Study reveals how bar environments enhance whisky

singleton sensoriumA change of environment can enhance the experience of enjoying whisky by up to 20%, according to the world’s first scientific study exploring the senses and taste of whisky.

It found that the experience of drinking whisky was affected by changes in lighting, a special soundtrack and surrounding aromas, highlighting how the right environment in a bar can enhance drinking complex liquids such as whiskies.

The study was carried out by Professor Charles Spence, head of cross-modal research in the Department of Experimental Science at Oxford University.

It was based on research carried out in a specially designed pop-up bar in London earlier this year with “sensory architects” Condiment Junkie and The Singleton single malt Scotch.

Followed by in-lab testing, the study found that participants reported significant variations in their ratings of the scent, taste and flavour of whisky when tasting The Singleton in different atmospheres.

The Singleton Sensorium saw people tasting the whisky in three rooms with very different environments: a green grassy room laid with turf accompanied by noises of nature, a fruity-smelling room bathed in red with chiming bells (pictured), and a woodsmoke-scented room with wood panels, trees and sounds of crackling wood.

Professor Spence said: “We carried out experiments both in the laboratory and in The Singleton Sensorium under more realistic bar conditions. Both sets of results confirm that it really is possible to enhance the drinker’s experience by creating a rich multi-sensory environment.

“This sort of research has significant implications for anyone looking to enhance their whisky experience in a bar, restaurant or even from the comfort of their own homes. Notable chefs have embraced the potential when working with all the senses to deliver powerful tasting experiences.”

This latest research has been published in Flavour, a peer-reviewed journal from Bio Med, as Velasco et al: Assessing the influence of the multisensory environment on the whisky drinking experience. The full paper is available to read at

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