It is a problem which plagues frequent fliers and makes airline food taste less appetising than the same meal when safely on the ground.
But now an Edinburgh-based gin maker has come up with a solution to the problem that our sense of smell and taste disappears when we are cruising at 30,000 feet.
Pickering’s Gin has created a product to mark the hundredth birthday of an airline - which it claims tastes just as good while in the air.
The new tipple, Pickering’s British Airways Centenary Gin, distilled at Edinburgh’s Summerhall Distillery, uses lemon myrtle to imparts natural sweetness alongside the bold citrus flavour to the gin, which is says provides a better flavour while flying. Instead, they say, the herb adds a fresh taste without the bitter edge, balancing with the sweet floral notes of heather and rose to deliver an enhanced sweetness and depth of flavour that is missing in many commercial gins when consumed at altitude.
Flavour scientist Professor Charles Spence from Oxford University’s Crossmodal Research Laboratory said: “At 30,000 feet, low air pressure and lack of humidity supress our taste receptors and alter our sense of smell. Our perception of sweet and salt are somewhat muted whereas our ability to identify spices and bitter flavours are seemingly left unchanged.
“Surprisingly, our ears play a part in how we perceive taste too. Background noise such as the hum of the engines can render many people unable to detect salty or sugary flavours effectively.”
Head distiller and co-founder Matt Gammell said: “To banish so-called airplane ‘taste blindness’, we have carefully designed a botanical flavour profile that enhances what you lack when you’re soaring in the sky. As a distiller, developing a gin on the ground and then trialling it in the sky at different altitudes was a fascinating process.
“We trialled multiple iterations of the recipe in the air until we were confident that it would taste as good in the sky as it did on the ground.”
The combination of dryness and low pressure reduces the sensitivity of a flier’s taste buds to sweet and salty foods by around 30 per cent, according to a 2010 study conducted by Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute for Building Physics. At about 30,000 feet, humidity is less than 12 per cent.
Pickering’s British Airways Centenary Gin is available to drink on board all economy flights under four hours.
British Airways will be releasing a series of ‘centenary editions’ in partnership with British brands during its milestone year.
Jude Winstanley, British Airways’ head of ground products, said: “We have searched the length of the country to find some of the best British brands to partner with for our centenary.”
She added: “We are delighted these limited-edition products will be available to customers on board this summer.”
In June 2017, Pickering’s launched a bespoke range of gins, 3 Queens Gin, for the luxury cruise liner Cunard Cruises. The distillery produced three unique gins celebrating the routes of Cunard’s three flagships: The Queen Mary 2, the Queen Elizabeth and the Queen Victoria.
The company is also the maker of Britannia Gin, the Official Gin of the Royal Yacht Britannia.