TIME space travel

A Japanese Drinks Company Just Sent Some Whiskey to the International Space Station

But the astronauts won't get to drink a drop

A Japanese resupply spacecraft successfully docked to the International Space Station (ISS) on Monday, and on board there was some unusual cargo.

Included in the 10,000 lb. of supplies were five whiskey samples sent into orbit by Japanese alcoholic-drinks conglomerate Suntory, reports the Associated Press.

But astronauts on board the ISS won’t be able to drink a drop of the liquor, which was sent as part of an experiment to see whether spirits mellow at the same pace in microgravity as they do on earth.

The research is being conducted in the Japanese Experiment Module on the ISS and researchers at Suntory hope the experiments will help find a scientific explanation for the “mechanism that makes alcohol mellow.”

An identical set of samples is being stored in Japan and after a year or so the samples in orbit will return to earth to be compared, analyzed and tasted.

The whiskey experiment isn’t the first drinks-related study to take place on the ISS. Already on board are specially designed coffee cups that have revolutionized how astronauts drink in space and could help scientists build better and safer advanced fluid systems.

And on earth a company called Cosmic Lifestyle Corp. has even invented a zero-gravity-friendly martini glass.

TIME India

India Now Boasts Four Out of the Top Five Fastest Growing Spirit Brands in the World

A bottling plant worker checks bottles of Black Power whisky for impurities at a Tilaknagar Industries distillery and bottling unit in Srirampur
Vivek Prakash — REUTERS A bottling plant worker checks bottles of Black Power whisky for impurities at a Tilaknagar Industries distillery and bottling unit in Srirampur, about 186 miles northwest of Mumbai, January 28, 2013

"The opportunities within the Indian spirits market are plentiful"

India’s love affair with whisky has spurred domestic brands into becoming some of the biggest players in the global liquor market, with four of the world’s top five fastest growing spirits now hailing from the South Asian nation.

Indian whiskies also occupy seven of the top 25 fastest growing spirit brands, according to a recent study carried out by International Wine and Spirit Research, a London-based industry firm, with another five brands in that group focusing on India as their key market.

Imperial Blue is leading the way with 27.7% growth between 2013-14, with Officer’s Choice following closely behind at 18.4%, the study says, largely due to its popularity among lower-income consumers. Officer’s Choice has already overtaken Smirnoff as the world’s largest spirits brand, according to a recent article in India’s Economic Times.

Royal Stag and McDowell’s, owned by Diageo, follow closely behind.

The spirit’s popularity amongst Indians shows no signs of stopping — domestic consumption of whisky grew by 4% between 2013 and 2014, even while other spirits like vodka and brandy saw a fall in demand.

“The opportunities within the Indian spirits market are plentiful, especially among this lower socio-economic group,” the report said.

TIME Food & Drink

This Distillery Is Going to Age Whisky in Space

Inside The Suntory Yamazaki Whisky Distillery
Akio Kon—Bloomberg/Getty Images An employee holds a bottle of Suntory Holdings Ltd.'s Yamazaki whisky at the company's Yamazaki distillery in Shimamoto, Osaka, Japan, on Friday, Sept. 13, 2013.

The company wants to learn how space whisky compares to Earth whisky

Japanese distillery Suntory is undertaking an alcoholic science experiment to find out how its whiskeys age in space.

The company announced in a release that it would send five different types of whiskey up to the International Space Station on Aug. 16, as well as a bottle of 40% ethanol, to study the “development of mellowness” in a microgravity environment. Identical samples will stay on Earth for comparison when the space whiskey returns. Some of the samples will remain in orbit for one year, some for a period of two years or more (the final number is still to be determined).

Japan Space Whiskey
Suntory/AFP/Getty ImagesPouched whisky, from Japanese company Suntory, which will be sent up to space at JAXA’s space center in Tsukuba, Ibraraki prefecture, outside Tokyo on July 22, 2015.

If project is successful, it will help the folks at Suntory pin down the “mechanism that makes alcohol mellow.”

According to the Wall Street Journal, the space whisky will not be for sale, meaning customers are going to have to put their dreams of drinking a truly out-of-this-world spirit on hold. But who knows? If the experiment is a hit, an astro aged bottle might one day appear in liquor store right here on Earth.

MONEY Food & Drink

5 Great Bourbons for Bourbon Lovers on a Budget

Sunday, June 14 is National Bourbon Day.

glass of bourbon
Getty Images

If you can’t think of a better way to spend this Sunday than sipping a couple Bourbons on ice – well, you’ll have company. June 14 is National Bourbon Day.

