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Useful Flavour Information

BACKGROUND: Taste, Smell & Flavour

Approximately 75–95% of what we perceive as “taste” is in fact due to our sense of smell. This is mainly due to retronasal olfaction or smell.

Retronasal smell?
Retronasal smell, retronasal  olfaction, or “mouth smell“, is the ability to perceive flavor dimensions of foods and drinks. Retronasal smell is a sensory modality that produces flavor.

Flavour is defined as the blend of taste and smell sensations evoked by a substance in the mouth.

The human senses of taste & smell can vary depending on genetic makeup, sex, health, training, environmental factors & fatigue.

Taste is the sensation produced when a substance in the mouth reacts chemically with taste receptor cells located on taste buds in the oral cavity, mostly on the tongue.Existing sensations include bitter, sweet, salty, acid, umami & possibly kokumi

Taste, along with smell (olfaction) and trigeminal nerve stimulation (registering texture, pain, and temperature), determines flavors of food or other substances. Humans have taste receptors on taste buds (gustatory calyculi) and other areas including the upper surface of the tongue and the epiglottis (wikipedia).

The sense of smell gives rise to the perception of odors, mediated by the olfactory nerve. The olfactory receptor (OR) cells are neurons present in the olfactory epithelium, a small patch of tissue at the back of the nasal cavity. There are millions of olfactory receptor neurons that act as sensory signaling cells.

Odorous molecules act as a chemical stimulus. Molecules bind to receptor proteins extended from cilia, initiating an electric signal. An odour or odour or fragrance is caused by one or more volatilized chemical compounds, generally at a very low concentration, that humans or other animals perceive by the sense of olfaction. Odors are also commonly called scents, which can refer to both pleasant and unpleasant odors.

WEB: Smell & taste

Genetic variations?

The number & shape of taste buds or fungiform papillae varies from one person to another. The sensory capacities of the taste buds are dictated by the structure of the receptors on the taste cells.

Genetics plays a major role in the soapy taste of coriander experienced by some. Scientists have found a set of genes related to smell and taste responsible for this.

Supertasters often report that foods like broccoli, cabbage, spinach, grapefruit and coffee taste very bitter. The opposite of supertasters are non-tasters. Non-tasters have very few taste buds and, to them, most food may seem bland and unexciting. The people in the middle are average tasters (Scientific American)

Describing Flavour Profiles

Flavour descriptors?

One might think that describing a flavour when tasting and smelling is a challenging endeavour. There are many flavour descriptors that exist in the industry, such as our own Novotaste flavour descriptors. These are simply useful tools that are used by flavourists on a regular bases. The reality is by just communicating common and laymen terms when tasting and smelling, one is actually describing a flavour profile. It is important not to overthink, rely on your instincts, and remember that describing a flavour is simply communicating what you perceive during the process of tasting and smelling. 

Novotaste’s Selection of 534 Flavour Descriptors

What is the trick for describing the flavour of something without using descriptors?
Try to describe the flavour profile by referring to common foods & beverages

Flavour wheels consist of flavour descriptors for specific applications.

Various flavour wheels

What is the best way to properly evaluate a flavour profile?
  1. In the morning (taste buds & the olfactory bulb are the most sensitive)
  2. Evaluate in a room devoid of smell, sound & other sensory stimuli
  3. Do not smoke or drink alcohol
  4. The flavour cannot be overdosed in your application, since this will overwhelm your senses of taste & smell
  5. Flavour should be evaluated in a matrix that is as close to the intended application as possible
  6. Do not solely rely on your own sensory interpretation 
  7. Close your eyes when tasting or smelling

WEB: Describing flavours

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Applying Flavours to Various Applications

Guidelines for applying flavour to your application

How can you determine if a flavour is overdosed in your application?
When a flavour is overdosed in your application, it will lead to a bitter &/or chemical taste. The aftertaste will also tend to last for more than 20 seconds.

Flavour solutions for various applications

Contact us with your flavour questions

Novotaste’s extensive flavour library

Sensory fatigue?

As the day passes, our smell & taste sensitivity will generally decrease. It is a quite common mistake to evaluate flavour profiles late in the afternoon &/or after consecutive sensory analyses.

Going outside to get a fresh breath of air is always recommended to regain some sensitivity. Eating unsalted soda crackers is also a very effective way of neutralizing aftertaste.