Environment ‘changes taste of malt whisky’

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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 per cent. Experts say the findings could alter the way bars and restaurants are designed.

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: “A change of environment can give rise to a very real 10-20 per cent change in the experience of the whisky.”