Some distillers turn to different types of barrel aging to make standout spirits. Others infuse their products with weird and wonderful flavors. But the latest craze in booze experimentation is literally out of this world: space booze. We still might be a ways off from recreational space travel, but there are a handful of brands sending botanicals and spirits into orbit, just to see what effect space has on the precious liquid. From age-old brands to nouveau companies that specialize in the practice, these six spirits have been to the moon (well, almost) and back.
In summer of 2015, Suntory sent a number of their Japanese whiskies to the International Space Station to study the mellowing process in a different environment. Two groups of five whiskies were launched, one of which was on board the ISS for about 13 months, while the other was scheduled to remain there for two or more years. The cult-favorite spirits are being kept in the same conditions as they are on Earth, so the whisky makers can discover the effect that gravity has on the aging process. While the samples won’t be available for sale, they will help pave the way for space-aged whiskies that you can buy (if they taste good, that is).
Ardbeg’s Islay scotch was the first whisky to be shot into space when the distillery launched its experiment in 2011. It orbited the Earth on the ISS 15 times a day, traveling at 17,227 miles per hour. The vials of whisky landed in Kazakhstan on September 12, 2014, before being rushed to a lab in Houston for testing. When the Earth control samples were compared with the space samples, Dr. Bill Lumsen of Ardbeg said that the notes of the two whiskies were significantly different and that the space sample contained flavors he’d never tasted in the distillery’s whisky before. Again, this whisky will not be available for sale, and even if it was, it’d be extremely expensive; the vials were insured for $1 million. It’s mostly just a cool thing to talk about while you sip one of Ardbeg’s more accessible offerings, like the peaty 10 year.
NASA doesn’t permit astronauts to drink aboard the ISS, but there wasn’t always a strict no-alcohol policy. When Apollo 8 was launched on December 21, 1968, NASA wanted its in-flight crew to have a proper Christmas dinner. Along with some dehydrated meat and turkey gravy stuffing, the men indulged in Coronet Brandy to celebrate the holiday.
That Boutique-y Gin Company sent every single botanical used to distill Moonshot Gin ($36) into near-space and exposed them to pressure one-hundredth of that of sea level (which in layman’s terms is seriously low). When the ingredients—which included juniper, coriander, chamomile, lemon peel, cardamom, bitter orange peel, cinnamon, cubeb pepper, licorice root, angelica and moon rock—returned to Earth, they were vacuum distilled at room temperature for freshness and smoothness. The resulting gin is a juniper- and citrus oil-forward spirit with a bitter lemon and tangerine finish.
This far out vodka is made from Midwest American grain and filtered through meteorites that are more than four billion years old. As the brand suggests, the liquid is “best enjoyed by earthlings when released from a cryogenic freezer.” While we ultimately can’t relate, we do give props to Outer Space Vodka ($30) for the coolest looking bottle on this list.
Seven years after the brewers at Ninkasi started making beer, they decided that the sky shouldn’t be the limit for what they could do. So, with the help of actual rocket scientists, they launched brewer’s yeast into outer space and used it to make their signature Ground Control beer ($20) upon its return to Earth. The complex stout is brewed with the space yeast, Oregon hazelnuts, star anise and cocoa nibs, and aged in ex-Old Forester bourbon barrels.