Taste 'influenced by environment'
Published 29/03/2013 | 00:11
A malt whisky tastes more "grassy" when standing on turf listening to a lawnmower, researchers have found.
Other kinds of sensory stimulus, including the sound of a crackling fire, ringing bells, and the scent of cedar wood, can also affect flavour.
Volunteers who sipped whisky in a "multi-sensory bar" found that different environments enhanced their experience by up to 20%.
Experts say the findings could alter the way bars and restaurants are designed in the future.
More than 400 members of the public were invited to take part in the experiment, held over three evenings in London's Soho. Whisky in hand, they walked around three rooms with very unusual decor while filling in a flavour score card.
One room, designed to accentuate green, grassy notes, included a real turf floor, and the sounds of lawnmowers and singing birds.
A second, coloured red and filled with curved shapes and the sounds of ringing bells, aimed to bring out the taste of dark berries and dried fruits.
The third room, highlighting the drink's aged and woody finish, incorporated the sounds of a double bass, creaking wood and crackling logs on a fire. A scent of cedar wood and a tree growing in the room added to the experience.
Psychology Professor Charles Spence, from Oxford University, who led the research in conjunction with The Singleton whisky brand, said: "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.
"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. "