As much as we may preach about being all for "natural" products, the actual maple product in this taste-test got buried in the middle, and many of our tasters were suspicious of its watery consistency and slightly bitter, smoky profile.
Turns out that the syrups inspired by -- but not derived from -- the maple tree fared both better and worse than the real thing, due to a combination of factors: viscosity (thicker is better), sweetness (there's a fine line between ideal and over-the-top), and overall flavor (buttery, less chemical notes won out).
When presented with real maple syrup, would you choose it over a bottle of "pancake" syrup? Perhaps, perhaps not. Our tasters didn't -- but then again, there's a reason why people started making the artificial stuff in the first place.