Ardbeg reveals space whisky results

A vial of malt whisky that spent nearly three years in space has been found to have a “dramatically different” flavour profile to its earth-bound counterpart, as Ardbeg releases the results of its whisky ageing experiment.

1441608821-8a78a019885638ebe29d8d69b78aa44f-600x811Ardbeg launched a vial of unmatured whisky to the International Space Station in 2011 as part of a study to test the effect of near-zero gravity on flavour. Another vial was kept for comparison on earth.

Releasing its findings this week in a white paper, the distillery said the two samples had a “dramatically different flavour profile” which it said were “as remarkable as they were unexpected”

The distillery’s tasting notes for each sample were as follows :-

Earth sample: “Aroma – Very woody, hints of cedar wood, sweet smoke and aged balsamic vinegar. Hints of raisins, treacle toffee, vanilla and burnt oranges. Very reminiscent of an aged Ardbeg style.

“Taste – Dry palate, woody/balsamic flavours, sweet smoke and clove oil. A distant fruitiness (prunes/dates), some charcoal and antiseptic notes. The aftertaste is long, lingering and typically Ardbeg, with flavours of gentle smoke, briar wood, tar and some sweet, creamy fudge.”

Space sample: “Aroma – Intense and rounded, with notes of antiseptic smoke, rubber, smoked fish and a curious, perfumed note , like cassis or violet. Powerful woody notes, hints of graphite and some vanilla. This then leads into very earthy/soil notes, a savoury, beefy aroma, and then hints of rum & raisin flavoured ice cream.

“Taste – A very focussed flavour profile, with smoked fruits (prunes, raisins, sugared plums and cherries), earthy peat smoke, peppermint, aniseed, cinnamon and smoked bacon or hickory-smoked ham. The aftertaste is pungent, intense and long, with hints of wood, antiseptic lozenges and rubbery smoke.”

The experiment was designed to investigate how micro-gravity affects the behaviour of terpenes, which determine the flavour of many foods, wines and spirits.

Ardbeg said the experiment gave rise to the potential development of new flavour profiles.

Dr Bill Lumsden, Ardbeg’s director of distilling and whisky creation, said: “We have demonstrated that in micro-gravity terpenes behave differently in this environment compared to those on earth. This observation alone has implications for not just the malt whisky industry, but those of the food and drinks industry in general.

“Secondly the results have proven that in conditions of micro-gravity, the pattern of extraction of components of oak wood into spirit is different, with a degree of inhibition observed. This has given rise to the intriguing possibility that a database could be established detailing a ‘normal’ ratio of wood extractives covering a range of ages of spirit/whisky, which could then be used for comparison against potentially spurious samples.”

Ardbeg was invited to take part in the space experiment by Texas-based space research company NanoRacks. The vial was launched by Soyuz rocket from Baikonur in Kazakhstan and spent nearly three years in space.

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