Maple Syrup Rankings
Part of creating a phenomenal classic American waffle experience is pairing the waffle with an exceptional maple syrup. While many people think pure maple syrup is all the same, nothing could be further from the truth. The flavors are as diverse as the range found in fine coffees and cacaos.
Below is a running list of medium amber syrups I’ve tasted in-depth, on their own and head-to-head against one another, over the last few years. The majority are from Vermont, but New Hampshire, Maine, New York, Wisconsin, and more are represented, as well. I continue to add more syrups from a wider range of states, almost always with a preference for certified organics and/or those that have won blue ribbons at county and state levels.
The following ranks the syrups in order of what I would consider the best to the worst. Tasting notes follow each, and links to each farm are included. However, opinions will vary, and the quality of each farm’s production does shift from year-to-year, due to a variety of environmental and technical factors. And of course, some people will prefer flavors I’ve found off-putting, or they may discern (and love or hate) notes I didn’t detect.
Medium Amber Maple Syrups Rankings
Mount Cabot: Smooth, calm, with notes of Bourbon vanilla. A moderate level of pure maple flavor, yet only subtly sweet. Exceptionally great work that embodies the maple syrup experience.
Kinney’s Sugarhouse: Perfect. Pure, pronounced maple flavor through-and-through. Light floral elements linger in the finish. No discernable caramel or brown sugar notes and absolutely no off flavors. While second on the list here, consider it a tie with Mount Cabot Maple above.
Maple Hollow: Strong, but pleasant, tones of Madagascan vanilla. Modest floral notes. A slight waft of autumnal spices. Solid maple flavor with a moderate sweetness. It’s also a Wisconsin syrup, which makes an enjoyable change of pace from those of the northeast.
Hilltop Boilers: Beautifully complex. Clear floral notes with wafts of Madagascan vanilla, accented by a bold, yet delicious, smokiness. Complementary notes of cream and butter. Moderate sweetness with a slightly muted maple flavor. No off notes at all. An absolutely unique syrup that must be experienced.
McIntosh Hill: Exquisitely balanced maple flavor, with modest notes of caramel and absolutely no off flavors or metallic tones. However, the sweetness is a bit too pronounced. For those who enjoy an extra sugary kick and who are not as concerned with the level of nuance Mount Cabot (above) can provide, this is a phenomenal syrup.
Bragg Farm: Warm, almost buttery, with coffee notes. Moderate maple flavor. Slightly on the sweet side. No off flavors. Always a great choice for topping waffles.
Black Sheep Sugarhouse: Much like Bragg Farm, this syrup has a warm, almost buttery element. The maple is fairly pronounced, and the sweetness is a bit elevated, though my no means overbearing. No off notes. A delicious syrup. Note: Their website appears to no longer be functional.
Inthewoods Sugar Bush: Labelled as a medium amber, but definitely more of a dark amber. Quite sweet. Dominant note of cotton candy. Clean flavor. A nice syrup, though perhaps a bit heavy-handed for fine waffles.
Spring Break: Slightly sweeter than your average syrup, with pleasant maple tones and an undercurrent of caramel and butterscotch. There’s a very subtle metallic quality, as well, but it’s barely present. This is a top-notch syrup — excellent for daily use.
Hall Farms: Clean flavor. Not too sweet. Slightly subdued maple tones. Light floral notes. Pleasant and upbeat on the palate.
Fuller’s Sugarhouse: There’s an obvious scent of celery to this syrup. Not a bad thing, but unusual for a maple syrup. It’s otherwise a fairly straightforward medium amber. Perhaps in a lightly sweetened apple waffle, this could play well.
Ben’s Sugar Shack: Nutty aroma and flavor. Moderate maple flavor with a slightly subdued sweetness. Subtle metallic tones.
Branon’s West View Maples: Clean maple flavor with pronounced tones of raw nuts. Smooth and warm. The finish can be a little heavy and mineral/metallic. Best paired with stronger flavors, as in buttermilk and yeasted waffles.
