36 Key Terms for Describing Taste and Flavor

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When developing a new product, you are likely to go through several tasting sessions before finalizing a formula. Using the same lexicon when describing taste and flavor can help the product developer and flavorist understand desired flavor adjustments and speed up the process of achieving the expected taste and mouthfeel. Here is an explanation of some of the common terms used to describe taste and flavor:

Astringency – Dry, chalky sensation in the mouth

Acidic – Sharp, tart, sour

Acrid – Pungent, sharp, biting, bitter

Alkaline – Dry, somewhat bitter

Ashy – Dry, burnt, smoky, bitter

Barnyard – Dusty, musty, earthy

Burnt – Scorched, bitter

Buttery – Fatty, creamy, rich

Candy-like – Sweet, cooked sugar, cotton-candy

Cardboard – Papery, stale, oxidized

Caustic – Biting, acidic, astringent, stinging

Citrus – Ripe citrus fruit like lemon, lime, grapefruit, orange

Chalky – Dusty, powdery, gritty

Chemical – Medicinal, metal, sulphur

Clean – Without off-flavors or undesirable traits

Cooked – Sulfurous, caramelized, burnt

Delicate – Pleasant, mild, mellow

Earthy – Musty, green

Green – Vegetative, grassy, leguminous

Jammy – Preserved fruit, ripe, pungent, sweet

Lactic – Fresh, heated, acidified or transformed (burnt, rotten) milk

Lipid – Fatty, rich

Malt-like – Sweet, nutty

Medicinal – Chemical, plastic

Musty – Stale, moldy, mildew, damp

Piquant – Pleasantly pungent, tart, zesty, zingy

Pungent – Sharp, intense, penetrating

Phenolic – Plastic, chemical, medicinal

Rancid – Rotten, spoiled, stale, bad

Resinous – Woody, pine, cedar, oak

Smoky – Wood smoke, burnt, char

Sulfur – Rotten eggs, burning, match-like

Tangy – Tart, zesty, mouthwatering

Tart – Sour, sharp, bitter, acidic

Vegetal – Green, beany, raw, grassy

Yeasty – Bready, doughy

Have any other favorite tasting terms? Email us at thedrinktank@imbibeinc.com with your suggestions or to talk about your next beverage project.