How does your whisky taste?
09 Oct 2013
Manipulating people’s senses with environmental triggers can have a significant effect on the taste of whisky. An experiment, published in BioMed Central’s open access journal Flavour, reveals that participants’ ratings of the smell, taste and flavour of a whisky changed by ten to twenty percent depending on the environment they were drinking it in. These results have implications on the environments where people consume food and drink.
Charles Spence, Professor of Experimental Psychology at the University of Oxford, and sound designers Condiment Junkie, conducted an experiment that examined how changing what people saw, heard, and smelled affected how they tasted whisky. Their results add to the literature demonstrates how changes in the environment can affect how people experience food and drink.
During a whisky tasting event, participants were asked to sample a whisky in three different rooms. Each room had a unique visual appearance, soundscape, fragrance, and feel which was designed to emphasize a different attribute of the whisky; its grassiness, sweetness, or woodiness. The experiment assessed how these different environments influenced the participant’s perceptions of these different attributes.
The room that was designed to emphasise the ‘grassiness’ of the whisky had a turf floor and a soundscape recorded in a summer meadow (which included sheep ‘baa-ing’ in the background). This contrasted to the other rooms, such as the one that was designed to emphasis ‘woodiness’, which had a fragrance of cedarwood and tonka bean and a soundscape that included the sound of creaking timbers, log fires, and wood instruments.
The results showed that participants perceived the whisky as significantly ‘grassier’ in the ‘grassy’ room, sweeter in the ‘sweet’ room and having a woodier aftertaste in the ‘woody’ room. Ratings changed by as much as twenty percent between rooms.
These findings imply that there are opportunities for designing multisensory environments that enhance our experience as consumers. Charles Spence, co-author of the paper, said: ‘These results suggest that, even under realistic and noisy conditions, a change of the multisensory environment in which people drink can give rise to a very real change in their experience. They help to highlight the potential opportunity that may be associated with the design multisensory environments for complex food or drink products.’
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Notes to Editor
1. Assessing the influence of the multisensory environment on the whisky drinking experience
Carlos Velasco, Russell Jones, Scott King and Charles Spence
Flavour 2013 2:23, doi:10.1186/2044-7248-2-23
Please name the journal in any story you write. If you are writing for the web, please link to the article. All articles are available free of charge, according to BioMed Central’s open access policy.
2. Flavour is a peer-reviewed, open access, online journal that publishes interdisciplinary articles on flavour, its generation and perception, and its influence on behaviour and nutrition. The journal publishes articles from all relevant disciplines including neuroscience, genetics, food chemistry, sensory science, psychology and philosophy.
3. BioMed Central (http://www.biomedcentral.com/) is an STM (Science, Technology and Medicine) publisher which has pioneered the open access publishing model. All peer-reviewed research articles published by BioMed Central are made immediately and freely accessible online, and are licensed to allow redistribution and reuse. BioMed Central is part of Springer Science+Business Media, a leading global publisher in the STM sector. @BioMedCentral
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