Washington: Apart from some ice, do you know what you need to make your whisky taste more smoky and intense? A bit of zero gravity.
According to a fascinating study done by a Scottish malt whisky distiller, the earth’s gravity may be threatening the taste of your whisky while in space conditions, it gets extra smoky and tastier.
To reach this conclusion, the famous Ardbeg distillery on the south coast of the isle of Islay in Scotland sent two vials of unmatured malt whisky on the International Space Station (ISS) three years back.
The vials had six ml of Ardbeg new spirit distillate along with a small quantity of charred oak wood shavings. The two materials were separated from each other by a glass partition so they do not mix.
NanoRocks, a US-based space research firm, sent the whisky vials to the ISS in order to probe the effects of low-gravity on terpenes - the organic compounds that give whisky its flavour.
In January 2012, the experiment was initiated as the astronauts broke the glass separating walls, thus allowing the distillate and oak wood shavings to come into contact with each other.
The vials remained on the ISS until September 2014, finally returning to the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on September 12, 2014.
The vials were in conditions of micro-gravity, with the distillate and oak wood in contact, for a total of 971 days, orbiting the Earth 15 times a day during this period.
The vials were delivered back to Ardbeg in November 2014, after which the distillate from both the micro-gravity and Earth samples was carefully extracted.
A range of comparative analyses were carried out to determine if there were any differences between the two sets of samples, Ardbeg said in a statement.
Now, according to a white paper by Dr Bill Lumsden, director of distilling and whisky creation for Ardbeg, the space whisky taste was better and “noticeably different”.
“The key aim of the experiment was to determine if conditions of micro-gravity would have an impact on the range of naturally occurring terpene compounds and on the extraction,” he wrote.
“We also wanted to assess the impact of maturation in conditions of micro-gravity on the flavour profile of oak-matured distillate,” he added.
After examining both ISS and Earth samples, Lumsden found that the space whisky had a more intense and smoky flavour.
“When we examined the actual aroma and flavour profiles, the differences between the two were as remarkable as they were unexpected,” Lumsden noted.
“All tasters described the Earth control samples as being of the general Ardbeg whisky style while the ISS samples displayed a quite different set of flavours,” he pointed out.
“We have demonstrated that in micro-gravity, terpenes behave differently in this environment compared to those on earth,” Lumsden continued.
The difference resulted in a dramatically different flavour profile which will give rise to the potential development of new flavours, and, in particular, new Ardbeg whisky expressions, Lumsden concluded.