The Aroma Academy was developed in the British Isles by Dr. George Dodd, a Master Perfumer. Kim Lahiri is the International Business Development Manager and Global Head of Training, delivering the Sensory Events to the public. Tom Johnson and Robert Mohr are their new North American team. So what is Aroma Academy? It is a sensory training class aimed at those who work in the spirits industry or those consumers that simply want to expand their spirits experience. Aroma Academy is a class and also sensory kits designed to have the aromas found in certain spirits. The class held on February 24, 2016 at Southern Wine and Spirits was designed for the Bourbon industry. The kit has 24 vials of liquid versions of aromas found in Bourbon, everything from apples to wheat. There are perfume strips that are made of papers to dip into the vial picking up the aroma. The alcohol then evaporates off the paper leaving the essence behind to be experienced without the numbing effect of the alcohol. Other kits available include “Whisky” (Scotch/Irish), “Wine” and “Gin”. They will release “Beer” and “Rum” in the near future.
The class was a very enjoyable time. Kim Lahiri did an excellent job of explaining their methods of using the kits. There are several items of knowledge that are valuable to any student of Bourbon that make the class worthwhile. The first is the information on the nose itself. If you want maximum enjoyment from the aromas found in spirits then you should know how to treat your nose with some respect. It can be cleansed about twice a week using steam. A boiling cup of water held under the nose for five minutes is the best way to cleanse the receptors in your nose. Avoid nasal sprays and heavy scents on your body. When nosing a whiskey use short sniffs to avoid nasal fatigue. Reset your sense of smell by smelling your own body – your arm or some other place that does not have outside aromas such as perfume or food.
Lahiri introduced the student to the concept of the aroma pyramid. The top of the pyramid are the lightest aromas. These are often fleeting because they are so light in nature. These aromas include light citrus and floral notes. Next is the heart of the pyramid with main body of the aroma. These aromas are more robust and includes categories like dark fruits and brown spices. The base of the pyramid are the earthy heavy aromas like wood, and sap. Every aroma is going to have some characteristics from each part of the pyramid. For example when “apple” was put on a test strip the lightest aroma first experienced to my nose was green banana but after a few seconds it became green apple Jolly Rancher. It finally became ripe apple peel.
Using the aromas found in the kit, Lahiri put together some examples of analyzing whiskey. The first whiskey was Glen Morangie and after nosing it for the three different levels of aroma, we applied a test strip into the whiskey itself and tested to smell its base aroma. Ripe peaches was very strong on the strip. The next whiskey was a Jameson Irish whiskey and taking the flavor profile from the advertising a number of strips were scented with those advertised aroma. The resulting strips were then fanned under the nose to compare with the aroma of the actual whiskey. Finally an Elijah Craig 12yo was examined and as aromas were found, strip was dipped until once again it could be fanned under the nose for comparison.
The results of these experiments for me was that whiskey is too complicated to ever really duplicate from individual aromas, but there is great value in examining and identifying aromas found in the spirit. The Bourbon Aroma Kit is valuable in the it will help identify that nagging un-named aroma in the glass. The fact that the aroma will change as it breathes is important to know. The brief whiff of green bananas may be leading into green apple and eventually ripe apple in the whiskey, all from the same source of aroma.
For those interested in taking the class or acquiring a Bourbon kit, Robert Mohr is the “Dean of Students” and can be contacted at Robert.Mohr@AromaAcademy.US.
Photos Courtesy of Aroma Academy
March 21, 2016 at 1:00 pm
Thanks for the piece on our training. It was great to have you in class, and we’re big fans. We would, however, like to expand a little on something you wrote. Your point that Bourbon’s nose is too complicated to replicate in individual aromas is absolutely true, but we’re not trying to provide an encyclopaedia of wine and spirits aromas. We’re providing waypoints people can use to navigate that vast continuum of aromas that exist in the nose of a fine spirit or wine.
Think of aroma as a rainbow. Just as it’s impossible to discern where red turns to orange, it’s impossible to define precisely where the aroma of caramel turns to brown sugar. To avoid getting lost in the rainbow’s infinite hues, it helps to have a sample of pure red and pure orange. In nosing whiskey, it’s equally useful to be familiar with the aromas of pure caramel and pure brown sugar.
That’s what we provide: a set of basic aromas and a specific vocabulary to describe them. The experience of nosing remains entirely subjective in the same way that viewing a painting is entirely subjective. But it’s still helpful to have a basic understanding of colors and how they work together to create an image.
Thanks again Mike, and we’d love to have you in to teach you about the aromas of gin some time.
March 21, 2016 at 1:24 pm
I agree with everything you have said here. Very well put. I think the real value of the aroma academy is to train the nose in the subtle and not so subtle aromas found in spirits to better identify what you smell. It is a wonderful educational experience and I hope many other people take advantage of the class.