Cheeses and other dairy products made from goat’s milk often have a characteristic “tang”.
Sometimes described as “waxy”, “tangy”, or “animalic”, goat cheese almost always has a prominent flavor that is formally described as “goaty”. This flavor is noticeable across the spectrum of goat cheese, but can sometimes be easier to pick up in fresh cheeses like chèvre.
This flavor is primarily due to the fatty acid composition of goat milk and its subsequent cheese. As we’ve discussed previously, lipolysis is a reaction involving the cleavage of fatty acids from glycerol which both make up triglycerides (fat molecules). Left whole, these triglyceride molecules don’t have any flavor. When enzymes (lipases) break off the fatty acids, they are now volatile and can interact with your aroma receptors. The unique fatty acids in goat milk are what lead to its distinctive goaty flavor. A few important fatty acids that make up goaty flavor include: 4-ethyl octanoic acid, 4-methyl octanoic acid, caproic acid, and caprylic acid to name a few.
While we often talk about flavors and aromas being caused by certain compounds, it’s important to remember that the unique taste and aroma of cheese is caused by a whole menagerie of chemicals. Cheese flavor is definitely a case of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts.
Cover image (goat): Wikipedia