But fans of America’s official spirit have had to pay a high price for its popularity in recent years.

“Bourbon is struggling with an unpredicted surge in demand coupled with an unmercifully slow production process,” said Lew Bryson, editor of Whisky Advocate magazine, a publication that has been tracking whisky trends for more than 20 years.

Bourbon making has grown 150% since 1999, with production hitting 1.2 million barrels in 2013, according to the Kentucky Distiller’s Association. And premium small-batch and single-barrel Bourbons are driving the renaissance.

So what’s a Bourbon drinker on a budget to do?

“Once upon a time, you could get very good bottle of Bourbon for under $15. With its rise in popularity, that’s much harder,” says Fred Minnick, author of Bourbon Curious: A Simple Tasting Guide for the Savvy Drinker. “But you can still find wonderful values under $40.”

Minnick shared his favorite 750 mL bottles of Bourbon under $40. You can impress your friends by quoting from his detailed tasting notes.

  • Four Roses Small Batch

    Price: $30

    Tasting notes: “In the aromas, you find oak, cinnamon, floral and fruit,” Minnick said. “Four Roses Small Batch is a ‘flavor highway’ sensation with a long cinnamon finish.”

  • Knob Creek Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

    150614_EM_Bourbon_KnobCreekStraight
    courtesy Knob Creek

    Price: $35

    Tasting notes: “Knob Creek has a rich caramel nose with notes of toffee, dark fruit and fresh baked bread,” Minnick said. He described the Bourbon as having flavors of pancakes with maple syrup, pumpkin spice latte and nutmeg.

  • Evan Williams Single Barrel Vintage, 2004

    Evan Williams
    courtesy Evan Williams

    Price: $28

    Tasting notes: “The nose brings out ripe aromas of banana, pear, peach, pineapple juice, canned corn, lemon zest and an array of caramels,” Minnick said. “In addition, there’s notes of ginger, nutmeg and clove with hints of chocolate and spearmint.”

  • Larceny

    150614_EM_Bourbon_Larceny
    courtesy Larceny

    Price: $26

    Tasting notes: “The aroma is fully floral, almost like walking into a garden of lilies, roses and honeysuckle vines,” said Minnick. “The palate notes hit early with powerful vanilla cake batter notes and fudge brownies with nuts.”

  • Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

    Buffalo Trace
    courtesy Buffalo Trace Distiller

    Price: $25

    Tasting notes: “The nose presents beautiful vanilla, caramel, fresh-cut oak tree, baled hay, apricot and a hint of rosemary, while the palate offers nutmeg spice and caramel, custard and pumpkin notes,” said Minnick.

TIME celebrity

Watch Nick Offerman Sing a Beautiful Tribute to His One True Love, Whiskey

He strums a guitar, rides a horse, herds sheep and even does some woodworking

Sometimes it’s easy to forget that fictional Parks and Rec character Ron Swanson and the actor who plays him, Nick Offerman, are not, in fact, the same dude. Because really, the two mustachioed gentlemen seem to have quite a bit in common, such as the aforementioned mustaches and a shared love for masculinity, woodworking and, of course, whiskey.

To celebrate that last one, Offerman teamed with spirits company Diageo to sing a song detailing his deep love of the dark Scottish liquor.

MORE: The Top 10 TV Shows of 2014

The video has pretty much everything you’d hope for: Offerman walking stoically through the gorgeous Scottish isles, riding a horse, corralling sheep, practicing the fine art of woodworking, rocking some plaid, strumming a guitar while in a boat, and of course, sipping on his beloved beverage.

We recommend pouring yourself a glass of whiskey before viewing.

(h/t Elite Daily)

TIME food and drink

5 Things You Need To Know About Japanese Whisky

Food Japanese Whisky
Eric Risberg—AP From left are Hibiki 12-year-old, Yamazaki 18 and 12-year-old Japanese whiskys at the Rickhouse bar in San Francisco, Aug. 6, 2010.

A single-malt from Japan has been named the best whisky in the world for the first time. Here's why you shouldn't be all that surprised

The whisky world was shocked on Tuesday, when it was announced that the 2015 edition of Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible had named Suntory’s Yamazaki Single Malt Sherry Cask 2013 the best whisky in the world — the first time the honor has gone to a whisky from Japan. Even more of a shock, particularly to the Scottish who pride themselves on their whisky, for the first time in the 12 years the Whisky Bible has been published, not a single Scotch made the top five.

