The bad news is that the words taste, flavor and aroma are not exactly interchangeable. The good news is that it’s very easy to learn the distinctions between Taste vs. Flavor vs. Aroma and learning the difference will make you better at cooking and drinking. Sound delicious?
- Taste refers to the senses inside our mouth including our tongue
- Aroma occurs inside our noses and includes aspects in regards to our sense of smell
- Flavor is when taste and aroma converge
What is Taste?
Taste happens inside our mouth. Taste has everything to do with how our tongue and mouth interact with food and drink. Our tongue has 2 kinds of receptors. One receptor type is for taste, aptly named‘tastebuds’ which can be found all over our tongue. The other for mouthfeel. Mouthfeel is sensed by free nerve endings all over the inside of our mouth and tongue.
- Taste focuses primarily on Sweet, Salt, Bitter and Sour. There are also two disputed tastes: Umami and ‘Metallic’.
- Mouth-feel focuses primarily on viscosity, temperature, burning, body, prickle, touch and pain.
What is Aroma?
The words aroma and bouquet are actually just pleasant words used to describe odors. Odors are tiny volatilized compounds (meaning: they float in the air) and get stuck in our noses. Since alcohol is a volatile compound, it gives off a lot of odors. This is why perfume is made with alcohol.
Odors are sensed in our brain by the limbic system which is an early part of our brain that also deals with emotion, behavior, motivation and long term memory. This is why smells can bring up ancient memories. When we smell things, we can do it two ways. One way is through our nostrils and the other is through the back of our throat and into our ‘retronasal’ cavity. Some research has shown that the right hemisphere of our brain is better at discriminating smells. This could be the reason you think that your right nostril smells better than the left.
What is Flavor?
Flavor is the combination of aroma, taste and mouthfeel to create a complete profile of what you’re eating or drinking.