A recent study has concluded that multi-sensory environmental factors play an important role in how consumers perceive the taste of whiskey. Carlos Velasco, et al., “Assessing the influence of the multisensory environment on the whisky drinking experience,” Flavour, October 2013. Oxford University researchers apparently asked 441 volunteers to sample the same glass of whiskey while visiting each of three rooms engineered to evoke the smell of grass, the taste of sweetness and the texture of wood. Participants then reportedly rated the whiskey as (i) being grassier on the nose when they visited the room decorated with artificial turf and infused with the smell of fresh-cut grass and the sounds of sheep, (ii) tasting sweet when they visited the room with a sweet scent that was also awash with red light and high-pitched “tinkling” sounds; and (iii) having a woody aftertaste when they visited the room decorated like a cedar forest. The study also noted that participants generally preferred the taste of the whiskey in the wooded “finish” room.

“That was kind of the genius of the thing, that they carried just one glass,” explained a study co-author in an October 13, 2013, NPR article. “What struck people when they were coming out of the woody, final room, was that they could look back at their scorecard and see that they’d been given the very same drink in the other hand a very different rate, and they knew that all that had changed was that they had walked from one room to another.”