A system for classifying sensory attributes
Descriptive analysis is applied to a diverse range of complex, real-world food and consumer products because the information it provides about those products is unrivalled in its richness. A common lexicon allows the descriptive sensory panel to reference sensory attributes of products undergoing study in a highly specific and consistent manner. When combined with best practices it eliminates ambiguity of response and yields highly actionable results. A range of sensory attributes relevant to and representative of the product category undergoing study is typically selected.
Sensory attributes are often categorized using non-sensory frameworks: chemistry (e.g. limonene might be described first by its chemical properties, noting its lemon-orange or turpentine-pine odor, depending on chirality) or physical or biological origin (e.g. “notes” from banana and apple to lime and grapefruit, might be categorized as “fruity”).
An opportunity exists for systematic classification of sensory attributes based on the difficulty associated with (i) identifying and (ii) scaling the attribute in specific product contexts. Diverse sensory attributes could be grouped into four broad categories (easy to identify and scale, easy to identify but hard to scale, hard to identify but easy to scale, and hard to identify and scale). The authors are unaware of any attribute classification system with this kind of sensory approach.
Data from a red wine descriptive sensory panel (130 attributes) and two white wine descriptive sensory panels (110 and 76 attributes were used by a previously trained and previously untrained panel, respectively) allowed the authors to classify attributes. Resultant classifications will provide subsequent panel leaders with insights into the types of responses that might be expected from future descriptive sensory panels, influence subsequent ballots, and permit for testing of predictions related to existing attribute classifications.
Castura, J.C., & Findlay, C.J. (2006). A system for classifying sensory attributes. In: A Sense of Diversity: European Conference on Sensory Consumer Science of Food and Beverages. September 26-29, The Hague, The Netherlands.