A Quick Guide to Sensory Drinking at Home

To celebrate the publication of Condiment Junkie’s latest research study “Assessing the influence of the multisensory environment on the whisky drinking experience”, we decided to write a quick guide to creating your own Sensorium experience, and offer up some tips for sensory eating & drinking at home.

Both the study and the Sensorium event showed how the sounds, smells, colours, shapes and materials around us dramatically change our sense of taste. We rarely recognise how much of an affect our surroundings have on what we’re eating or drinking. But with a few simple adjustments to a room, and by utilising some household ingredients, you can transform your taste experiences.

Bringing out the sweetness in a drink

1. Select a rounded glass 
There is an intrinsic association between curved shapes and sweetness. Make sure the texture of the glass is smooth too.

2. Put on your red light 
Through our research we’ve shown that there is an innate association between certain colours and certain tastes. As well as making your lounge look like a brothel, and being able to develop photos, bathing a room in red light will enhance sweetness in anything you taste.

3. Play music that features high pitched bells or piano
Our previous research study with The Fat Duck and Oxford showed that high percussive instruments enhance sweetness. If you want to try the specially designed soundscape we created for the Sensorium, you can play it here...

Bringing out the Woody notes in a Whisky

1. Dim the lights
Create a mellow atmosphere to put you in the right mood to experience those deep mellow flavours all the more.

2a. Light the fire (if you have one - otherwise go to 2b)
The perfect way to enhance those woody, smokey notes. The sight and smell of a crackling fire is so emotive and will conjure up all those memories of warm oak beamed pubs. 

2b. Play a woody soundscape 
The sound of a crackling fire is so emotive, that in the absence a real one, playing a recording of one will still bring back those sensory memories and influence how you taste. Try the extra powerful woody soundscape we created for the Sensorium here...

3. Touch wood
Before you imbibe, place yourself in contact with some wood. Preferably something coarse and aged, with a few knots. Sit at an old table or in a nice old rocking chair. Failing either of these, bring in a log to use as a drinks stand, and stroke while sipping your single malt.

Some other Sensory tips & tricks

No matter what you’re tasting, the environment will make a difference to your enjoyment.

1. Match music with cuisines
When cooking something from a specific country (i.e. indian or french food) listen to music that is culturally relevant. Listen to old Bollywood soundtracks with your curry, or some Serge Gainsbourg with your Boeuf Bourguignon. Studies have shown your enjoyment of the cuisine will be greatly improved.

2. Drink to the appropriate soundtrack
Always listen to music that matches your drink in mood and emotion. For instance, if you’re drinking a heavy Malbec, listen to music that is robust and dramatic. The classic choice is Carmina Burana by Orff. If you’re drinking something fresh and zingy like a Lynchburg lemonade, listen to music that is bright and upbeat like Blondie.

3. Play with colour
A fun experiment to play on guests is to dye food and drinks different colours and taste the effects. Buy some flavourless food dye and see what you can create. Wine experts have been royally duped into thinking white wine was red wine, simply by dying the liquid. The brighter something is coloured, the stronger and sweeter it appears to taste. Alfred Hitchcock was fond of hosting monochromatic dinner parties. He once dyed everything in the room and on the plate blue. Serving blue steaks to his guests apparently had them running for the toilet.


The Singleton Sensorium

Whisky brand The Singleton challenged Condiment Junkie to devise a sensory event that would help bring to life the Brand’s vision as being ‘The Best Tasting Whisky in the World’, sitting in the realm of wine and food, where taste and sensuality is king. They wanted to bring the experience of drinking Whisky into the 21st century, be progressive and appeal to a wider, younger audience - as well as generate huge amounts of talkability and PR.

We created 'The Singleton Sensorium', a pop up event that blends science and sensuality. 

The Sensorium is a concept for the bar of the future - how the 12 year old single malt will be drunk when the current batch is ready in 2025. 

Using cross-modal research, we designed three immersive ‘sensory worlds’, where sound, scent, colour, decor and textures combine to highlight different flavours of the whisky. As guests walk from one room to the other, drink in hand, the sensory environment highlights the complex notes in the drink, amplifying different flavours and showing how much the environment can change your experience. 

The first room was designed to dial up the flavours of cut grass, apples and pears on the nose.

The Grassy room

The sounds of birds chirping and the occasional lawnmower, as well as certain frequencies associated with green pushed up in the audio, were combined with cross modal scents, real grass on the floor, deck chairs, picnic baskets and a slightly humid atmosphere, all bathed in green light.

