As I’ve gotten older, I’ve transitioned away from clear alcohol and towards the more rust-colored varieties. No more nasty vodka (an incident in high school took care of that), and times have to be tough for me to turn to gin. These days, I’m all about whisky, bourbon, and rye. Does this mean I’m finally growing up, or does this mean I’m in a state of alcoholic regression? I don’t know and don’t really care, because I like the booze I like. And because as far as I know, whisky is the only hard alcohol to have taken a ride in space.
Sure, there’s a beer made from moon dust (which I hear isn’t quite as tasty as star dust), a Chilean wine made from an ancient meteorite, and there’s currently a brewery onboard the ISS (you didn’t think Chris Hadfield was sober when he made all those videos, did you?). And yes, there’s enough pure alcohol in space to get everyone on either drunk every day for billions of years. Still, it’s pretty awesome that in four days, ingredients that have been coalescing in space will return as whisky. At least, that’s what Scottish distillery Ardbeg hopes.
Three years ago, Ardbeg joined forces with NanoRacks, a space research company based in Texas, to see what would happen if they sent the essential ingredients of whisky—terpenes (which you might recognize from paint thinners) and charred oak—into space. In microgravity, would these ingredients combine to create whisky just as they do on Earth? Or would something else—something potentially more or less delightful—happen? Seems totally legit, given that folks are sending (and accidentally killing) geckos and other organisms into space to test the effects of microgravity.
20 test tubes that have been orbiting the ISS for three years will return to Earth—Kazakhstan, to be specific—on September 12. They’ll then be shipped to a lab in Houston so their contents can be analyzed and compared to the usual whisky formula used by Ardbeg.
Unfortunately, I don’t see anywhere on Ardbeg’s website where one can apply to be a taster for this space whisky. I guess we’ll have to wait for the official results and, hopefully, some kind of recorded tasting event to see is the cosmic whisky is as delicious as its Earth-bound counterpart. I just hope there’s room in the glass for a chilled moon rock or two. The experiment has even spawned offspring, such as this video chronicling a flight of Ardbeg on a high-altitude weather balloon.