Ground Control to Major Dram
Part of a pioneering research experiment, a vial of Ardbeg Whisky re-entered the earth’s atmosphere on Friday 12 September 2014 after nearly three years orbiting the globe aboard the International Space Station. For the first time, the expedition will allow scientists to decipher the impact gravity has on the whisky maturation process. Having blasted off from earth in 2011, the spirit, from the island of Islay in Scotland, has been on a galactic journey – one destined to change the whisky industry forever!
Specially designed for the mission, the vial of Ardbeg orbited the earth’s atmosphere at 17 227 miles per hour, 15 times a day for 1045 days. At the same time an identical vial had a slightly easier journey, having been housed at Warehouse 3 at the Ardbeg Distillery on Islay to act as a control sample.
Now the two samples will be reunited in a laboratory in Houston, Texas for an experiment researchers believe could change the future of whisky production. For the first time ever, scientists will compare the two samples, examining the interaction of the Ardbeg-crafted molecules with charred oak to document what differences occur between earth whisky and space whisky.
Dr Bill Lumsden, Ardbeg’s Director of Distilling and Whisky Creation, will lead the research, working alongside Ardbeg’s space partners – US-based space research company NanoRacks LLC.
Considered one of the leading innovators in the whisky industry, and a chemist by trade, Dr Lumsden explained, ‘Ardbeg is known for taking risks in its development of some of the most coveted whiskies in the world, so it is only fitting that it is the first distillery ever in space. We are now close to the end and close to finding answers to something previously unknown, which is truly exciting.
‘This is one small step for man but one giant leap for whisky. The team hopes to uncover how flavours develop in different gravitational conditions – findings which could revolutionise the whisky-making process. We hope to shine new light on the effect of gravity on the maturation process but who knows where it will lead us? It could be to infinity and beyond!’
The single malt landed back on solid ground in Kazakhstan aboard the Soyuz-U rocket on Friday 12 September 2014, before being whisked away to Houston to begin the analysis of its space odyssey. The final white paper with the full research findings will be published in 2015 once testing is completed.
To celebrate Ardbeg’s journey – where no whisky has ever gone before – the distillery is releasing a new expression of its peatiest single malt: the sold out, highly sought-after Supernova. Fittingly named after a super bright explosion of a star, Ardbeg Supernova 2014 is bottled at 55 percent ABV.
Mission control is calling Ardbeg home with what could be the most gravity-defying new knowledge the whisky world has ever known.