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The word problem

Have you ever nosed a spirit or wine and thought: "I know that aroma but I just cannot name it?" This is what the people at Scotland based Aroma Academy describe as the “word problem”, and Alan Gordon, co-founder and managing director explains the problem as follows: “In everyday life, when you smell something you also, typically, can see the object in question and the brain tends to associate the smell with the visual clue. However, when you enjoy a drink such as a spirit or wine, you are smelling aromas and experiencing flavours in the abstract and the 'smell brain' often struggles to associate the aroma with a name – hence the 'I recognise it, I recognise it, but I just cannot name it!' moment – the Word Problem."

The team at the Aroma Academy has addressed this fundamental problem, and the overall development of aroma recognition skills, through the use of a set of aroma standards in Aroma Kits which provide a strong foundation of aroma vocabulary. The Aroma Kits are based on the premise that the vast majority of the flavour experience comes from the sense of smell. Indeed the Aroma Academy is very careful to emphasise the use of the word flavour and to ensure that the word taste is limited to the relatively small contribution that it provides to the overall flavour experience. The Aroma Standards represent the spectrum of aromas found in the flavour notes of the leading brands and the kits now cover several categories including whisky, wine, gin, bourbon and rum.

Alan goes on to explain: “The Aroma Kits, together with our aroma recognition methodology, are unique in that they not only allow you to become expert in recognising individual aromas but in the advanced use of the kit you can understand the behaviour of the individual aromas over time – which helps your understanding of flavour development on the palate taking away some of the mystery from terms such as 'aftertaste' – and the use of the kit also allows for what the Aroma Academy defines as aroma profiling. This technique allows you to construct the profile of different brands or drinks types with the Aroma Kits. For example, with the whisky kit you can reproduce the aroma profile of particular expressions of a Laphroaig, or a Glenmorangie or in the case of the wine aroma kit particular grape types such as Cabernet Sauvignon. You can then also explore the relative contribution of the individual aromas to the overall aroma profile by adding and subtracting different aroma elements.”

George Dodd, co-founder and director of science & technology at the Aroma Academy, is the expert behind the development of the kits and associated training methodology. George represents the highly unusual combination of being an aroma scientist, a master perfumer and a leading world authority on the sense of smell.

The mission of the Aroma Academy is to elevate the understanding and importance of the sense of smell and to develop aroma recognition skills in a professional, methodical manner. However, in the midst of the educational experience it is important not to forget that learning can also be fun and the use of the Aroma Kits in a group at home or at work, and in the additional associated training programmes, is a very “hands-on” interactive experience resulting in what the Aroma Academy term the three Es – Educate, Experience, Enjoy!


8 August 2016 - Rebecca Sterritt Paragraph Publishing, content manager