Stealing Back from the Covid Thief

Science & WhisKEY chaser recovery from my Covid nightmare

This article was first published by Ruth Dolby on LinkedIn on 25th July 2022

My dread of Covid 19 was more related to my need for protection of my sense of smell and taste than fear of illness. Why? Because earn my crust developing products, processes, and ingredient applications for our Food Science Fusion customers. They need my flavour memory, super taster* and thermal taster* attributes along with my honed, trained, and experienced palate to deliver their agenda for excellent commercial products that hit or exceed their targets.

So, guess what… Having determinedly avoided being infected by Covid 19 and all the variants I recently tested positive ….. 2-days of feeling that if it was not for that positive LF test I would be tossing a coin between it being painful tonsillitis or true flu, either way I was not happy or interested in anything other than plain hot water, tissues and throat lozenges. To clear my stuffed runny nose I used a well know medicinal aroma on a cotton wool pad; the result was an unblocked nose, easier breathing, and nothing else, other than rising panic! My worst nightmare made real, I serve the majority of our clients and partners at Food Science Fusion with my experienced palate, and now it had been ripped away.

Fighting back: I started a diary, I could not smell anything and only taste the basic blocks – salt, sweet, sour, bitter plus the acid of vinegar, menthol cold of fresh mint leaves and the heat of chilli of were all there. Absent were flavours and definitely no aromas, no umami*, no kokumi*. Interestingly satiety* kicked in a lot sooner than normal for me, was that lack of exercise or umami and kokumi? By day 3 I managed to recognise the briefest whiff of lemon zest. I was feeling very blessed that nothing smelt or tasted unpleasant, so noparosmia, but I would have liked something…. Day 5 I joined in the research tests at https://riech-check.de/ and was delighted to be able to detect all the samples they suggested, all be it only mildly, and decerned light aromas with their guidance. Day 6 I could smell my best shower gel and all aromas grew more distinct over the day. I tested negative day 7 of aroma loss/ day 11 of Covid and then when clearing the stores found that the mandarin fibre powder was another trigger, so that was a really useful application project. My anxiety was still there, what if I was left with a diminished set of senses?

The final trigger: as an effort to cheer me up, my husband offered to share his treat of sitting in the garden as the sun sets with a tot of whisky. I poured myself just 2ml, not wanting to waste his favourite tipple. 1st very small sip, just to coat my tongue,  of what I knew was a smooth Penderyn single malt Welsh Whisky, the flavours spiked viciously on my tongue; with the 2nd my lips burned, and it was slightly less violent on the tongue; the 3rd was the characteristic smooth flavour but still no aroma despite each sip being held in the mouth while breathing out of my nose as well as swirling the liquid in my glass and breathing in through my nose. The 4th sip set the inside my nose on fire, talk about a Welsh Dragon!  The 5th slip was a pure delight, everything was back as it should be, flavour, aroma, aftertaste and all!!

Happy Future: Since that date I am exceedingly pleased to say all has been back in its normal order and I am ready to continue applying my honed sensory skills to my client’s product developments, quality standards and coaching even more grateful than ever before for my sensory abilities. Not an orthodox cure and as yet not backed by scientific study…but I am open to proposals.

Thank you:  No one works in isolation, I would like to thank all those who helped me reset my sense of smell back to my normal palate, that is as a super taster and thermal taster with a flavour memory: Alice Jones https://www.linkedin.com/in/alice-jones-elderflower/ for passing the link to https://abscent.org/insights-blog/blog/covid-19-and-smell-loss-jane-parkers-view that lead to the help I needed https://gcchemosensr.org/surveys/en/ to start my journey to recovery via https://riech-check.de/ The tests of taste buds in both mouth and nose started to reawaken my senses. Plus, the added positive surprise effect of just 5 sips of Penderyn single malt Welsh Whisky that completed my journey, https://www.penderyn.wales/gold/ : Assistant Professor Qian Yang at University of Nottingham https://www.linkedin.com/in/qian-yang-78bbaa40/  who not only tested my tastebuds to confirm abilities several years ago but also shared her academic papers with me to help my understanding of how to make the most of everything and last but by no means least, in-house photographer and husband Tony Dolby https://www.linkedin.com/in/tony-dolby/  https://www.keytonecaptures.uk/  who provided the all-important key [all puns intended]