Experiment with Kyrö Distillery Company – Changing the perception of taste through sound

Kyrö Distillery company is a Finnish all-rye distillery founded in 2014 and they have won numerous international awards with their rye gins Kyrö Napue and Kyrö Koskue (incl. World’s Best Gin for Gin&Tonic in IWSC 2015, Gold Medal in San Francisco World Spirits Competition in 2016 and Outstanding Gin&Tonic in IWSC 2017). Kyrö Distillery’s products are sold in 28 countries and their first whisky release is the beginning of an exciting journey into Finnish 100% rye whisky.

Audiodraft and Kyrö Distillery Company worked closely to design a tasting experience at Slush Music 2017 to showcase the power of audio on our taste perception. The event participants were invited to taste two special batches of Kyrö’s products, as they aimed to expand on their success with Gin and enter into the Bitters market. We paired the products with two specialized custom tracks to highlight the bitterness in one drink, and the sweetness in the other. The custom music was also designed to increase the overall enjoyment of both beverages.

The experiment was selected winner at 2018 International Sound Awards in the ‘Soundscapes and Ambient Sound’ and ‘Audio Marketing’ categories.

The Pale bitter

In the custom designed track for the pale bitter, we utilized an audio effect called “evaluative conditioning”. By using ambient sounds of a gentle summer breeze blowing through a field of wheat on a hot day, it is possible to place a person in a positive frame of mind by reminding them of a time they were happy, relaxed and calm. All of these have an unconscious impact on your perceived enjoyment of a taste. The bird song and wind chimes are an additional higher frequency layer added to increase sweetness and also give the overall production a greater narrative, while introducing some light “grey” noise to the mix to lower the overall perceived strength of the drink.

Lower pitched frequencies have been proven to increase the bitterness of a taste. Here a cello has been pitch shifted down two octaves to achieve an even lower sound than is usually expected from this instrument. The smooth and gentle movement of the melody also increases the perceived smoothness of the flavours, so as not to overpower the senses with a strong negative response to the bitterness.

The Dark bitter

In the custom track designed for the dark bitter, the sound of wind covers the “brown” noise frequency, filling out the production and adding noise, without it being overtly obvious. According to research, this noise is meant to lower the overall perceived strength of flavours, and adds to the overall enjoyability of the experience by acting as a control on the bitterness.

Finally, an enjoyable, upbeat and gentle melody was selected, as a positive attitude towards a sound increased the overall enjoyment of a taste. Using evaluative conditioning, the background noise of a fire, and the gentle groan of a forest’s trees in the background remind users of a happy time spent outdoors camping, while also drawing attention to the woodiness and smoky elements of the product.

Tasting the Power of Audio

All the 98 participants got to taste the same drink while listening to the custom track and also while listening to a generic music track. The results were conclusive, as 97% of participants noticed a difference in taste when the music was changed. Furthermore there was a significant increase of around 10% in the enjoyment of the drink between listening to custom and generic music.

We are all familiar with the power of a well designed movie soundtrack to bring you to tears, or to bring you to the edge of your seat during an intense scene. We perceive the world around us in all our senses and a growing part of the business world is waking up to this realization, expanding their communication outside of the traditional “visuals only” mindset.

For companies everything is about the brand, but it is worth bearing in mind that the brand is all about experience, which always has been multisensory. Our experiment with Kyrö is a concrete example of how we encounter brands as a multisensory experience, and shows that sound affects our enjoyment of products.

“Thoughtful design is one of Kyrö’s core values and to us it means we want to do everything we do with a purpose in mind. Working with Audiodraft has been an ‘ear-opening’ lesson on the importance of a holistic design of the drinking experience. In the beverage industry it’s easy to get stuck with the flavour and aesthetics, but now we have solid evidence that just by paying more attention to what’s happening outside of the glass, we can add value to what’s inside it – and eventually really enhance the enjoyment of our products!”

Pauliina Marjanen
Global Brand Ambassador
Kyrö Distillery Company

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