Four years ago, vials of Scotch whisky were launched into space by a rocket to the International Space Station, but not because the astronauts aboard wanted to party. The whisky was part of an important experiment.
Whisky distillers basically matured a blend aboard ISS to see how micro-gravity affected the process, Mashable added. The short answer: it made a big difference.
The unusual experiment was the brainchild of an American space research company called NanoRack and Ardbeg Distillery, which provided the needed alcohol.
In 2011, Ardberg sent a vial of unmatured malt and some charred oak to ISS via a rocket — launched from Kazakhstan — and kept a vial of the same stuff at the distillery back on Earth, Sky News added.
Researchers wanted to know how terpenes behaved in zero gravity. Terpene is an organic compound that gives flavor to foods, wines, and spirits. Last year, the whisky came home, and Dr. Bill Lumsden, Ardbeg’s director of distilling, noticed a big difference.
“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.”
Distillers expect the unusual experiment could have some pretty serious implications for the whisky industry, because it revealed that the drink is even more complex than scientists previously thought, revealing a totally “different side.”
“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,” Lumsden said.
And because, apparently, how whisky fares in space is a pressing issue, another maker of Scottish whisky — Ballantine’s — has figured out how space tourists can enjoy its full flavor while soaring through the stars.
They and the Open Space Agency have developed the Space Glass, the first of its kind to allow whisky lovers to drink their favorite liquor in a weightless environment, Discover Magazine reported.
The Space Glass employs something Leonardo DaVinci discovered, called capillary action. This is the same phenomenon that lets water travel upwards from a plant’s roots to its flowers. Basically, water does this — and any liquid, for that matter — by gripping to the walls of narrow vessels, defying the laws of gravity.
Whisky enters the Space Glass through a valve at the bottom and into a reservoir. The whiskey enters the cup through a narrow channel, which spirals upwards to a mouthpiece: “it looks like a sleek sip cup for adults,” Discover wrote.
If that wasn’t enough, Ballantine’s also brewed a special whisky, one with much stronger flavors than any terrestrial formula. That’s because astronauts almost constantly feel cold-like congestion (the body’s water flows into the person’s upper body) dulling their taste buds.
[Photo Courtesy Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images]