Environment proven to affect taste of whisky

2nd April, 2013 by Samantha Graham

A science experiment conducted by single malt Scotch The Singleton has shown that drinking environments can enhance whisky’s taste by up to 20%.

The-Singleton Sensorium

The Red Room at the Singleton Sensorium enhanced the whisky’s red fruit flavours

Initial results from world’s first multi-sensory bar, The Singleton Sensorium in Soho, London, has shown that creating environments to complement the flavours of the whisky can heighten the tasting experience.

The test, conducted by Professor Charles Spence, head of crossmodal research in the department of experimental psychology at the University of Oxford, is claimed to be the first of its kind to explore the relationship between the senses and the flavours of whisky, and may have implications for the future of pub and bar design.

“The results signal that multi-sensory environments effect the nose, taste, flavour and after taste of whisky, despite the fact that participants were aware they were drinking exactly the same drink throughout the experiment,” Spence explained.

Over the course of three evenings from 19 to 21 March, 440 participants visited The Singleton Sensorium and entered three different worlds, designed by “sensory architects”, Condiment Junkie.

The first room was designed to accentuate the grassy nose of The Singleton, and included a real turf floor, sounds of lawnmowers and birds tweeting. The second, the red room, aimed to bring out the taste of the sweet dark berries and dried fruit flavour in the whisky, using curved shapes and the sounds of bells ringing.

The final room was created to represent the finish of the whisky with the sound of a double-bass, creaking wood and a wood crackling fire, while the scent of cedar wood and a tree growing in the room heightened the taste of age and wood in The Singleton whisky.

As they drank in each room, the participants noted down how the sounds, smells and visuals in the spaces enhanced the flavours in the whisky.

Spence said: “What these results show is that under realistic and noisy conditions, a change of environment can give rise to a very real 10-20% change in the experience of whisky.

“Therefore, there is an opportunity here to create a multi-sensory environment around a great tasting product to enhance the drinker’s enjoyment of drinking whisky.”

This is not the first time the Diageo-owned Scotch has considered a multi-sensory environment for whisky tasting. Last year The Singleton Taste Room experimented with the cuisine of chef Mark Hix, the soundtrack of DJ Giles Peterson and even the style of glass and type of chair to sit on to complement the whisky tasting experience.

The Singleton Sensorium is part of a wider study, ‘Tasting Notes: Assessing the effect of the multi-sensory atmosphere and ambiance on people’s perception of whisky’, which will be published in September 2013.

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