For start, let’s specify what emotion is. We all know and have used the word, right? In every-day use emotion has more or less the same meaning as feeling. We feel something, which might be pleasant or unpleasant. This feeling is an experience about something you are sensing from the environment. These kinds of feelings guide our life and behaviour.
Human being is the only animal who expresses feelings with words. For this purpose, we use descriptors and linguistic expressions how much (or little) we like a particular aroma. We also need words to describe the differences of aromas. Moreover, we use words for socializing our whisky-tasting experiences. After enjoying whisky and sensing it’s aroma, it becomes an experience. We memorize these experiences and may recall them later; and use words to share them with others.
Olfaction – or the sense of smell – is so powerful because it links directly to feelings and memories. There is a very short distance from your nose to the limbic system where sense processing happens. Scents are tightly related to the amygdala where memory and reward processes are taking part. Consequently, scents are extremely emotive: Everyone knows perfumes and recognizes their effectiveness as well as is familiar with how we can immediately say whether or not we like a fragrance. For example, all it takes is a pleasant whiff of fragrance and our spirits are elevated and we feel cool, relaxed and at ease. There exists a wealth of evidence on how huge role our noses play in our lives and behaviour.
In principle, the fragrances contain the same chemical compounds as the whisky aroma. Whisky is one of the most aroma richest beverages. There are thousands of compounds in whisky. By a rough estimation perhaps about 50 compounds are responsible of whisky’s volatile, smelling nature. The subject of aroma often seems (and mostly also actually is) complex, but lot is known from aroma research. For the purposes of this blog, I state simply that that whisky without the aroma would be entirely pointless. Furthermore, we must bear in mind that sensing the aroma of whisky as of fragrances is a very subjective matter. Nevertheless, our noses do not lie nor can they be cheated. I profess that everyone can and will find a pleasant fraction in such a rich aroma palette; given that we can eliminate the overwhelming ethanol fumes from our noses.
After we have given ourselves a change to detect the aroma, a challenge remains: how to translate odour senses and sensations to appropriate words. Luckily, this can be trained. Good starting point is to keep the most common descriptor words, e.g., fruity (pineapple), flowery, smoky, vanilla, in mind. Sensation of the aroma of whisky is a wonderful thing! Everyone can enjoy it. Studying and learning will make it ever more enjoyable and fun. Keep sniffing and allow scents do their magic and improve your quality of life!
Next time while enjoying whisky, take your time for consideration how aroma governs your mind.