Ardbeg Distillery, based on the island of Islay in Scotland, launched some of its whiskey into space in 2011 where it orbited the planet on the International Space Station until returning to earth on Sept. 12, 2014.
The point of this experiment was to see if the whiskey would mature differently in micro-gravity as compared to normal gravity, and how that would affect the taste. Dr. Bill Lumsden, Ardbeg’s director of distilling, whiskey creation, and whiskey stocks, examined the space-aged whiskey and wrote up his results in a white paper.
Dr. Lumsden found that there was no significant difference in the concentration of compounds in the space whiskey as compared to the control sample matured on earth. The concentration of wood extractives in the ISS-aged whiskey was much higher than a standard, barrel-matured spirit, likely due to the fact that the former was exposed to a larger wooden surface area. However, the concentration of major flavor active oak derivatives was higher in the control sample, suggesting that micro-gravity prevents them from being extracted from the oak.
What this all results in is the taste, which Dr. Lumsden writes is fairly different between the two samples. The aroma of the ISS sample supposedly has “notes of antiseptic smoke, rubber, smoked fish,” leading into “earthy/soil notes, a savoury, beefy aroma, and then hints of rum & raisin flavoured ice cream.”
The taste elicited notes of “earthy peat smoke” and “smoked bacon or hickory-smoked ham” with a long and intense aftertaste characterized by “antiseptic lozenges and rubbery smoke.”
Suntory, a Japanese whiskey-maker, is following in Ardbeg’s footsteps with its own plans to send whiskey into space.