables, or sweeten baked goods. This grade pairs well with smoky and spicy flavors like chipotle peppers, sriracha, or bourbon.

Grade C Maple SyrupVery Dark Color with Strong Flavor (formerly Grade C)





Produced at the end of the season, it’s perfect for cooking and baking. When you need a strong maple flavor in a bread or cookie, ice cream, or barbecue sauce, this is the grade of choice. 

If you've picked up a bottle of maple syrup lately, you may have had a similar experience. It's not your eyes fooling you: the grading system of maple syrup has changed. The new regulations began in Vermont last winter, and a few weeks ago the USDA revised its standards to match. Grades B and C are out; four (very wordy) levels of Grade A are in.


Dori Ross


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