So I had this unsubstantiated thought, right? Back in the day, Sir Francis Galton had a conjecture that general intelligence had something to do with increased sensory sensitivity. The basic idea kind of makes sense, actually, because more input means more processing, more data, and more connections from which to draw creative ideas. So he spent five years or so testing the idea in a lab, and found no connection between sensation and cognition. Well, there’s very weak correlation for some types of sensation.
The idea that sensation causes cognition doesn’t make analytical sense, because blind and deaf people tend not to be mentally retarded. Sir Galton was a pretty bright dude and probably didn’t need this explained to him.
But I wonder if this little pseudoscientific, one-hit-wonder theory didn’t catch on amongst the educated class of the time. If it did, we should expect to see them falling over each other in attempts to demonstrate highly sensitive sensory organs, and thus allude to their bonafide breeding (because straight talk is for proles). This would include discriminative abilities in taste and smell. And perhaps this artifact remained in the popular culture even after the theory turned out to be worthless, as popular science is wont to do.
Or maybe not. Reading some history on food snobbery could disprove this conjecture right quick, if it can be demonstrated that food snobbery was a posh activity (and not a niche activity) prior to the 19th century.