ST. ALBANS — Volunteers from the maple industry and the Agency of Agriculture slowly worked their way through more than 150 samples of maple syrup Thursday, judging the products on density, color and flavor.

At the same time, volunteers from Co-Operative Insurance judged the cooking contest entries in an adjacent room.

Henry Marckres, who serves on the Vermont Maple Festival Board of Trustees, has been a judge for the annual Maple Syrup Contest for the past 33 years.

Marckres said the judges follow a specific process for determining the best maple syrup.

“Here at the Maple Festival, there are three categories of syrup,” he said. “Golden Delicate, which is the lightest color, Amber Rich, which is the next one down, and the Dark Robust, which is the third.”

“Then there’s also a category for maple products,” Marckres said, “and those include maple candy, maple crème, maple fudge and maple sugar.” This year, Marckres was in charge of judging this category.

“When we first get here, we do the densities on the syrup to make sure they are within the density range and anything that isn’t, is rejected,” Marckres said.

“Then we split up into teams of judges,” he said. “Each two or three take a grade of syrup because it would be way too much to try to do everything. We go through, they pick out a class winner for each of the grades of syrup and we pick out a class winner for each of the products”

“From the syrup, then the three class winners are put together and all of the judges judge for the best of show,” he continued. “That would be the syrup that is the best representative sample of the grade that it’s entered in and it stands out above the other two.”

When asked what makes a maple syrup stand out from the rest, Marckres said, “The flavor is really what makes the difference into which one get the class winner and the best of show.”

He said the judges are on the outlook for “Mother Nature off flavors” such as buddy or metabolism. Marckres said these two flavors start to enter the sap when buds begin to sprout on the maple trees.

All of the winners of the 2016 Maple Sugaring Contest will be announced on Saturday during the 50th Annual Vermont Maple Festival.

Vermont Maple Cooking Contest

From pies to salad dressings to breads and cakes, more than 40 people submitted a recipe and dish for this year’s Vermont Maple Cooking Contest.

Each dish was scored on the following criteria: appearance, flavor, texture, uniformity of size, conformity to contest rules, presentation, prominence of maple and overall quality of the product.

All of the judges from Co-Operative Insurance agreed that a strong maple flavor was the deciding factor.

Patty Cross of Swanton won the cake category with Maple Cake with Pure Maple Syrup Frosting.

John Smith of St. Albans won the pies and other desserts section with his Maple Walnut Cheesecake.

Helen Parent of Enosburg Falls won the pickles, preserves and dressings section with her Maple Festival Salted Caramel Sauce.

Hunter Boylan-Robinson of Sheldon took the breads category with an Applewood Smoked Maple Glazed Bacon Bagel.

Ella Reynolds of St. Albans won the youth category with a Maple Coconut Oatmeal pie.

Last but not least, Lynn Tetreault of St. Albans won the Maple for the Health of It category with her Gluten Free Maple Bars.

The winner of the Vermont Best Maple Cook, which is chosen by the judges from among the adult winners, will be announced at the Maple Barbeque on Saturday.