Taste of Whisky Changes According to the Environment, Oxford Study


The taste of whisky changes by a maximum of 20 percent according to different environments, says Professor Charles Spence, an experimental psychologist at the University of Oxford.

Spence said that the ambience of a room has a definitive, larger impact on taste buds. For example, drinking whisky in a room where the dominant colour is red means a person will taste dark berry flavours in higher amounts; on the other hand, being in a room with pine walls or standing by a fireplace gives a woody taste to whisky.

"Everything I have researched recently suggests that the different sensory inputs - the lighting, the sounds, the smells and feel - of these different rooms should really help to bring out different aspects of the whisky," the professor from the Department of Experimental Psychology at the University told Standard.

This is a first major study that has discovered how surroundings can impact sensory experiences of whisky drinking.

Spence arrived at the conclusion after observing nearly three hundred whisky drinkers in the specially designed Singleton Sensorium in London's Beak Street, Soho. Participants were made to sip exactly the same single malt whisky in three rooms with different environments.

The first room was designed as a grassy room with green lights, real grass, plants, the sounds of lawnmowers and sheep and the smell of the countryside. The second was a fruity room featuring red, round fruits and chiming bells hung on the ceiling. The final room included wood panels and sounds of crackling wood fires.

After drinking whisky in these three rooms, the participants had to report about the different flavours they experienced in each room.

"The ratings of the grassiness in the grassy room were about 15 to 20 per cent higher than in the sweet or aftertaste room,' Spence told Daily Mail UK. "Similarly the sweetness of the whisky in the red room was about 10 per cent higher than in either of the other rooms. You can almost think about using the rooms to season, and bring out the flavours, in the drinks."

"This sort of research has significant implications for anyone looking to enhance their whisky experience in a bar, restaurant or even from the comfort of their own homes," said Spence, who is the head of the Crossmodal Research group, which specializes in the research about the integration of information across different sensory modalities

This finding has been published in Flavour, a peer-reviewed journal from Bio Med Central.

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