The Singleton Sensorium: Sensory Experiment and Whisky Masterclass
Tasting is smelling is seeing in the world of immersive whisky.
A blustery Tuesday evening in Soho, and I’m ushered up the creaky staircase of the Riflemaker’s Arms and squeezed into a small dark room full of chatter, familiar faces from the spirits biz and the distinctive smell of The Singleton single malt Scotch. I’m handed a slip of paper, a pencil and asked whether I’d like my whisky neat or on the rocks. Right on cue Diageo’s irrepressible Whisky Ambassador Colin Dunn materialises next to me and advises without. I’m here to give The Singleton Sensorium a spin, which Colin later points out is more of a social and sensory experiment than a whisky masterclass.
Gripping our glasses we gingerly make our way back down the rickety staircase to the depths of the exhibition space. Unexpectedly we are greeted by a wave of sweet freshly cut grass and bathed in a green light. The room has been decked out with deck chairs, a bird bath and a copse-worth of fake greenery. In the distance a lawn mower lazily buzzes, whilst small birds chirp cheerfully. The experiment has begun.
We smell and taste The Singleton, whilst rating particulars on a scale of one to ten. “How grassy is The Singleton? How woody is The Singleton?” … And so forth. The second room is pink and perfumed, with rounded edges and bowls of berries, not dissimilar to a nine-year old’s idea of a boudoir. Bells tinkle and chime relentlessly, making me feel queasy and uncomfortable. I scrawl my ratings down quickly and exit to room number three.
This is more like it. A woody, musky scent fills the air, wood panels gently creak, clocks tick and tock, and somewhere in Soho Forest somebody is chopping wood. I relax, and get the feeling that had I a fuller glass and no dinner reservations, I could easily while away a couple of hours here.
I muse over my scores and meditate on what I’ve learnt this evening. Whether intentional or not, results are not very clear-cut. In the green room I was overwhelmed by the thick smell of cut grass, which I found covered any subtle grassy notes in The Singleton rather than emphasise them. In the same way I struggled to get much fruit from the whisky as I was assaulted by what seemed like cheap perfume. I felt like I’d unintentionally wandered into a pubescent fantasy, and wanted to make my excuses as quickly as possible. Finding it hard to enjoy my Scotch in an environment I would not choose to frequent was more of an overriding factor for me than any suggestions of fruit and spice, so similarly I found myself enjoying my dram much more in the confines of what could have easily been a quirky new woodland-themed speakeasy bar in Dalston.