Glassware blamed for gender bias in spiritsBy Melita Kiely
Researchers claim to have identified the main cause for gender bias within the spirits industry – tulip-shaped glasses.
Tulip-shaped, or copita, glasses have long been used for nosing and tasting spirits, and have been designed to concentrate the aromas of the liquid.
However, a new report – Applying Physics and Sensory Sciences to Spirits Nosing Vessel Design to Improve Evaluation Diagnostics and Drinking Enjoyment – suggests these glasses have been a primary cause for “female exclusion” due to women’s heightened sense of smell compared to men.
Commissioned by Arsilica, which owns glassware company Neat, the research revealed that in a simple ‘A/B’ preference test, 98% of women preferred an “open-rim, engineering nosing vessel, which diverts ethanol (A), over the tulip, which concentrates ethanol (B)”.
It also showed that 30% of women “refused testing, averse to olfactory pain to tulips”.
For men, 87% of those surveyed preferred option ‘A’, and “none experienced olfactory pain”.
All participants chosen for the study were well-known to the author, Christine Crnek, co-founder and CEO of Arsilica, and comprised spirits industry executives, collectors and aficionados, spirits judges, bartenders, brand ambassadors, certified sommeliers, spirits distributors and buyers, competition and tasting organisers, and members of international spirits clubs.
The exception was participants in ‘Consumer Test I’, who were all random attendees at spirits events.
Glassware put to the test during the study included the snifter, Glencairn, copita, an ‘engineered vessel’ and a tumbler.
The study proposed a modified social position to “balance gender participation” in the spirits world.
It stated: “The industry has a golden opportunity to balance gender participation and much to gain from expanding straight spirits markets to include more sensitive female noses.
“As a bonus, males with more sensitive noses will participate. Modifying social stance requires no investment, and there are many areas for improvement.”
Christine Crnek, co-founder and CEO of Arsilica, said: “Fifty years ago, Scotch, whiskies, Tequilas and rum target markets were solidly male, and gender-neutral social norms were not a consideration.
“Our research uncovered a major reason for predominantly male participation and female exclusion among straight spirits drinkers: tulip glasses which concentrate painful nose-numbing ethanol.
“According to sensory science, females have far superior noses, and ethanol is an anaesthetic which quickly hinders aroma detection and appreciation. It’s been under our noses all along, yet no one noticed.”