Pure maple syrup is nature's gift to mankind. Like all good, natural things from the woods there is variability. There are variations to the grades produced by maple trees depending on the season and other climatic influences. As a result, a common question we hear is; which maple syrup is the best- a darker one or a lighter one?
Of course, this is a matter of personal choice, but it is helpful to be aware of the level of maple intensity in each bottle of maple syrup. It’s important to understand the differences in colour and taste which determine the exact grade of maple syrup. These exacting standards are followed by all sugar makers throughout Vermont and the rest of the maple sugaring region ensuring that each bottle delivers the taste and colour that is preferred.
The following maple syrup guide will assist you in determining the grades and help you to find that perfect bottle of nectar harvested directly from the trees of the Mad River Valley, Vermont.
If you ask a local, multi-generational sugar maker from Vermont; "which is your favourite grade"? The answer is Golden Delicate maple syrup which is the first run of the season and is maple in its purest form. Golden Delicate is subtle, soothing, and buttery in flavour. This is the grade that Spike Vasseur, Bob Vasseur's brother and the original patriarch of the Vasseur Brother's sugar house, recommended for me when I first came to Vermont over 20 years ago. My love for Golden Delicate syrup hasn't waned since that first taste of Vasseur's warm maple syrup fresh from the evaporator.
Contrary to my preference for first run maple syrup, many prefer a more intense maple experience and flavour and select Amber Rich or Dark Robust grades. These darker grades are extraordinary as well and deliver a deep maple flavour. It really is all about personal preference.
Pure Vermont maple syrup meets strict protocols and is graded on these 4 characteristics: Clarity, Density, Colour and Flavour.
Standing in the fleet, first is: Golden Color with Delicate Flavor (Formerly known as Fancy or Vermont Fancy)
This maple nectar is extracted at the start of the new season. It’s termed as ‘Fancy’ before they’re even graded. This is the clear and lightest maple syrup and is highly recognized for drizzling over ice cream, waffles and pancakes. Combine it with Greek yogurt and an elegant dessert for an extremely delectable experience. Make that vanilla ice cream not so Vanilla anymore with Tonewood Maple Syrup.
Amber color with Rich Flavor (formerly Grade A: Medium Amber or Grade A: Dark Amber)
Grade A Amber Rich Maple syrup is manufactured during the mid season and is much more flavorful. This syrup is perfect for baking and cooking. You can use it as a topping on waffles, utilize it as a salad dressing, pour it in your cocktails and satisfy your syrup craving with the maple-sweetened barbecue sauce. If you are seeking only one Grade of maple syrup, this can be the perfect choice.
Dark Color with Robust Flavor (formerly Grade A: Dark Amber and Grade B)
With the progression of the maple season, there’s a change in the colour and taste of maple syrup as well. Dark Amber maple syrup has a darker colour and has a more robust maple flavor. It is ideal to use in recipes, adding a deep maple flavour. This grade of maple syrup pairs nicely with baked apples, roasted vegetables and can be used to sweeten baked goods.
Very Dark Color with Strong Flavor (Formerly Grade C)
This grade maple syrup is produced by the trees at the end of the season. It is the strongest of the harvest and can be used to replace molasses or as a flavouring in other products.
Maple syrup grading is now universal throughout the maple sugaring region which has created a much simpler classification. The new grading system showcases the differences between each grade using colour and flavour descriptions. The reference to the old classifications of Grade B and C have been eliminated and all grades are now referred to as Grade A.
We hope you now have a better understanding of the differences between maple syrup grades, and we invite you to browse through our single sourced maple syrup from the Mad River Valley in Vermont.