Can You Measure Pleasure?

By / Wine + Drinks / February 17th, 2011 / 2

Thirty-five of the world’s top mixologists, sommeliers and spirits writers recently put their supreme knowledge and sensitive palates together to answer this fascinating question: can you measure pleasure?


Hailing from the US, the UK, Germany, Austria, Switzerland and France, the participants convened in Cognac, France. The challenge: make the first attempt by any spirits category to determine if the notion of pleasure in tasting can be scientifically quantified. Using state-of-the-art measuring devices linked to computer software, the experts tasted and voted their way through more than 40 Cognacs of all types.

All of the tastings had the same format: hold the Cognac in the mouth for three seconds; swallow/spit; then measure the impact for three minutes at regular intervals. The group findings were analyzed instantaneously and then later during group discussion.

Conclusion? Wait for The Pleasure Zone

Pleasure is subjective, but measurably, there is a moment when the full taste of the spirit is at its height. According to the experts, at 45 seconds after taking the first sip of Cognac the impact of the alcohol disappears and the full flavours come through with intensity. As JJ Goodman (from the London Cocktail Club) put it, “you have to wait for The Pleasure Zone,” which lasts to about 90 seconds. The Cognac Bureau is now working on a visual chart to complement its Cognac Aroma Wheel, developed in 2009, that will help drinks professionals and consumers obtain the maximum pleasure from tasting Cognac.

Pleasure Zone Tips

Use a tulip glass. Thanks to its wide bowl and narrow neck, the tulip glass concentrates Cognac’s nose and allows you to best appreciate the spirit’s subtlety and layers of aromatic complexity. (Don’t warm a Cognac or any fine wine or spirit too much or you will accentuate the alcohol, not the aromas). The glass is also easy to hold and is great for admiring colour.

Swirl Cognac gently. Cognac is packed with aromas and needs less oxygen than wine for the aromas to reach your senses. Put your nose close to the glass but not in it.

Take a sip. Keep the spirit in your mouth for 2 or 3 seconds before you swallow. Wait 45 seconds for The Pleasure Zone. You’ll experience the fullest range of flavours and aromas from about 45 to 90 seconds
after sipping.


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