Scottish Distillery Awaits Return of Whisky Particles from Space

Scottish Distillery Awaits Return of Whisky Particles from Space

Ardbeg Distillery is using space's gravitational qualities to explore the future of alcohol

Charlie Stephens
  • 4 september 2014

The flavor and quality of a glass of whisky largely depends on how it was aged. Ardbeg Distillery of Scotland has paired up with NanoRacks, a Texas space research company, to explore a new way of aging the beverage – and it starts in space.

In 2011, the team sent 20 vials of unmatured whiskey particles into space via a Russian rocket to see how the microgravity conditions of space would affect whisky’s maturation process. With NASA’s approval, the experiment has taken place on the International Space Station, and will come to an end on September 12th when the vials touch down in Kazakhstan and are shipped to the Texas lab.

The project is much more than a mere publicity stunt- it aims to uncover microscopic truths about the distillation process. Rather than focusing on the finished product, the experiment is examining the foundational elements of whiskey. NanoRocks CEO Jeffrey Manber explained to ABC News:

This is indeed a research program to help us understand terpenes, which are the building blocks for flavorings, paints and yes, whiskey — so to us, this is a very solid research project for a consumer-based company.

Once back on Earth, the particles will be compared to those of identical “control” vials made back in Scotland in 2011. The team conducting the analysis will be joined by the whiskey creator himself, Dr. Bill Lumson, and they will attempt to “unlock the mysteries of maturation”.

The forces of space may or may not have a large impact on the ingredient, but if they do, Manber holds that such a comparison may give key insight for a “new generation of consumer products”. Additionally, the results may allow for a better understanding of multitude of materials and products that make up our planet.


Ardbeg Distillery


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