Photo: NASA Marshall Space Flight Center
Is space whiskey the final frontier? Well, it may not be the final one, but it’s certainly the latest experiment going on at the International Space Station. That’s right, according to BBC News, Scottish whiskey producer Ardbeg Distillery has been commissioned to investigate out how malt matures without gravity, in hopes of being at the forefront of a new level of spirits. Packages of Ardbeg’s malts were sent to the ISS last October, and have since gone through research as to how their molecular terpenes behave in outer space.
“We are all tremendously excited by this experiment,” said Dr. Bill Lumsden, head of distilling and whiskey creation at Ardbeg. “Who knows where it will lead?”
Ardbeg has been producing whiskey for over 300 years, but this is galactic experiment is a first for them — and history for that matter. Their involvement with the ISS comes with the help of NanoRacks, LLC, a US company that is also interested in the data collected from this space whiskey experiment.
“By doing this microgravity experiment on the interaction of terpenes and other molecules with the wood samples provided by Ardbeg, we will learn much about flavors, even extending to applications like food and perfume,” said NanoRocks CTO Michael Johnson. “At the same time it should help Ardbeg find new chemical building blocks in their own flavor spectrum.”
Only time will tell on how the space whiskey experiment will affect the taste of whiskey in outer space — and down here on Earth. As I learned from NASA astronaut Paul Richards when producing this silly, yet informative “Fancy Space Food” video for Fancy Fast Food, food and drink taste different in orbit as they do down on earth.
“Your taste buds actually change in space, so sometimes the food that you test on the ground that you like, you don’t have an affinity for in orbit,” says Astronaut Richards. “You might try somebody else’s food that you really didn’t care for on the ground, and it tastes pretty good — because your body goes through a lot of changes in orbit, and taste buds and the taste sort of changes a bit.”
Whether or not the space whiskey experiment yields a better product is yet to be determined over the next year and a half, but I’m sure any marketing copywriter will sell it as having that “out-of-this-world taste.”