Study finds environment affects whisky tasting experience

15th October, 2013 by Amy Hopkins

Academics at Oxford University have found that the external environment “significantly affects” the taste of whisky.

Whisky study

Researchers from Oxford University have concluded that environmental variants can “significantly affect” whisky ratings

The team, led by Charles Spence, professor of experimental psychology, and including engineers from sound designers Condiment Junkie, conducted an experiment where participants were asked to taste whisky in three different rooms.

The paper reads: “Flavour perception depends not only on the multisensory integration of the sensory inputs associated with the food or drink itself, but also the multisensory attributes (or atmosphere) of the environment in which the food or drink is tasted.”

Researchers found that what the 441 participants saw, heard and smelt, “significantly affected” their opinion on the aroma, flavour and aftertaste of whisky by up to 20%.

Each room had a unique smell, touch, look and sound which were all designed in such a way to emphasise a differed attribute of whisky.

One room was made to appear ‘grassy’ with a turf floor and sounds of a summer meadow, another was made to appear ‘woody’ with a fragrance of cedar wood and sounds of creaking timber, while the final room was made to appear ‘sweet’ through the scent of prunol and aldehydes and the sound of tinkling bells.

Consequently, whiskies were rated as having a grassier nose in the grassy room, sweeter taste in the sweet room and woodier aftertaste in the woody room.

The researchers concluded: “These results help to highlight the potential opportunity that may be associated with the design of congruent multisensory environments, paired with complex food or drink products.

“The results reported also confirm that it really is possible to enhance the multisensory experience of the drinker by changing the atmosphere in which they drink.”

The study, entitled ‘Assessing the influence of the multisensory environment on the whisky drinking experience’, was published in BioMed Central’s journal Flavour.

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