The second room was designed to elevate the Sweet and fruity taste.

The Sweet room
 Based on our research, there were no sharp edges in the room - everything was curved and bulbous. Red light combined with high tinkling bells and an aldehyde scent that heightens perception of higher sonic frequencies - which in turn would enhance sweet perception.

The final room was made to bring out the woody finish.

The Woody room

Throughout the night guests remarked how this was 'the Whisky room' - the most congruent with their expectations of Whisky. With a real tree, lanterns, old floorboards and a fireplace - the room was designed like a surreal, dreamlike wood cabin. The sound of creaking, crackling and a drawn out double bass combined with scent of cedar and vetiver.

As guests travelled around the event, they were asked to note down how the sounds, scents and visuals enhanced the flavours in the whisky. Results have contributed to the first ever scientific study into the effects of multi-sensory environments on taste, conducted by our head of sensory research, Prof. Charles Spence.

Over 440 guests attended the event. Preliminary results show a 20% increase in taste perception across the board - in the grassy room the drink tasted 20% more grassy, 20% more sweet in the sweet room, and 20% more woody in the wood room. We successfully proved our hypothesis and for the first time ever have shown that sensory architecture enhances perception.

The event generated massive media coverage which is still continuing - there will be more to come when the scientific paper 'Tasting notes: Assessing the effect of the multi-sensory atmosphere and ambience on people's perception of whisky' is published sometime in September 2013.


Royal Mail Heritage Timeline

Condiment Junkie are proud to have completed a project for Royal Mail and Proximity London, designing SFX and brand music for an interactive timeline telling the story of Royal Mail’s 500 year heritage.

Proximity have created a technologically beautiful parallax view interface, through which you can discover the rich past of the Royal Mail and the historic milestones that it was there to witness.

Condiment Junkie created UI audio for the navigation, SFX that fills environment and reacts to the animations and objects in view, and a sonic identity in the form of a brand music track, which appears in several instances throughout the decades and centuries, in the style of the time. And we did the sound and music for the promo video below.

You can experience the actual site here


Three Discoveries to start the Year

In an effort to begin the year by stimulating your creative brains, here are three amazing discoveries Condiment Junkie made in the last month of 2012. Discoveries that have furthered our ability to communicate information and enhance perception with sound and scent.

First, we proved that we can all tell the difference between Hot and Cold liquid, just by listening. It sounds unbelievable but if you try it you’ll instantly understand. Give it a go here

Second, we found that adding sound to a digital experience, in this case trying on virtual clothes, significantly increased the amount of time customers spend interacting with the experience. Over 30% longer in fact.

Even more significant and compelling, is that when asked how much they would pay for the clothing, participants in the ‘with sound’ group indicated they would pay more than those in the ‘without sound’ group.

And Third. In collaboration with one of the world’s leading perfumers, Roja Dove, we tested if sound can be used to highlight different notes in a perfume. Our findings showed that by playing different soundscapes we can dramatically alter how people perceive scents, and bring out different elements such as sweetness, floral notes, powder and dryness.

The applications of these findings are myriad, and have impact across all brand communication channels. We can make an advert or a room seem hotter or colder. We can dramatically enhance the experience of buying and marketing perfume, and can communicate texture, increase product perception and create more engaging digital experiences.

As we discover more and more cross modal links, and define the most powerful combinations, a compelling case begins to develop. Brands need to begin thinking about sonic and sensory strategies at the highest level. And this is the year to do it.

Happy new year one and all.


Sonic Cocktail Masterclass

On Sat 20th Oct Condiment Junkie hosted a sonic cocktail masterclass at world renowned watering hole 69 Colebrook Row. The focus was on exploring sound as an important element in taste experiences - one that should be as thought through as the glass the drink is served in.

We began by testing our guests' ability to decipher information purely by hearing. A preview of Condiment Junkie & Oxford Uni's current research into hot and cold sounds showed promising results, proving that pretty much everyone can tell the difference between two temperatures of liquid being poured.

Charles Spence conducted the event, introducing the science behind our work, and collecting some new research data through questionnaires.

Four cocktails were served from the bar - a Champagne Rose Garden, Woodland Martini, Red Wine reduction, and a Barbershop fizz. Each drink was accompanied by cross-modally designed soundscapes, either played through a surround sound system we installed, or delivered through three-channel wireless headphones, courtesy of Silent Disco.

