Speyside Whisky Festival

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Posted by Mica on May 4, 2019 in Concept & Research

Research can be fun!

While looking for a more focused idea for my project I decided to use the opportunity to research at the Speyside Whisky Festival.

Visiting Distilleries such as Strathisla, The Balvenie and Glenfiddich alongside with various tastings truly gave me some inspirational material.

But first of all was my interview with Glenfiddich Brand Ambassador Mark Thomson.

After explaining my project to Mark Thomson and the question which whisky seems to be suitable for this kind of experience he suggest to choose a whisky with a split personality which reveals itself not entirely in the aroma but more in the pallet where I totally agree as it gives me the possibilities to vary the experience and create a journey.

This is how I settled to create an experience based on the Glenfiddich Project XX which according to Mark Thomson gives me ‘the biggest scope to explore flavour and characteristics’ as it is created from 20 different casks.

Another thing to keep in mind for this experience is his statement about unpleasant tastes such as ethanol or sulphur which causes the persons mind to focus on this particular taste instead of the other (pleasant) flavours.

Mark Thomson further told me about a previous tasting experience he hosted in London which basically underpins the expected outcome of my project. He led guest into a room with green light and background music and gave them a glass of whisky and allowed them to taste the whisky. After that they changed the light of the room to red as well as the music and asked the guest to taste another glass of the same whisky. According to Mark Thomson ‘the amount of people that thought their glass was filled with something different was incredible’.
Out of this experiment he concluded that the colour green is promoting a rather sweeter taste while red is promoting spicy flavours. In addition the tasting using the red light caused a few people to dislike the second whisky (despite it being identical to the first one). And while some people experience the colour red as warm others connect it to danger.
Glenfiddich hosted a several of experiments that were based on changing the environment to influence the perception of taste.

Throughout this interview we also discussed sound where Mark Thomson suggested low frequency sounds in combination of high pitched sounds. While I already experienced a whisky tasting using different parts of classical music and comparing the change of the taste while we blindly tasted the same whisky I can – from my own experience – agree in the effects caused by sound.

However, also the pace has to be considered in a whisky tasting. Going through a whisky tasting too fast does not allow a person to take the time to experience a taste. Where Mark Thomson was raising this question I subconsciously already took this into account with my intention to create moving and flowing animations which will decelerate the experience when needed.

Towards the end of our interview Mark Thomson and me started to talk about a kind of decompression of the participant prior the actual tasting so every person starts to taste the whisky from a similar status.

Full Interview with Mark Thomson

Impressions of the Speyside Whisky Festival