Jed’s Maple: Very nice. Fairly thin consistency. Flavor is a smooth maple with pronounced hints of spice, lime and crackers.
Bowley Brook: Distinct notes of fresh nuts — peanut and cashew. The maple flavor itself is a bit downplayed, toward the lighter end of moderate. There’s a subtle waft of butterscotch. No mineral or metallic notes; clean flavor. Overall, it’s a pleasant syrup. A bit nuttier than most…which would push it higher up the list here, were it not for the somewhat muted maple.
Amber Ridge Maple: Moderately mapley and with a very light “kick”. Hints of spice and citrus. Later tastings provided refreshing “airy green” notes.
Hidden Springs: Buttery and lightly floral. A bit “bright” for most waffle recipes, though perhaps good for ones with more floral tones or ones which need complementary floral elements.
Hamilton’s: Darkly colored for a medium amber, yet with fairly muted notes of maple and brown sugar. In fact, the brown sugar flavor is a bit more prominent than the maple. Not particularly sweet either. No true off notes. Pleasant enough, but bland.
Harwood Gold: Timid. Subdued maple flavor. Subdued sweetness. The color was right for a medium amber, but the flavor was almost more like a light. However, there was an interesting heat and spiciness to the finish.
North Hadley Sugar Shack: Very strong maple flavor, accented with prominent floral tones. Light hints of brown sugar. Extremely sweet. Very clear mineral/metallic tones. While the floral elements are great, it’s otherwise lacking in nuance and is too brash.
Crown: Smooth and tasty, but too cane-like. It almost tastes more like a brown sugar syrup than pure maple. Perhaps too much red maple is making its way into the production. It’s also extremely and unjustifiably pricey.
Stannard Farm: Tasty. Smooth. Maple and brown sugar flavor. Similar to Crown Maple, though not quite as well-refined.
Ox Pasture: Fairly neutral flavor, with a moderate maple kick. A bit “bright”, as well. Probably slightly too unbalanced for most uses.
Maple Valley Sugarbush: Timid. Light for a medium amber, with flavor to match. Neither very sweet nor very maple. While there were no off notes, it is far too bland overall.
Branon Family: “Bright” and “green”. Too brash. Note: This is a neighboring farm to the above-listed “Branon’s West View Maples”.
Square Deal Farm: Woody and nutty. Very clear mineral/metallic tones. The actual maple flavor is decidedly subdued, to the point it tastes like “the core” of the experience is missing. It’s not an off-putting syrup, but neither is it a particularly interesting one.
Andersonville Maple: Pure and nuanced maple flavor, yet with some “pencil shaving” notes. Otherwise very moderate and smooth. Well-colored and with an excellent consistency.
Couture’s Maple: Pleasant and moderate, though perhaps not quite enough maple flavor in the midst of all the sweetness. Light wafts of fermentation. There’s also a clear metallic flavor in the syrup when tasted solo.
North Family Farm: Light and grassy with simultaneous notes of stale bread. Not bad, per se, but not enjoyable either.
Hillsboro Sugarworks: Spunky and insouciant. Lacking in subtleties. Too intense. Later tastings reveal hints of “pencil shaving” flavor.
Roy’s: Conspicuously light in color and thin, like a light amber, though labelled as medium. Too much like sugar syrup, and with an odd rubbery/off flavor.
Mount Cube Farm: Flavors of coconut, plastic and gummy bears. An absurdly bad syrup.
Virtually as a rule, any maple syrup you buy in a grocery store will be appalling. They’re rarely single origin syrups, and even when they are, they’re often from sub-par farms that don’t store the syrup properly. It’s crucial to purchase from finer farms, such as those above.
I’ll continue to update the list, as I acquire new syrups. For now, Mount Cabot tops the rankings. Their medium amber is exquisite and embodies the idea of fine maple syrup. It is my go-to for virtually all recipes where I top the waffle with maple.