Whisky in space experiment returns home

Whisky in space experiment returns home

Whisky that was fired into space almost four years ago as part of an experiment has returned to earth with enhanced flavour and character, according to its creator.


A vial of unmatured malt from the Ardbeg Distillery on Islay was sent to the International Space Station in a cargo spacecraft in October 2011, along with particles of charred oak.

Another vial of the same whisky was was kept at the distillery for comparison.

It retuned to earth last year and a series of tests by the distillery found that the space samples were “noticeably different” to those kept on earth.

Ardbeg believe it could have “significant implications for the whisky industry”.

The experiment was designed to investigate how micro-gravity would affect the behaviour of terpenes, compounds that give flavour to many foods, wines and spirits.

Dr Bill Lumsden, Ardbeg’s director of distilling, said: “The space samples were noticeably different. When I nosed and tasted the space samples, it became clear that much more of Ardbeg’s smoky, phenolic character shone through – to reveal a different set of smoky flavours which I have not encountered here on earth before.

“Ardbeg already has a complex character but the results of our experiment show that there is potentially even more complexity that we can uncover, to reveal a different side to the whisky.

“Our findings may also one day have significant implications for the whisky industry as a whole.

“In the future, the altered range of wood extractions could lead scientists to be able to detail the ratios of compounds expected in whiskies of a certain age.”

Ardbeg was invited to take part in the space experiment by US space research company NanoRacks, who praised the distillery for being “pioneers”.