Mary Ann Drake ’96 PhD directs the North Carolina State University Sensory Service Center, which specializes in the sensory evaluation of dairy products. She and her colleagues produced this cheese flavor wheel, as well as a more specific cheddar cheese lexicon. When asked to describe what distinguishes Cougar Gold from regular cheddar cheese, she says, “When ideal, its flavor profile should have a very large, round, robust flavor that’s characterized by sulfur and beefy, brothy notes, with slight but definite under-notes of fruity and nutty flavors, a lack of bitterness and a flavor that finishes up quickly in the mouth and does not linger. That would be the ideal flavor profile of Cougar Gold.”

Cheese flavor wheel

Term Definition Reference
Cooked Aromatics associated with cooked milk skim milk heated to 85°C for 30 min.
Whey Aromatics associated with Cheddar cheese whey fresh Cheddar whey
Diacetyl Aromatic associated with diacetyl diacetyl, 20 ppm
Milkfat/Lactone Aromatics associated with milkfat fresh coconut meat, heavy cream, δ dodecalactone, 40 ppm
Fruity Aromatics associated with different fruits fresh pineapple, Ethyl hexanoate, 20 ppm
Sulfur Aromatics associated with sulfurous boiled compounds mashed egg, H2S bubbled through water, struck match
Free fatty acid Aromatics associated with short chain acids fatty butyric acid, 20 ppm
brothy Aromatics associated with boiled meat or vegetable soup stock canned potatoes, Wylers low sodium beef broth cubes, methional, 20 ppm
Nutty The nut-like aromatic associated with different nuts lightly toasted unsalted nuts, wheat germ, unsalted wheat Thins, roasted peanut oil extract
Catty Aroma associated with tom-cat urine 2 mercapto-2 methyl-pentan-4-one, 20 ppm
cowy/phenolic Aromas associated with barns and stock trailers, indicative of animal sweat and waste p-cresol, 160 ppm, bandaids
Age** Flavors indicating age in Cheddar cheese Aged Cheddar cheese (1 year or longer)
Yeasty* Aromatics associated with fermenting yeast raw yeast dough, yeast in 3% warm sucrose water
Moldy/Musty* Aromas associated with molds and/or freshly turned soil 2-ethyl-1-hexanol, potting soil
Methyl Ketone/bleu* Aroma associated with blue-veined cheeses 2-octanone, 40 ppm
Oxidized* Aroma associated with oxidized fats 2,4 decadienal, 20 ppm
Waxy/Crayon* aromatics associated with medium chain fatty acids Capric acid, lauric acid or decanoic acid, 100mg/mL
Fecal* Aroma associated with complex protein decomposition indole, skatole 20 ppm
Bell pepper* Aroma associated with freshly cut green vegetables methoxy pyrazines, 5 ppb freshly cut bell pepper
Rosy/Floral* Aroma associated with flowers 2-phenethylamine, 20 ppm
Scorched* Aroma associated with extreme heat treatment of milk proteins Milk heated to 121°C for 25 minutes
Bitter fundamental taste sensation elicited by caffeine, quinine caffeine (0.08% in water)
Salty fundamental taste sensation elicited by salts sodium chloride (0.5% in water)
Sweet fundamental taste sensation elicited by sugars sucrose (5% in water)
Sour fundamental taste sensation elicited by acids citric acid (0.08% in water)
Umami chemical feeling factor elicited by certain peptides and nucleotides MSG (1% in water)
Prickle/bite* chemical feeling factor of which the sensation of carbonation on the tongue is typical soda water

*Indicates term was not frequently encountered in Cheddar cheese

** Data analysis indicated term is redundant and is a combination of several terms.

Chemical references prepared in 95% ethanol

Drake et al., 2000;2001

Elsewhere on the web

How Washington tastes: The Apple meets Cougar Gold
Heirloom apples in Washington state