How does your personality determine what flavours you prefer? And is there a way to predict the perfect whisky flavour for someone? Those are the questions Dr Adam Moore and The Scotch Malt Whisky Society (SMWS) are seeking to answer with the launch of their ‘Flavour Behaviour Test’.
The psychometric test (www.Flavourbehaviour.com), which matches personality types to flavours of whisky, is the result of a six-month international scientific study carried out by Dr Moore, a psychologist and research scientist based at the University of Edinburgh, and the SMWS.
To create the predictive test, Dr Moore and the SMWS conducted quantative research with more than 300 volunteers at tasting events in Edinburgh, London, Islay, Washington D.C., Vancouver and Melbourne.
Each volunteer answered a personality test measuring the ‘Big 5’ personality dimensions (Openness to Experience, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, Neuroticism). They then rated the 12 core flavours found in whisky by the experts at the SMWS such as sweet, fruity & mellow; light & delicate; juicy, oak & vanilla; oily & coastal; and heavily peated.
Dr Moore analysed the data from the test events and discovered some fascinating correlations between personality and flavour preferences. He used these findings to create an algorithm that analyses answers to the Flavour Behaviour questionnaire to predict which whisky flavours are suited to different personality types.
Dr Adam Moore said: “This has been a particularly exciting research study to be involved in as taste is the least understood of our senses, and this is the first project I’m aware of that has investigated the links between personality traits and preferences for whisky flavours.
“Together with the Society, we’ve used decision-making science and psychometric techniques to gather data from research events around the world to create this test, which we hope will help people to find the perfect whisky for them. These are early stages for this kind of research, but it’s fascinating to think where this type of study could lead for both how food and drink producers make goods and how consumers choose them.”
Helen Stewart, Senior Brand Manager at the SMWS, said: “At the Society, we explore the kaleidoscope of flavours in the whisky spectrum, rather than follow the traditional notions of whisky regions or distillery brands.
“We believe there is a perfect whisky flavour out there for everyone. The Flavour Behaviour Test is a fun and scientifically researched way to help with that search for the perfect dram – from novices struggling to find a whisky flavour they like among all the different varieties, or aficionados looking for inspiration for new whisky flavours to try.”
Take the Flavour Behaviour test at www.Flavourbehaviour.com
I gladly accepted an invitation last Thursday to join the 6pm “Flavour Behaviour” tasting session held at the newly-refurbished SMWS venue on Queen Street (Edinburgh) – and trust me, it was really hard not to take the online test before that day #WayTooCurious 😉
Arriving a bit early to enjoy a drink in the new Kaleidoscope bar (pssst! Whisky Travel Tip N° 1564988: this part of the venue is open to the public, so even if you’re not (yet?) a member of the Society, you can still go enjoy a dram of their exquisite single cask bottlings), I couldn’t resist but go check the other parts of the venue, a wonderful 3-storey building which used to be a private mansion in the past. High ceilings, cosy lighting, impressive circular staircase, comfy corners: the new venue is simply outstanding (special thumbs up for the Members Room’s bar & the whisky-flavoured handcream in the toilets 😀 … Always the attention to detail!). They also doubled the capacity of the restaurant from 33 to 66 covers, and from what I’ve heard (sorry, haven’t tested their food offer yet!), their menu is worth checking out.
Well, I’m disgressing, let’s go back to the point, this whisky personality test!
While all seated around the oval table (see below pictures), we were requested to activate our WiFi and log onto www.Flavourbehaviour.com to answer the 35 questions of the test (most of which were quite funny – must admit I had a good laugh answering the questionnaire). I’ll then discover that I was “the perfect norm” (sorry to disappoint you…), which can be recomforting in a way I guess… And the whisky profile attached to my personality was “Vanilla & Rick Oak” (shhh, science is talking!). Our Society host had selected some whiskies to sample according to the results we would have, and while I don’t recall the first one I had (I knew I should have writen this piece straight after taking the test… #HateMyselfSometimes), I remember it wasn’t exactly my favourite type.
However, taking the test at the SMWS event allowed me to discuss my preferences with our host who was then able to narrow down his selection to finally come up with something I utterly enjoyed, only after 3 attempts, which is quite a good performance! The winner dram for me was a rich Cragganmore 17 years old matured in bourbon casks (37.78 perfumed elegance) but surprisingly boasting some deep sherried aromas. This third whisky actually matched to the third flavour profile results of my personality test (when taking the test, you’ll get a predominant profile as N°1 + the following 2 that mostly matched your inner self characteristics)
So even if the test may not be too accurate for now, it is good fun, and I do believe there’s still room for improvements and further researches. I’m hoping that Dr. Moore is considering a larger sample (although 300 people was probably already quite something to organise!) to come up with more precise results (more than 70% of people taking the test currently end up being “the perfect norm” – which is normal as it is the norm though…) and maybe sub-categories so that we can see more diversity in the results.