I am working in a brewery and throughout our day we go through beer tasting panels. During these panels we attempt to describe the exact flavors and smells that we experience in a particular beer.

However, we have run into an issue in that many of these descriptors are often seen in a negative, and sometimes unpleasant, light.

Are there any words that are more appealing or romantic that can be used in place of words such as - funk, phenol, umami?

All of these words can be described - funk - barnyard, must, horse hoof - phenol - vinyl, medicinal, band aid - umami - earthy, savory - but they lack a concise descriptor that can be used to denote something innately positive. Something more in tune with how terroir is used to describe the effect that a particular region's climate, soils and aspect (terrain) change and impact the taste of wine.

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    fascinating question. The trouble is all those sound unfavorable (except maybe umami). You're looking for synonyms of these right?
    – Mitch
    Aug 30, 2016 at 19:39
  • Not just synonyms, but ones that sound appealing to those who may never have experienced these flavors before.
    – Karl
    Aug 30, 2016 at 19:43
  • Sorry I wasn't clear. Yes, synonyms, but appealing. The difficulty is that all the suggestions you've given as alternatives are possibly not in the direction you want, but they are also the only indication as to meaning. That is, can you give more wordy suggestions for these three that are positive to make it easier to identify (if they exist) positive single words?
    – Mitch
    Aug 30, 2016 at 20:09
  • E.g. for phenol. the label is clinical and so should have no 'negative' (you're literally smelling phenol I take it?). Are is there food or drink other than beer that give off phenol but that is considered pleasant? Sharp, acidic, light, tastes like ... I can't think of anything pleasant that tastes similar to vinyl/band-aids.
    – Mitch
    Aug 30, 2016 at 20:14
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    @Karl You will have many of us scratching our heads by your invitation to mine the terminology of wine and apply it to beer. I would suggest that the two beverages are, for the most part, mutually exclusive in respect.of wine-synonyms that are more "appealing" and "romantic" as per your question.. It's rather onerous to come up with "romantic" terminology without the risk of sounding pretentious, a state of affairs that respected wine writers and commentators would want to avoid. Ditto for beer. Aug 30, 2016 at 20:37

1 Answer 1


There's nothing wrong with your language. Anyone who pays close attention to their own palate has realized long ago that nearly all delicious food and drink of any serious complexity has exotic characteristics that in excess are unappealing or even disgusting. Everything you've said is also frequently applied to wine. As honest tasters, you give your reader an indication whether you find the characteristic appealing and balanced by other qualities or simply "too much". "Delicious dark flavors with notes of truffle and woodland floor" is markedly different from "Swampy sulfurous notes overpower..." "Tar and roses" is a classic descriptor for Barolo, just as "petrol and jasmine" is unmistakeable in a fine riesling. You have a wonderful opportunity to open doors for your readers as to what is really going on with their own organoleptic experience of eating and drinking. To expand the descriptive vocabulary, read wine reviews and food reviews to see how others describe tastes and smells.

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