To celebrate the publication of Condiment Junkie’s latest research study “Assessing the influence of the multisensory environment on the whisky drinking experience”, we decided to write a quick guide to creating your own Sensorium experience, and offer up some tips for sensory eating & drinking at home.
Both the study and the Sensorium event showed how the sounds, smells, colours, shapes and materials around us dramatically change our sense of taste. We rarely recognise how much of an affect our surroundings have on what we’re eating or drinking. But with a few simple adjustments to a room, and by utilising some household ingredients, you can transform your taste experiences.
Bringing out the sweetness in a drink
1. Select a rounded glass
There is an intrinsic association between curved shapes and sweetness. Make sure the texture of the glass is smooth too.
2. Put on your red light
Through our research we’ve shown that there is an innate association between certain colours and certain tastes. As well as making your lounge look like a brothel, and being able to develop photos, bathing a room in red light will enhance sweetness in anything you taste.
3. Play music that features high pitched bells or piano
Our previous research study with The Fat Duck and Oxford showed that high percussive instruments enhance sweetness. If you want to try the specially designed soundscape we created for the Sensorium, you can play it here...
Bringing out the Woody notes in a Whisky
1. Dim the lights
Create a mellow atmosphere to put you in the right mood to experience those deep mellow flavours all the more.
2a. Light the fire (if you have one - otherwise go to 2b)
The perfect way to enhance those woody, smokey notes. The sight and smell of a crackling fire is so emotive and will conjure up all those memories of warm oak beamed pubs.
2b. Play a woody soundscape
The sound of a crackling fire is so emotive, that in the absence a real one, playing a recording of one will still bring back those sensory memories and influence how you taste. Try the extra powerful woody soundscape we created for the Sensorium here...
3. Touch wood
Before you imbibe, place yourself in contact with some wood. Preferably something coarse and aged, with a few knots. Sit at an old table or in a nice old rocking chair. Failing either of these, bring in a log to use as a drinks stand, and stroke while sipping your single malt.
Some other Sensory tips & tricks
No matter what you’re tasting, the environment will make a difference to your enjoyment.
1. Match music with cuisines
When cooking something from a specific country (i.e. indian or french food) listen to music that is culturally relevant. Listen to old Bollywood soundtracks with your curry, or some Serge Gainsbourg with your Boeuf Bourguignon. Studies have shown your enjoyment of the cuisine will be greatly improved.
2. Drink to the appropriate soundtrack
Always listen to music that matches your drink in mood and emotion. For instance, if you’re drinking a heavy Malbec, listen to music that is robust and dramatic. The classic choice is Carmina Burana by Orff. If you’re drinking something fresh and zingy like a Lynchburg lemonade, listen to music that is bright and upbeat like Blondie.
3. Play with colour
A fun experiment to play on guests is to dye food and drinks different colours and taste the effects. Buy some flavourless food dye and see what you can create. Wine experts have been royally duped into thinking white wine was red wine, simply by dying the liquid. The brighter something is coloured, the stronger and sweeter it appears to taste. Alfred Hitchcock was fond of hosting monochromatic dinner parties. He once dyed everything in the room and on the plate blue. Serving blue steaks to his guests apparently had them running for the toilet.