The Ardbeg Distillery, which is based in Islay, Scotland, sent some unmatured malt whiskey to the International Space Stataion back in 2011. Their goal was to see if low-gravity affected a whiskey’s aging process and flavor.
Apparently it did.
The whiskey was carefully sealed in MixStix (tubes designed for low-gravity experimentation with liquids), and eventually exposed to the wood that the distillery uses in the aging process. The distillery also had a control sample of whiskey aging (traditionally) back at home in Scotland.
The space station-sample came back down to earth last year, but the test results were only recently published. You can read the full report here, but the critical tasting notes are readily available after the break. As alluded to earlier, the two whiskeys had “a dramatically different flavour profile”.
Earth sample: “The sample had a woody aroma, reminiscent of an aged Ardbeg style, with hints of cedar, sweet smoke and aged balsamic vinegar, as well as raisins, treacle toffee, vanilla and burnt oranges.
“On the palate, its woody, balsamic flavours shone through, along with a distant fruitiness, some charcoal and antiseptic notes, leading to a long, lingering aftertaste, with flavours of gentle smoke, tar and creamy fudge.”
Space sample: “Its intense aroma had hints of antiseptic smoke, rubber and smoked fish, along with a curious, perfumed note, like violet or cassis, and powerful woody tones, leading to a meaty aroma.
“The taste was very focused, with smoked fruits such as prunes, raisins, sugared plums and cherries, earthy peat smoke, peppermint, aniseed, cinnamon and smoked bacon or hickory-smoked ham. The aftertaste is intense and long, with hints of wood, antiseptic lozenges and rubbery smoke.”
Ardbeg notes that the “difference in flavour between the ISS and control samples is so marked, that further analysis will be carried out to elucidate the creation of the different flavours.” They also say that this space experiment could “give rise to the potential development of new flavours.”
Now that’s one final frontier I would love to boldly explore.