Whisky matured in space tastes ‘noticeably different’

© David Moir
Whisky sent on a four-year trip to the International Space Station has returned to Earth with enhanced flavor and character, the distillery responsible for creating the tipple has said.

One small measure of malt from the Ardbeg Distillery, situated on the Scottish island of Islay, was fired into space in 2011 with pieces of charred oak.

When it returned last year, whisky experts at the distillery performed a series of tests. They found the space sample tasted “noticeably different” to a sample kept at the distillery over the same period.

Ardbeg said the discovery could have “significant implications for the whisky industry.”

The distillery sent the vial of alcohol into space to investigate how micro-gravity could affect terpenes, the compounds that give flavor to many foods and drinks.

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 flavors which I have not encountered here on earth before,” Dr Bill Lumsden, Ardbeg’s director of distilling said.

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.”

He added the discovery could help scientists pinpoint the exact ratios of compounds found in aged whiskeys.

“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.”

The distillery took part in the experiment following an invitation by US research firm NanoRacks, which called Ardbeg “pioneers” of whisky making.