Richard Pain, VR Explorer and Amateur Whisky Taster |
May 15, 2017
VR gives consumers a multi-sensory whisky tasting experience. Does it work? We take a sip to find out.
There is no denying that virtual reality (VR) has a certain wow (or eww) factor when done right.
In April 2016, the world glimpsed the amazing possibilities of VR when they witnessed surgeons at the Royal London NHS perform open surgery on a 70-year-old cancer patient. Doctors and medical students from across the globe experienced the operation in real time, with 360-degree control over their vantage points, and actually felt the resistance when the surgeon’s scalpel cut through the muscle.
Most workplace VR applications, however, are nowhere as exciting—think virtual conferencing—but hold much promise of the potential reach and practicality of VR in the near future.
Does Your Whisky Taste Better in Scotland?
As a tech journalist, I’ve already tried a variety of VR experiences from exciting lightsabre battles, to the dull but functional “oil rig construction simulator”. Whether for entertainment or business, users are eager to don the headsets and give it a try, as oppose to swiping, clicking or simply walking away.
The latest company to venture in the realm of VR is Diageo with its Singleton whisky brand, which promises to send consumers on a stylised tour of Scotland and the Singleton distillery, giving them a multi-sensory experience whilst sampling the tipple itself. As a news hungry tech journalist, I was eager to give it a try.
It may not look like much, but in this picture I’m soaring through the hills of Scotland.
Donning the headset, headphones and whisky in hand, the scene opens with the viewer flying across barley fields, hills and rivers. As to be expected, the viewer can glance around at the landscape as it wizzes by.
As the camera lowers the large doors of the Singleton distillery appear and open before the viewer. Here, the pace slows down as the narrator explains the years it takes to create the whisky itself.
Suitably wowed by the experience, I’m now primed for the tasting session. The narrator begins to describe the aging process as the camera approaches a solitary Singleton barrel, and finally enters the cask.
The narrator instructs the user to smell the whisky. Not being a whisky connoisseur myself, I would usually struggle to describe the aroma to you, but in the VR experience, apples and cherries slowly appear in view and sure enough, once highlighted, I could sense the flavours.
Finally it’s tasting time. The narrator instructs me to take a sip and, just like having a trained sommelier beside me, he begins describing the flavours, dried fruits followed later by chocolate. Aside from the impressive visuals, the audio also subtly prompts the user to exhale – an important part of the tasting process so I’m told.
So after the entire experience, how was it? In a word, evocative. If you compare this to the experience of sampling whisky at an event or in the duty free section of an airport, this is far more novel and engaging.
Usually when standing beside a whisky expert during a whisky tasting, I feel forced to adopt a thoughtful expression and nod whether I detect the flavours or not. Whereas in VR, even if I looked like a twit to everybody else, inside the headset, I’m completely focused on the experience.
So the final verdict – yes. As a casual whisky drinker, I came away with a far better tasting experience than if I had simply been given a sample and talked through the tasting process the old fashioned way.
That’s not to say that the experience will be for everybody. Some people may be unaccustomed to VR. Others may prefer to taste the whisky by themselves or with an actual, real-life human being interacting with them.
For me, this was a positive and memorable experience, and I’m not the only one who thinks so. According to Adam Gerard, the Business Director at Untitled Project, the Singapore-based creators of the experience, 85 pecent of the people who tried the experience agreed that it really enhanced their whisky tasting.