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Ardbeg reveals results of mission to mature spirit in space

Published:  08 September, 2015

Cult Islay malt whisky distillery Ardbeg says the results of an experiment to spend its spirit into space could have far-reaching implications for the industry.

Samples of spirit were sent to the International Space Station by space research organisation NanoRacks in 2011 and have now been analysed by Ardbeg's director of distilling and whisky creation Bill Lumsden.

He says the experiment to assess the effect of near zero gravity on terpenes - the building blocks of flavour for many foods and wines as well as whisky - revealed a new dimension to flavours in the spirit.

In three of the four stages of analysis, major differences were identified between the samples sent into space and control samples kept at the distillery.

Lumsden said: "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 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."

There was also a difference in the impact of wood on the two sets of samples.

"Our findings may also one day have significant implications for the whisky industry as a whole," said Lumsden. "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, chief executive officer of NanoRacks, added: "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."