But perhaps the surprise is unwarranted. After all, Japanese whisky has been a rising star in the spirits world for some time now. So, in honor of the big win, here are five things you should know about Japanese whisky.

It’s The New Kid on the Block — Japanese whisky has been commercially produced since since the early 1920s, when the Yamazaki distillery was first built near Kyoto. Throughout the 20th century, Japanese whiskies were primarily sold and consumed within Japan, yet they’ve become increasingly popular in Europe and North American in recent years.

Production — Japanese whiskies were first modelled on Scottish whiskies — Suntory’s first master distiller Masataka Taketsuru studied in Scotland and wanted to bring the drink home — so they are produced in much the same way, distilled twice using pot stills. Many distilleries even use malted and sometimes peated barley imported from Scotland.

About That Missing “E” — As Japanese whisky has much in common with Scottish whiskies, rather than the Irish or American varieties, its name follows the Scotch tradition and is spelled without an “e.”

Pop Culture Moment — Japanese whisky makes a prominent appearance in 2003’s Lost in Translation. In the film, Bill Murrary’s character Bob Harris is a washed-up actor who heads to Japan to shill for Suntory whisky. Tag line: “For relaxing times, make it Suntory time.”

In real life, it was actually actor Sean Connery who appeared in Suntory commericals in the 1990s.

It’s a Winner — The World Whisky Bible coup isn’t the first time Japanese whisky has been recognized with an international award. In 2001, Nikka’s Yoichi whisky was named the “Best of the Best” in an international tasting by Whisky Magazine. Then, in 2003, Suntory’s 30-year-old Hibiki won the top award at the International Spirits Challenge and Suntory went on to earn awards at the competition for the next 11 years.

TIME Food & Drink

The World’s Best Whisky Has Been Named and Scotland is Displeased

Scotland doesn't even have a whisky in the world's top five

The best whisky in the world is “near indescribable genius.” It scores 97.5 marks out of 100. It is also not Scottish.

That’s according to Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible 2015, a highly regarded ranking of fine global whisky. Specifically, reports the Telegraph, the top title belongs to Yamazaki Single Malt Sherry Cask 2013, from Japan’s oldest whiskey distillery, Suntory, founded in 1923.

What’s more, for the first time in the 12 years the Whisky Bible has been published, not a single Scottish whisky makes the bible’s top five. If that wasn’t bad enough for Scotland, which along with Ireland is the spiritual home of the drink, the best European whisky in the latest edition is English.

The Whisky Bible describes the winning Yamazaki whisky as “rich and fruity,” with a nose of “exquisite boldness” and finish of “light, teasing spice.” Just 18,000 bottles were made — it is sold out on the bible’s online shop, and it is available in just a few specialist shops in the U.K. for about $160.

American whiskies take second and third prize, including repeat second-place winner William Larue Weller, a Kentucky bourbon.

So what about auld Scotland? A Scottish whisky — the 19-year-old single malt Glenmorangie Ealanta — took the top spot just last year, also getting 97.5 marks.

But the book’s author, Jim Murray, writes that though hundreds of Scottish whiskies were among the more than 1,000 samples he tried from all around the world this year, they fell flat.

“Where were the complex whiskies in the prime of their lives?,” he wonders, calling this year’s rankings a “wake up call” for Scottish brands.

Ron Taylor, an independent wine and spirit judge and educator, tells TIME it’s no surprise that a Japanese whiskey took first place in Murray’s list, since Japanese whiskies regularly win prestigious competitions, even in Scotland.

Still, Taylor also said that rankings often reflect the taster’s personal preferences. Indeed, Taylor describes Japanese single malts as like a Lexus —“beautifully crafted, no vibration, smooth, consistent and always pleasing” — while their Scottish counterparts are more akin to a Maserati.

“The Scottish whiskeys, they’ll knock you around and slap you around the face a little bit,” says Taylor, who is from Scotland, but calls himself “a non partisan” drinker.

He also notes that Suntory, which makes the winning Japanese whiskey, also produces whiskey brands around the world — including, in fact, multiple Scottish whiskies.

[The Telegraph]

Read next: The Best Whiskey Bars in America

TIME Food & Drink

Fireball Was Recalled, But It’s Still a Powerhouse Drink

Three empty shot glasses on a bar
Andreas Schlegel—fStop/Getty Images

It's going to take more than a little antifreeze scandal to stop this drink

Drinkers the world over let out a collective gasp this week when Fireball Cinnamon Whisky was recalled in some European countries for containing what regulators deemed an unsafe level of propylene glycol—a chemical found in antifreeze. Was that the burn felt by college students and weekend warriors when they took shots of the liquor whose slogan promises that it “tastes like heaven, burns like hell”?

