Hmmm having seen how some of this is made I have to wonder where the additional "je ne sais quoi" comes from... though I suppose it's true for wine too.

The next time you take a bite of syrup-soaked pancake, ask yourself: What does that maple syrup really taste like? Do you detect a hint of spiced meat? Perhaps a whisper of mango? Or is that je ne sais quoi the flavor of oats?

If you think maple syrup always tastes like, well, maple, think again. This humble sweetener, born in backwoods cabins, has entered the highbrow world of gourmet food. Its flavor has been dissected like that of a fine wine, marketed as Vermont’s countryside in a bottle, and puzzled over by scientists trying to unravel the chemical complexities of taste.

It’s all part of a new campaign in Vermont to hitch maple syrup to the terroir movement that has people paying top dollar for coffee from a particular plantation in El Salvador or wine that captures the essence of the Loire Valley. The idea originated with University of Vermont anthropologist Amy Trubek, author of The Taste of Place, a book about terroir in America. Using a $45,000 grant from the U.S. Agriculture Department, she convened a group that included wine and cheese experts, a sensory scientist, maple producers, the state government’s Maple Specialist, and a Middlebury College chemist. In tasting sessions, meetings, and chemistry labs, they tried to pin down the flavors of maple syrup, and how it might connect to the Vermont landscape. The end result was a free guide the state’s agriculture department now gives sugar-makers, coaching them, essentially, to think more like wine snobs. It offers tips on tasting syrup, along with a thesaurus’ worth of adjectives to describe its flavors, ranging from “fresh butter” to “leather.”