A vial of Ardbeg will re-enter the earth's atmosphere on Friday 12 September 2014 after nearly three years orbiting the globe aboard the International Space Station. The expedition will allow scientists to decipher the impact gravity has on the whisky maturation process.
Specially designed for the mission, the vial of Ardbeg has been orbiting the earth's atmosphere at 17,227 miles per hour, 15 times a day for 1,045 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. Scientists will compare the two samples, examining the interaction of the Ardbeg 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.
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 will land back on solid ground in Kazakhstan aboard the Soyuz-U rocket on Friday 12 September 2014, before being sent to Houston to begin the analysis. 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 their peatiest single malt: the Supernova.