Is there a word to describe the flavor common to anise, licorice, and fennel? It tastes kind of sweet, but has a "bite".

Edit: here it is described as "licoricelike": http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/aniseed

  • 2
    Yes, the flavor is anise.
    – Greg Lee
    Commented Jun 10, 2015 at 23:08
  • I'd call it anethole.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Jun 10, 2015 at 23:16
  • 3
    I take that back. The flavor is licorice. (I see more references to "licorice flavor" than I do to "anise flavor".)
    – Greg Lee
    Commented Jun 10, 2015 at 23:22
  • Could there be some relation to liqueur, because of the English spelling? Was this used widely as a flavor compound for liqueurs? Buried underneath the sweetness (just as in the confectionery). Commented Jan 18, 2018 at 19:08
  • FYI--Anethole is the chemical compound, not the taste or aroma. Licorice tends toward bitter, whereas anise is more sweet and spicy. They have similar aromas. The aromas' contributions to taste are likely driving the perceived taste similarity.
    – jimm101
    Commented May 2, 2022 at 22:00

2 Answers 2


Kenneth T. Farrell describes the aroma and flavor of fennel seed in his book Spices, Condiments and Seasonings:

The odor of the essential oil has been characterized as being aromatic, pleasantly fresh, warm, spicy, aniselike, slightly camphoraceous, changing to a heavier camphoraceous note when dried out, leaving an anetholic back note. The flavor has also been described as being warm, spicy, aniselike, aromatic, green, herbaceous, initially bitter, then sweet, with a fresh, slightly bitter, aftertaste.

Emphasis added

The term piquant captures the commonality of those specific descriptions:


1 Having a pleasantly sharp taste or appetizing flavour:


Some people enjoy the piquant flavor of anise, while others do not.

The term aromatic seems to evoke connotations of the bittersweet aroma, which has great impact on the bittersweet flavor:


1 Having a pleasant and distinctive smell:


  • 1
    I'd use piquant for spicier flavors like salsa or capers. I think aromatic hits closer to home...IMO. :-) Commented Jun 10, 2015 at 23:55
  • I think piquant is not it; I reserve it for anything pickled, some strongly fermented cheeses, sour cream such as Kefir; foods of this kind. Capers is a match in this respect, and certainly some spicy sauces - likely coming from the pickled ingredients. To me, piquant requires a salivating hit of sour. Commented Jan 18, 2018 at 18:08



1 (Of food or drink) sweet with a bitter aftertaste:


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