Just like perfume, alcohol such as whiskey has different scents but the average drinker can't distinguish the smell between bourbon and rye, a study says.
The study was initiated by Drexel University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In an experiment headed by assistant professor Jacob Lahne of the Center for Hospitality and Sport Management, the team presented 10 cups of unlabeled whiskeys - five bourbon and five rye - to 21 participants. The cups of whiskey were presented in random order.
In accordance with Scotch whiskey evaluation guidelines, the participants were instructed not to taste the alcohol, only to smell it.
In the first part of the experiment, the study's participants sorted the cups of whiskey according to any random category of their choice. During the second session, which happened days after the initial experiment, the researchers again presented the same set of whiskey cups to the participants but with randomized labels. Each individual again sorted and grouped the whiskey cups into no specific category.
After the experiment, the researchers analyzed the participants' responses using DISTATIS, a statistical analysis tool used to interpret raw data.
The study's findings showed that the people involved in the experiment did not sort the whiskey according to mashbill or the grain used in fermenting the whiskey. Instead they organized and grouped the cups according to brand, alcohol content, and age of bottling.
The researchers hypothesized that the participants might have categorized the whiskeys according to the distinct "house" flavor of such labels as Jim Beam's bourbon and rye, which both smell of roasted peanuts.
At the outset, whiskeys can be differentiated by its mashbill but the rest of the ingredients may be similar. Bourbon mash is made from corn while rye mash is made from eponymous grains.
The smell of bourbon is commonly described as that of smooth caramel while rye is described as brash and dry. Still, the findings showed that an average drinker could differentiate the two whiskeys according to their brand labels but cannot tell what type of whiskey it is.
The researchers will extend their studies on specific sensory features of alcohol that may be connected to production variables.
The study was published April 18, 2016 in the Journal of Food Science.
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