First Interactive Digital Whisky Tasting

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Posted by Mica on September 7, 2019 in Design Implementation

After iteratively developing this interactive VR tasting experience I finally got to a testing stage. Due to limitations of available time as well as a limited budged the testing was performed on a very small scale.

Two questions should be answered during this experience:

  1. Does the experience stimulate the perception of taste?
  2. Does the experience change the perception of taste when the experience is slightly changed?

Seven people participated in the testing with the following profile:

  • four participants with beginners experience in whisky and no previous experiences in whisky tastings
  • one person experienced in whisky and whisky tastings
  • one person experience in whisky and whisky tastings but with a dislike of whisky
  • one person with high expertise in whisky and whisky tastings

Each participant received 1cl of whisky before the tasting to acclimate them to the taste of alcohol and therefore reduce the difference between both tasting rounds regarding the first taste of alcohol.

Participant tested the experience two times while the experiences slightly differed from each other they unknowingly tasted the same whisky in each round. The order of the experiences changed from participant to participant. Group A started with the original experience matched to the taste and nose of the whisky, Glenfiddich Project XX, and Group B started with a slightly adapted experience.
While the original experience enhanced the taste of alcohol at the beginning followed by a variation of noses such as sweet, leather and spice, the adapted experience enhanced sweet taste at the beginning but further increased the use of a spicey/woody nose through the experience.

Due to the missing sound in the implementation the participants were provided with the following music to enhance their experience and concentration:

It is to mention that the gaol was not to trigger the same tasting and nosing notes from the participants but rather enhance the general ability to taste and nose flavours. Due to this the experience was implemented with an abstract visualisation which is hinting a direction of flavours while leaving the interpretation of the tasting and nosing notes freely to the individual participant.

The results showed the following:

  • All participants – no matter of their position towards whisky – enjoyed the experience.
  • Two participants, who stated not to be able to taste or nose specific flavours in whisky, where able to name up to 3 different flavours in one of the two tasting rounds each.
  • Of all seven participant 5 stated they drank in each tasting a different whisky while 2 participants perceived the second whisky as stronger. Two things were highly interesting in this result. Firstly, both experienced whisky drinkers were within the 5 participant who stated the whiskies to be different. Secondly, the two participants stating the last whisky to be stronger, went through a different order of experiences (one in Group A while the other one was in Group B).

Although this experience is targeted on whisky novices, it is remarkable that the experience was very effective for the most experienced whisky drinker who was triggered with the abstract visualisation allowing him a new and more free approach to tasting and nosing a whisky.

Overall, the experience did encouraged all participants to focus on the individual tasting and nosing notes of a whisky beyond their prejudices and/or own assumed ability.

Despite of the small scale of the testing the results are encouraging a further development to be successful. A new approach such as a second version of the experience with a realistic environment and very subtle tasting and nosing notes could be one possible successor, e.g. leafs being blown towards the user or a steam rising from the ground.