As it turns out, propylene glycol is approved for use in food processing by the FDA, which says that it “can be ingested over long periods of time and in substantial quantities (up to 5 percent of the total food intake) without causing frank toxic effects.” Europe accepts a lower level of the chemical, and certain countries balked at bottles containing more than one gram per kilogram by volume.

Nevertheless, the spicy whiskey—whose flavor has been compared to Big Red chewing gum—is unlikely to take a tumble in the U.S. based on this news. In a few short years, it has become a mainstay in the stable of shots, offering the kick of a liquor much stronger than it is (33%), with no unpleasant aftertaste. Between 2011 and 2013, Bloomberg reports, its sales at U.S. gas stations, convenience stores and supermarkets rose from $1.9 million to $61 million. Momentum like that will need more than a little antifreeze scandal to slow it down.

Big, bold flavor is not a trend that’s going away anytime soon—according to Ian Reusch, general manager at the popular D.C. beer bar ChurchKey, we’ve seen the same level of hype around similar products like Goldschlager and Jägermeister. He thinks a scary ingredient linked to antifreeze might be enough to burst the cinnamon-flavored bubble.

Yael Vengroff, Fireball aficionado and bar manager at Harvard & Stone in Los Angeles, begs to differ. She says the kind of folks who appreciate Fireball may not be the same kind of people who are easily spooked by scandal. “I feel that Fireball won’t suffer from the current recall,” she says, “because I don’t feel like its market and drinkers are in the business of playing it safe, if you will.”

For those who do fear for their innards but still crave the fiery liquor, bartenders around the country offer artisanal versions whose ingredients are less likely to offend. The drink has become a kind of ironic favorite among the kind of mixologists who would bristle at the term “mixologist,” folks who still appreciate that the experience of going to a bar should be about having a good time, not a white-glove affair.

At ChurchKey, Reusch and his staff recently began offering their own “Grandpapa Reusch Ol’ Time Fireball Style Whiskey,” made with cinnamon sticks and chili oil. The Penrose in New York City offers the “Red Hot Shot,” bourbon infused with cinnamon and jalapeño. And Vengroff makes her own barrel-aged version with Ferrand cognac at Harvard & Stone called “Firebarrel.”

Still, Vengroff says, bars that do make their own version should not get too haughty about it. Her own appreciation of the spirit “started off as a f–k you to that really precious speakeasy experience.” When those same bars make their own versions but frown on the real brand, that is not in the Fireball spirit, she says. “For so long, it was like, ‘We’re not gonna give the people what they want. We’re not gonna carry vodka or cranberry juice.’” At the end of the day, bars are still supposed to be about hospitality, and if people want to coat their esophagus in cinnamon whiskey, then bottom’s up.

If you’re still too nervous about putting propylene glycol in your body, there are plenty of easy at-home recipes for Fireball knockoffs. Try infusing a bottle of cheap whiskey with a handful of cinnamon sticks and two shots of simple syrup for a few days, adding a few dried red chili peppers then steeping for a few days more before straining. Alternatively, just add cinnamon and jalapeno syrups to your whiskey of choice. Whatever you do, take a hint from the guests at this wedding and be sure to share the drink far and wide—you’ll be everyone’s favorite party guest.

TIME Viral Videos

Wedding Filmed by a GoPro Attached to a Whiskey Bottle

Whatever it takes to get through a wedding.

If you’re wondering who is the most popular person at a wedding, be assured it’s not the bride or the groom, but the person toting the bottle of whiskey.

At a wedding, most people (bride, groom, and guest alike) have two things on their mind: Try not to cry too much during the ceremony and have fun at the reception. Both can require a bit of liquid fortitude, hence the popularity of the whiskey bearer. To prove that status, someone attached a GoPro camera to a bottle of Fireball Cinnamon Whiskey and let it loose at a wedding.

What was captured on the camera is exactly what anyone who has been a regular on the wedding circuit would expect: Lots and lots of shots by people in their Sunday best, chugging straight from the bottle, no chaser required. Whatever it takes to toast the happy couple, right?

[h/t Uproxx]

TIME Food & Drink

The Best Whiskey Bars in America

Jack Rose Dining Saloon in Washington, D.C.
Courtesy of Saloon Jack Rose Dining Saloon in Washington, D.C.

