Four years ago samples of Ardbeg whisky were sent to the International Space Station. After being returned to Earth and the samples have been tested and the results are in.

Ardbeg’s director of distilling Dr Bill Lumsden has tested the well-travelled samples against control samples that were kept at the distillery and he has found major differences between the two.

“The space samples were noticeably different,” Dr Lumsden said. “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.”

Further analysis, looking at ratios of different types of wood extractive compounds, found significant differences between the two sets of samples – demonstrating that gravity has a very real effect on the maturation of spirit. Dr Lumsden said: “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.”

Jeffrey Manber, CEO of NanoRacks who partnered with Ardbeg on this experiment, commented: “It’s hard to find companies willing to be pioneers. To have a partner like Ardbeg that is willing to make this sort of commitment augurs well for the future of commercial space research into flavourings and what it changes for consumer products in general.”


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