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How do sounds impact taste? Find out with Black Bottle's 'sonic seasoning' playlist

Tasting whisky has been given a scientific edge with the release of a new 'sonic seasoning' playlist.

Published: October 23, 2021
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Black Bottle Whisky is taking the term ‘tasting with your eyes’ to a new level by teaming up with Oxford University Experimental Psychologist, Charles Spence, to release a collection of audio tracks that alter and heighten sensory perceptions when drinking whisky.

The playlist, which is available online was created to mark the launch of Black Bottle’s Limited Edition Alchemy Series.

This is the first experiment to combine ‘sonic seasoning and real world sounds’ to change the way we taste.

The experiment marks the launch of Black Bottle’s new limited edition Alchemy Series, and is the first of its kind to combine ‘sonic seasoning’ and real world sounds.

Professor Spence worked alongside Black Bottle’s Master Distiller to take on the brands mission of pushing the boundaries of taste even further, by designing a special playlist that takes whisky drinkers on a journey of sensory discovery, altering the perceptions of taste based on the sounds played.

Sonic seasoning is the growing scientific field that uses sounds to change the way in which you taste, for example, high-frequency sounds enhance the sweetness in food, while low frequencies bring out the bitterness.

Professor Spence said: “As a gastrophysicist and food psychologist I am fascinated by how our brains process the information from each of our different senses to form the extraordinarily rich multisensory experiences that fill our daily lives.

"Whisky has a very distinctive taste and smell which produces a very specific multisensory reaction for drinkers.

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"When Black Bottle approached me to partner on this experiential multisensory tasting event, I thought it would be really exciting to see how we could heighten our bodies reaction to the new Alchemy Series using the latest in sonic seasoning.”

The unique experiment was initially previewed at a series of online events, hosted by Professor Spence, but now whisky fans around the world can experience the phenomenon themselves at home, by listening to the sonic tastings playlist on Spotify and downloading a how-to guide on the Black Bottle website.

Craig Black, global brand manager for Black Bottle, said: “Black Bottle has a long heritage of experimentation through our expressions and partnerships.

"It has been fascinating working with Professor Spence on the impact that sound have on our tastebuds.

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"The reaction we had from the tasting events was fantastic and now we can’t wait to bring the experience to whisky drinkers everywhere.

"The sonic seasoning playlist will give whisky drinkers a truly personal experience, whilst also showcasing the layers of complex flavours within each spirit.”

Brendan McCarron, master distiller at Black Bottle, added: “Our Double Cask and Island Smoke expressions embody the distillery’s passion for innovation and pushing the whisky envelope.

"Double Cask is a full-bodied expression that is created using Spanish casks.

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"The raucous sherry red colour has notes of charred citrus, wood, wine and warming spices on the nose, and a blast of berries and a delicious sweetness of Spanish sherry on the palate.

"Island Smoke is an intense whisky that encapsulates the power of the sea. It perfectly balances both unpeated and peated malt, with notes of chilli, cardamom and the familiar saltiness of the sea.

"Gold in colour, the expression is smoky and offers a surge of exotic spices on the nose, with flavours of salt, black pepper and sweet cereal, making way for a blast of citrus sweetness and vanilla.

"The finish is wonderfully spicy, with a hint of dry sea salt.”

Amy Burns, global brand lead for Black Bottle said: “The Alchemy Series is the first Limited Edition program we have launched for the brand which is incredibly exciting.

"We’ve spent a lot of time experimenting and truly embodying the alchemic spirit of our founder Gordon Graham to
create two distinctive expressions that really push beyond the traditional blended Scotch expectations.

"Initial feedback has been extremely positive with both Double Cask and Island Smoke winning a coveted Masters Award from the Spirits Business Scotch Whisky Masters 2021, and we’re already working on the next experiments in the series to continue to push the boundaries of taste.”

For more information and to listen to the playlist, visit the website.

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Known for cake making, experimental jam recipes, Champagne and gin drinking (and the inability to cook Gnocchi), Rosalind writes for The Scotsman on all things food and drink related as well as hosting Scran, The Scotsman's food and drink podcast.

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