Back in the Game: learning to taste again after COVID-19

Published in the June 2021 edition of Brewer & Distiller International magazine

The article is not online, you can read a PDF of the article here »

I remember a holiday in Mallorca. Our rented villa had a pool and my first priority was for a swim. The cool water was too inviting to resist. I dived in and for a moment underwater felt eight hours of airports and hire cars wash away…

But as I broke the surface again, I found myself emerging into a subtly altered world. My ear was blocked and would remain that way for the rest of the holiday. A small problem, you might say, yet it marred my enjoyment of the whole trip.

Losing your sense of smell is a similar experience, or so I’m told. At first your days fill with moments – the odourless coffee, the flavourless curry – that ambush you with fresh proof of your loss. It is like climbing a staircase and thinking there is one more stair than there is. As your foot falls through the phantom step you feel a lurch of dark surprise as you try to readjust. Then, over time, you become numbed to these undermining gotchas. Instead a whole dimension of life falls away. It can leave you feeling like you’re living in a bubble or wrapped in clingfilm.

It’s bad enough losing a holiday to something like this, but imagine if it were your career at stake. Society may not place much value on our senses of taste and smell but for certain professions they are vital, among them brewing and distilling.

In the article I talk to brewers who lost their sense of smell to COVID-19 and ask how it affected their professional lives, and what they did to get their smell back. I also discuss smell training with Sarah McCartney from the anosmia charity Fifth Sense.

The article is not online, you can read a PDF of the article here »


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