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Issue 96 - Living in a Sensory World

Whisky Magazine Issue 96
June 2011


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Living in a Sensory World

Dave Broom takes us through the mechanics of smell

The reason why you are holding this magazine is because of taste. The people we profile here, blenders, distillers, are deeply involved in that world; the writers are active in this realm as well, as are you. Since we are all living in this sensory world, we figured that we should examine the notion of ‘taste' in its widest sense. So in this issue as well as whisky we're looking at other disciplines where taste: be that flavour, aroma (in the world of perfume) or the more abstract concept of good taste (the world of Savile Row) as the defining factor.

In addition, Martine Nouet looks at new ways of approaching the flavour of food, by colour and science, while she and I debate what lies behind the technique of tasting. Like Neil Ridley's feature this dwells on how important our sense of smell is, and yet we continue to live in a world in which it is our least appreciated sense and one which has often been denigrated.

In 1798, Immanuel Kant in his Critique of Judgement described smell as being the sense “[to which] we owe the least and which seems to be the most dispensable...” His belief – still, vestigially, accepted today – saw smell as a base sense which compromised man's desire and appreciation of beauty, not to mention “good taste”.

It took Rousseau for whom “smell was the sense of the imagination” (from Emile) and Nietzsche to defend smell. For the latter, it was the animalistic quality to which Kant had such a philosophical aversion, which made ...

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