Toast your next vacation with craft cocktails or a tasting flight at one of these top whiskey bars

Mark Twain once observed, “Too much of anything is bad, but too much good whiskey is barely enough”—a philosophy Americans are increasingly taking to heart. In 2013, sales of the heavenly brown liquid outpaced all other spirits, and specialty bars are popping up at an overwhelming rate.

“Five years ago, you could count the good whiskey bars on two hands,” says Lew Bryson, managing editor of Whisky Advocate. “Now it’s impossible to keep up.”

So what makes a whiskey bar stand out from the crowd? A solid selection (at least 50 bottles) is imperative, according to Bryson, as is staff knowledge and enthusiasm. “I want servers who actually drink the stuff,” he says. It’s also promising if a bar hosts a whiskey tasting club, as does L.A.’s Seven Grand.

Some whiskey fans seek out bars stocking an encyclopedic variety, from American small-batch rarities to Japanese single malts. At Seattle’s whiskey emporium Canon, you’re spoiled for choice between a menu that runs more than 100 pages, a selection of tasting flights, and craft cocktails like the Skull and Blackberries (Canon select double rye, dark rum, Rossbacher, blackberry, blueberry smoke).

For others, bourbon is king. And the seat of that kingdom is Kentucky, where the Bluegrass Saloon serves bourbon from nine regional distilleries, including every variety imaginable from companies like Bulleit and Wild Roses.

Bourbon, rye, Scotch—all these types of whiskey are distilled from fermented grain. Yet the flavor can be infinitely affected by variables like type of grain (bourbon legally has to be 51 percent corn, for instance) and the barrel in which it’s aged.

To get the most out of each whiskey’s flavor, Moiz Ali—cofounder of Caskers, a crafts spirits club with hundreds of thousands of members—recommends tasting it neat first. “For high-proof whiskey, I might add a few drops of water or a cube of ice,” he adds. “This helps open up the whiskey’s aromas and flavors, which can be masked behind the high alcohol content.”

As a first pour, we’ve rounded up 16 notable whiskey bars across the nation. While fans will have their own favorites, we can all get behind the meaning of the word whiskey: “water of life” in Gaelic.

Jack Rose Dining Saloon, Washington, D.C.

Washington, D.C., is our nation’s capital, and a visit to Jack Rose may convince you it’s also the center of the whiskey universe. The Adams Morgan saloon serves whiskey on tap and stocks an incredible 1,800 bottles of the golden stuff. Consider a spirit like the 15-year-old Jefferson’s Reserve from the Rare Bottlings collection. You can savor it in the cozy, wood-paneled whiskey cellar, on the open-air terrace, or in the dining saloon itself, where cigars are also on the menu.

The 404 Kitchen, Nashville

Nashville has recently attracted national attention for its food and drink scene. Credit goes to innovators like the 404 Kitchen, located within a 40-foot former shipping container adjacent to the 404 Hotel. Here, whiskey aficionados will find more than 150 varieties, including super-rare spirits from Ireland to Utah—and a sizable collection of Japanese “juice.” Hungry? You’ve come to the right place: 404 is a James Beard Award semifinalist, known for locally sourced Italian-style dishes like delicata squash soup and cornmeal-crusted fluke.

Bluegrass Tavern, Lexington, KY

Since 2009, 2.5 million tourists have traveled the Kentucky Bourbon Trail to tour its nine historic distilleries, including Bulleit and Woodford Reserve. So a Lexington bar better be legit: patrons are guaranteed to know their stuff and expect to be impressed. Bluegrass Tavern comes through with 230 kinds of bourbon, including scarce vintages like Four Roses Limited Single Barrel.

Canon, Seattle

Seattle may be famous for its coffee, but not to the detriment of other vices. Canon, the rainy city’s very own whiskey library, offers the largest selection of American whiskey in the Western Hemisphere. Stacks upon stacks of bottles are piled high to the pressed-tin ceiling, and Canon’s booze book dedicates nine to rare batches alone. Guests can browse old-school bartending books while they wait for a craft cocktail and helping of Angostura-bourbon nuts from the ever-changing menu.

Flatiron Room, New York City

Manhattan’s premiere whiskey destinationcharms patrons with nearly 500 varieties—some accessible only by ladder—as well as highly informed whiskey guides, live jazz music, a swanky setting (plush banquettes, cabaret-style tables, chandeliers), and A-list people-watching. You can even get schooled during one-day classes in its private upstairs room. Just be sure to make your reservation ahead of time. As Flatiron’s website states: “We love our guests. So much so that we are willing to turn some away so the ones inside can best enjoy their experience.”

Read the full list HERE.

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