These drinks taste better at 35,000 feet

By David Flynn, March 2 2017
These drinks taste better at 35,000 feet

Most travellers know that food and drink taste very different in the air compared to on the ground.

Higher altitudes and pressurised cabins desensitise your taste buds, especially to sweet and salty notes. 

Low cabin humidity cabins dries out the nasal passages, leaving them less able to communicate key aspects of scent which make up a large part of what we 'taste'.

And while most airlines have long compensated for this by developing inflight meals to suit that skewed taste profile, we're finally seeing the same approach taken to the drinks menu. 

Virgin Australia is now serving a unique Shiraz blended specifically to be enjoyed above the clouds.

It's The Duo, from South Australia's St Hallett winery, sourced from both the Barossa Valley and Eden Valley to deliver a balance of acidity and texture at altitude.

“The drier air in the cabin can make it hard to really capture a wine's aroma," explains St Hallett winemaker Shelley Cox.

"This is where the Eden Valley component comes in. The higher altitude of the Eden Valley means cooler conditions and creates Shiraz with lovely overt floral aromas."

"You only need a small component to really lift a whole blend,” Cox adds.

Virgin is now serving The Duo in business class, with tastings at its domestic airport lounges.

Meanwhile, Cathay Pacific has partnered with the  Hong Kong Beer Co. to create Betsy Beer – a signature pour named for  the airline's first aircraft, a 1946 Douglas DC-3.

An unfiltered wheat beer rather than a conventional hops-based brew, Betsy Beer brings together ingredients sourced from both Hong Kong and the UK, in a nod to the airline's dual heritage.

That east-meets-west combo includes Dragon Eye fruit or longan, which adds to the beer's round, rich textural properties; a hint of honey from the New Territories, for an agreeable floral note; and Fuggle, a revered hop and a mainstay of traditional British craft ales, to ground the beer with an earthy full-bodied flavour.

Even the carbonation process has been tweaked to suit sky-high sipping.

Betsy Beer will be served throughout March and April to Cathay Pacific's business and first class passengers flying between Hong Kong and the UK, as well as in Cathay Pacific's Hong Kong and London Heathrow lounges.

However, a Cathay Pacific spokesperson tells Australian Business Traveller "if this innovation is proven to be successful and well received, we will consider continuing the offer or extend the route coverage."


David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.


12 Apr 2013

Total posts 1488

Pity CX not serving beer between MEL and HKG - gotta try it in lounge. And probably sneak one bottle to try it above clouds :-)


Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

27 Jul 2016

Total posts 56

I had a couple of glasses of Clarendon Hills 'Australis' 2004 Shiraz in Emirates First Class last Sunday, on the way home from Christchurch. It was superb. Never having heard of it, I searched online when home and found Dan Murphy's selling it for $420 a bottle!!! Now that's getting value from an $1800 return airfare (especially after starting on the 2006 Dom Perignon)...

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