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Terminology for the Organoleptic Evaluation of Cider



  • Clarity: clear, cloudy, hazy, bright
  • Color: white, straw, amber, golden, copper
  • Depth: applied to overall perceptions (pale, dark, light, deep, dense)
  • Sparkling: whether cider is carbonated or still, mousse (how persistent is effervescence, long-lasting or short-lived)
  • Tears: also called "legs"; clear liquid clinging to side of glass, like teardrops
  • Viscosity: syrup-like consistency when swirled in glass




  • Cidery: unique, distinctive, cider-like characteristic of many ciders using traditional cider apples
  • Winey: wine-like, vinous, bouquet
  • Pear drops: intense pear aroma; might even smell like a banana
  • Estery: sweet-solvent, banana, acetone, chemical-like, artificial fruity-floral aroma
  • Floral: perfumed, fragrant, like flowers
  • Spirituous: like alcohol; hot, burning, heady; possible rum, whiskey, or brandy characteristics
  • Piquant: pungent, sulfuric, like a burnt match, prickling, stringing, tangy; can be due to fermentation at high temperatures of excessive use of sulfites
  • Yeasty: bread-like aroma caused by cider sitting on its lees (spent yeast) for an extended period of time; may be described as "meaty"




  • Bittersweet apple: may be described as low, heavy, or thick; fruity note characteristic of traditional cider apples, like the non-woody smell under apple trees
  • Berry fruits: strawberry, raspberry, blackberry, blackcurrant
  • Culinary apple: fresh, acidic, high fruity notes, like Granny Smith apple
  • Citrus fruit: lemon, grapefruit, orange, orange peel
  • Pear: fresh, ripe pear
  • Dried fruit: raisins, sherry-like (possibly even nutty), prunes, dried figs, strawberry jam
  • Summer/stone fruits: peach, plum




  • Grassy: fresh-cut grass, fresh green leaves

  • Elderflower: like elderflowers (herbaceous, not floral); can be "catty" at high concentrations (not necessarily a bad thing)

  • Vegetative: like vegetables; at low levels, may add positive complexity, but a high concentrations it can be sulfury and unpleasant
  • Hay/straw: hay, straw, dried, grass, dried leaves
  • Nutty: brazil nuts, hazelnuts, walnuts, almonds, marzipan
  • Mousy: cider disorder caused by lactic acid bacteria; smells and tastes like the bottom of a rodent's den




  • Caramel: burnt sugar, toffee, molasses
  • Butterscotch: buttery, diacetyl; in moderation and in certain regional styles it contribues to flavor, but can be unpleasant in large concentrations
  • Vanilla: vanilla, custard
  • Syrupy: maple syrup
  • Honey: honey!
  • Confectionary: candy, bubblegum, fruit-flavored candy




  • Spicy: cloves, allspice, nutmeg, black pepper, licorice, cinnamon
  • Woody: seasoned wood, resinous, cedarwood, fresh sawdust, woodchips, fir needles; oaky like Chardonnay 
  • Phenolic: smoky, wood fires, tar, medicinal, leathery
  • Moldy/musty: unpleasant smell sometimes compared to damp cardboard or sherry; due to oxidation of over-filtration




  • Sweet: sugary; could be from the sugar left or added fermentation
  • Acidic: sour, sharp, tart; makes you salivate
  • Salty: like salt
  • Bitter: quinine, tonic water, black coffee
  • Acetic: a smell and sharp taste like vinegar, solvent, or acetone/nail polish remover; caused by acetic or lactic acid bacteria (sometimes very desirable).




  • Body: the "middle" of weight of a mouthful of cider; thin, medium, full body
  • Warming: hot, fiery in the mouth, warm at back of throat
  • Creamy: like cream, thick-soft
  • Metallic: a tinny or coppery taste caused by exposure to certain metals (generally not desired)
  • Astringent: mouth-puckering, drying sensation, like sucking on a tea bag, tannic
  • Powdery: dusty, chalky


Taken from Tilted Shed Ciderworks, Sonoma Country, CA

Adapted from “Cider and Perry Table of Attributes,” National Association of Cider Makers (UK) and Cider: Sweet and Hard by Ben Watson. Compiled by Tilted Shed Ciderworks, Sonoma County, CA,