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Open Access Highly Accessed Research

Assessing the influence of the multisensory environment on the whisky drinking experience

Carlos Velasco1, Russell Jones2, Scott King2 and Charles Spence1*

Author Affiliations

1 Crossmodal Research Laboratory, Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Oxford, Oxford OX1 3UD, UK

2 Condiment Junkie, London, UK

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Flavour 2013, 2:23  doi:10.1186/2044-7248-2-23

Published: 8 October 2013

Abstract

Background

Flavor perception depends not only on the multisensory integration of the sensory inputs associated with the food or drink itself, but also on the multisensory attributes (or atmosphere) of the environment in which the food/drink is tasted. We report two experiments designed to investigate whether multisensory atmospheric cues could be used to influence the perception of a glass of whisky (that is, a complex but familiar product). The pre-test (experiment 1) was conducted in the laboratory and involved a sample of 18 participants (12 females, 5 males, and 1 who did not specify gender), while the main study (experiment 2) was conducted at a large purpose-designed whisky-tasting event held in London, and enrolled a sample of 441 participants (165 female, 250 male, and 26 who failed to specify their gender). In the main experiment, participants were exposed to three different multisensory atmospheres/rooms, and rated various attributes of the whisky (specifically the nose, the taste/flavor, and the aftertaste) in each room.

Results

Analysis of the data showed that each multisensory atmosphere/room exerted a significant effect on participants’ ratings of the attributes that the atmosphere/room had been designed to emphasize (namely grassiness, sweetness, and woodiness). Specifically, the whisky was rated as being significantly grassier in the Nose (‘grassy’) room, as being significantly sweeter in the Taste (‘sweet’) room, and as having a significantly woodier aftertaste in the Finish (‘woody’) room. Overall, the participants preferred the whisky when they tasted it in the Finish room.

Conclusions

Taken together, these results further our understanding of the significant influence that a multisensory atmosphere can have on people’s experience and/or enjoyment of a drink (in this case, a glass of whisky). The implications of these results for the future design of multisensory experiences are discussed.

Keywords:
Experiential marketing; Multisensory flavor perception; Context; Atmospherics