A change of environment can enhance the experience of whisky by up to 20%, according to the world’s first science experiment exploring the senses and the taste of whisky. These initial results follow testing of the world’s first multi-sensory bar, The Singleton Sensorium, by Professor Charles Spence of Oxford University and Sensory Architects, Condiment Junkie, with over 440 members of the public to prove the effects of the environment on the taste of whisky.
Professor Charles Spence, Head of Crossmodal Research in the Department of Experimental Psychology at the University of Oxford, comments:
“The results signal that multi-sensory environments affect 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. Furthermore, results indicate that our feelings about the environment in which we happen to be tasting/drinking whisky impact on our feelings about the drink itself.
“What these results show is that even under realistic and noisy conditions, a change of environment can give rise to a very real 10-20% change in the experience of the whisky. Therefore, there is an opportunity here to create a multi-sensory environment around a great tasting product to enhance the drinker’s experience and enjoyment of drinking whisky.”
In Soho, London, over the course of three evenings (Tuesday 19th March, Wednesday 20th March and Thursday 21st March), participants entered three different worlds – designed by Condiment Junkie – and noted down how the different sounds, smells and visuals in the spaces enhanced flavours in The Singleton of Dufftown single malt whisky.
Each room challenged the senses in different ways; the first room was designed to accentuate the green, grassy nose of The Singleton, and included a real turf floor, sounds of lawnmowers and birds tweeting. The second room, the red room, aimed to bring out the taste of the sweet dark berries and dried fruit flavour notes in the whisky, using curved shapes and the sounds of bells ringing. The final room was created to represent the unique finish of the whisky. Sounds included double-bass notes, creaking wood and a wood crackling fire. The scent of cedar wood in the air, and a tree growing in the room, highlighted the lingering taste of age and wood in The Singleton whisky.
The Singleton Sensorium is part of a wider scientific 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.
Professor Charles Spence and Condiment Junkie, who helped to create the ‘Sound of the Sea’ dish with Heston Blumenthal for The Fat Duck, believe that the results will have lasting implications on the way pubs, bars and restaurants will be designed in the future.