Suntory Holdings, a Japanese brewery and distillery, announced that it’s going to send six samples of its whiskey (or whisky, if you prefer) to space.
It’s launching samples of a 21-year-old single malt and a brand-new whiskey that hasn’t aged yet to the International Space Station (ISS) on Aug. 16. The Japanese space agency’s Kounotori spaceship will cart the samples into orbit within small glass flasks.
Suntory is interested in how the zero-gravity environment will affect the taste, so the whiskey will stay onboard the ISS for at least a year.
Once the samples safely return to Earth, the company will send them off to laboratories. Then blend experts will taste and compare the samples to whiskey aged here on Earth. (Suntory: Please address a sample to Tech Insider for, um, “analysis.”)
Whiskey becomes more mellow and tastes smoother when it ages in an environment with a stable temperature (like the ISS). Distillers haven’t quite perfected this mellowing process, however, so Suntory hopes the experiment will yield some insight into the process.
Traditionally, it takes a long time to create a high-quality blend: The longer you wait between distilling and bottling whiskey, some argue, the better the whiskey tastes. So a bottle of Macallan 12-year, for example, means that the youngest whiskey in the bottle has aged at least 12 years.
But whiskey popularity has surged in recent years, and now some distilleries are running low on their longer-aged blends while struggling to meet the new demand. In short, the whiskey you see on shelves today was distilled when demand was not nearly as high as it is now.
Distilleries have responded to the coming shortage by raising prices, lowering proofs, and getting creative about developing new whiskey blends in shorter periods of time.
Sending whiskey to space is a perfect example — although Suntory isn’t the first to do. In 2011, for example, Ardbeg Distillery launched several small vials to the ISS and collected them after three years of ageing.
Sadly, there seems to be no plans to make the new space-aged whiskey available for purchase, so we can only imagine what it might taste like. Astronauts, on the other hand, will have to practice restraint:
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