An interesting article, @wineboar. I think we can probably answer the question “how malleable is our sense of disgust?” from other sources too. We know that stinky cheeses repulse many people who grew up in eastern Asia, but those who come to Europe and persevere with them may grow to like them. Perhaps I might do the same in reverse with things like century eggs, rotting shark and other such locally prized delicacies. And children can be notoriously iffy about some strongly flavoured foods, but almost always grow out of it. Plenty of other examples…
So I wouldn’t be at all surprised to learn that there can be an acquired tolerance of the odour of THAs (tri-halo anisoles, the principal odorant of “corked” wines).
But THAs are more dangerous than just being an off-scent/flavour. They kill the sense of taste, save for tannins and acid. At low levels - below the threshold of olfactory detection - they can strip all character out of a wine. This is a far trickier one to deal with. The wine just seems emptied of all character, and I often wonder how many snap negative decisions on any given wine may be driven by such low-level taint.
I wonder if acquiring a tolerance to THA odours also means that you are less susceptible to having sub-detectable levels strip other aromatics too?
THAs are one of a whole group of organic compounds that produce a musty smell (although some don’t smell musty at higher concentrations). The other two main important ones are 2-methyl isoborneol and geosmin. I would be careful of ascribing a musty smell to just one of these unless you already know you can distinguish them. And also because they often occur together. They are all caused by fungal or bacterial metabolism. Probably the easiest test is that these other compounds don’t suppress other flavours in the way THAs do.