The Rose Garden was paired with, unsurprisingly, the sound of a rose garden. The cocktail contains a perfume infused sugar cube that efervesces and dissolves as you drink. The soundscape increased in intensity as the guests imbibed. Within the soundscape a crescendo of wind chimes cross modally intensified the taste of the drink.

The Woodland Martini, designed to re-create a walk through autumnal woods, was the first cocktail to feature the wireless headphones. Guests could choose between three soundscapes and experience the difference in taste perception - a bitter sound and a sweet sound, and a close recording of crunching through wet, rotten leaves and bark. The sound recording of leaves had an incredibly strong effect, bringing out the damp, woody notes in the drink.

The Red Wine reduction was a question of colour. What colour does the drink taste of? Guests we're handed the glass and asked to sip without looking at the colour. They were then asked to identify its colour-taste. Four soundscapes were then played that evoke bold colours - a roaring fire, a jungle, ocean waves and an arctic wind. We were trying to identify how much the sound could sway colour and taste perception.

The final cocktail - the barbershop fizz - was accompanied by a 'sonic haircut' - a recording made while visiting Murdoch barbers in Shoreditch, using in-ear binaural microphones. The stereo imaging is amazing. Listening through headphones you can actually feel the clippers buzzing, and sense the barber as he moves around you.

Put your headphones on and have a listen to the recording here Barbershop


Electrolux Cube

Electrolux Cube - Sound Installation from Condiment Junkie on Vimeo.

The Electrolux Cube pop up restaurant is currently situated on the roof of the Royal Festival Hall, with amazing views of the river and the city. A handfull of the UK's top Chef’s will take up residency in the restaurant for 2 weeks at a time over the summer.

Condiment Junkie have enhanced the experience using sound throughout the guests journey, from their arrival, approaching the restaurant and the meal itself.
The video shows us setting up the six speaker sound installation for the walkway that leads the guests up to the restaurant, once they’ve arrived on the roof.
Abstract cooking sounds fly up and down the walkway. A knife scraping a chopping board whooshes past you as you walk along. Deep bubbles or sizzling oil suddenly appear and surround you (sadly you don’t get a real feel of the movement in the video). These sounds are mixed with location recordings from the Chef in residence’s restaurant - in the recording above you can hear Claude Bosi, Chef patron at Hibiscus.
The effect is intended to be subtle - a background ambience that lifts the atmosphere, and builds expectation.
Once in the cube, we’ve designed Electrolux brand playlists that perfectly reflect the brand essence and the beautiful design of the restaurant. But being Condiment Junkie, the sound goes deeper...
The tracks and the flow of the playlist are also chosen specifically to enhance each of the dishes in the 7 course meal. Choices were made based on cross-modal research into sound and taste correlations. For instance, in track two of the spotify playlist below, the staccato of the marimba and the rim shot, and the pitch and tempo of the strings perfectly compliment the sweet and umami notes in Sat Bains’ dish of Scallop, Vanilla, Tomato and Strawberry.
Here’s a link to the playlist from Sat Bains’ residency. spoti.fi/MA4T8J


Bio-mimicry in Amsterdam

Trust someone like the dutch to do things just that little bit better than we seem to be able to in the UK. For instance, on a visit this week to Amsterdam I noticed the simple but incredibly effective audio signals they employ at pedestrian crossings, that coincide with the usual visual cues.

A short click, designed to cut through traffic noise, speeds and slows to indicate when you can cross and when the time is running out. Designed as an aid for blind people, the audio alerts are the primary signal that sighted people respond to as well, above the visual cues. You notice everyone quickening their pace across the road as the short clicks change rhythm.

There is a nice bit of bio-mimicry at work in the design of these clicks too. The Deathwatch beetle has evolved over millions of years to produce a similar click, which it uses to communicate to others across long distances and through extraneous ambient noise. Those responsible for the Dutch crossing sound probably didn't directly use the Deathwatch beetle as inspiration, but we should not forget that humans are part of nature also. It's only natural for us to develop similar sounds for a similar purpose. Perhaps instead of bio-mimicry, it's bio-symmetry (or something similar).

This use of audio signals by the Dutch is a perfect example of how we should be thinking about sound as part of urban transformation. Integrating good design into the city soundscape that communicates information efficiently and non-intrusively.

Amsterdam pedestrian crossing signal

Deathwatch beetles communicating