Almost 9 out of 10 adults experiment with alcohol, but some of them are doing it on an entirely different level. The people creating it for your consumption are never satisfied and constantly refine their ancient methods to perfection… most of the time. Once in a while they chuck all that out the window and try something completely new. The distillers below did just that to present you with whiskey (or whisky if you’re Scottish) like you’ve never had it before.
Sending it to space
Space: the universe’s freezer. And just like your freezer, stuff that sits in it too long starts to taste like “antiseptic smoke [and] rubber.” Also, like your freezer, hooch gets stored there.
See, the final step of distillation is maturation: when that precious white dog ages in a cask until it is golden and beautiful and ready to be drank. Unless it’s feeling adventurous. Then it flies to infinity... and back! Because infinity and beyond is a scary proposition.
(Although if we’re being honest, the whiskey is completely amber after six months, while the flavor develops for years. Nevertheless!)
In 2011 Scotland’s Ardberg Distillery sent a small vial of whisky up to age on the International Space Station, which--through the power of relativity--it did, slightly slower than its same-batch counterpart on earth. Miraculously, the space sample evaded imbibery by booze-deprived astronauts for three years, probably thanks to the extreme discipline and focus it takes to be a part of the space program.
Upon its return to Earth, the cosmic whisky reunited with its sibling, and the two drams were examined for comparison of their terpenes. Although “terpenes” sounds like a Scottish insult, they are in fact biosynthetic compounds.
These terp-a-derps are why beer and whiskey taste so good. And the fine folks at Ardberg wanted to know what happens to them in microgravity. How does it affect flavor? Will it satisfy unknowable alien intelligences if consumed by their endless hunger? These are the questions, people.
Space Whisky X, as society doesn’t call it but should, is technically not scotch, which must be wholly matured in Scotland. Sorry astro-tipplers, but passing over the highlands 15 times a day doesn’t count. But it is pretty close to the real thing, since it was packed into MixStix with shavings of the same oak barrels that housed the earthbound scotch.
The result: a whisky that pulls out less of the wood’s essence but breaks down more of its tannins. The scent and flavors that Space Whisky X evoked in a taste tester are crazy, including (but not limited to): smoked fish, graphite, vanilla, beef, hickory ham, and antiseptic lozenges. Coincidentally, those are the ingredients for the world’s worst smoothie, but reports are that this space-scotch (spatch?) ain’t bad… just odd.
Aging it with a vacuum
The ISS may lack gravity, but thanks to the efforts of Bowie-strumming spaceman Commander Chris Hadfield (and a desire not to explode its residents), it is under pressure. To test whiskey in a vacuum, turn your Earthman eyes to Cleveland, OH -- as in, “OH! There are a disproportionate number of astronauts from Ohio!”
Perhaps because of Buckeye State residents’ comfort with a deadly vacuum, it’s home to the world’s first pressure-pumped whiskey. See, the golden liquid is really popular right now: so darn popular so that traditional production can’t keep up. Are we doomed to live in a world where whiskey is the privilege of tech billionaires and oak barons?
Well Tom Lix, owner of Cleveland Whiskey, looked into that future and said, “No, that just won’t do.” His company developed equipment to age the whiskey in one day at various high and low pressures, forcing that beautiful spirit through the wood several times.
“Passionate about whiskey” is an expected description of any distiller. But watch this video and decide whether Tom Lix is the most passionate whiskey wrangler you ever saw. He just wants whiskey to be everything it can!