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Taste test at the fest goes to show the eyes have it


By Matt MacPherson


THIS week I spent a couple of days down at the Edinburgh Fringe.

It’s always good to visit the big drinks’ brands pop-up bars and see what new and exciting ideas they are promoting. That, of course, is also a very loose excuse to go the festival for a few nights.

One show I was very keen to get along to was the Science of the Sesh which was created by an old drinks tutor of mine and good friend Jamie Shields. The show consists of delicious drinks, “boozy (but responsible) experiments” and looks at what factors and senses affect how we taste.

One of the experiments in the Science of the Sesh show demonstrated that our sense of taste is often fooled by our sense of sight.
One of the experiments in the Science of the Sesh show demonstrated that our sense of taste is often fooled by our sense of sight.

When your taste buds come in contact with food, they send signals to your brain to interpret flavour. However, because we look at our food and drinks before we consume them, our eyes send signals to our brain that can predetermine how we will perceive the taste and flavour of what we’re about to eat.

This idea that we eat with our eyes is strongly supported by scientific studies. A study published by the Journal of Food Science concluded that people confused flavours when a drink did not have the appropriate colour. A cherry-flavoured drink manipulated to be orange in colour was thought to taste like an orange drink, and a cherry drink manipulated to be green in colour was thought to taste like lime.

This got me thinking about how I taste whisky. It’s fairly well known that most distilleries add colouring to their whisky for, in their words, “consistency”. What I think the cherry drink experiment shows is that if there has been colour added or not it’s actually irrelevant.

We will still wrongly make assumptions on flavour before the whisky has touched our lips based on its colour.

Therefore, if you really want to have an unswayed taste of your dram, you should sample it completely blind!



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