When it comes to creating new and exciting ways to age whiskey, no company does it better than the Japanese distillery, Suntory. After taking home the impressive distinction of producing the world’s best whiskies, this forward-thinking group decided not to rest on its laurels, and has recently announced plans to send five bottles of its darling nectar to age in space.
In a press announcement released by Suntory, operation Elucidating the Mechanism Mellowing Alcohol Beverage — a fancy way of saying “finding out what zero-gravity does to the flavor of booze” — begins on August 16 when a box of spirits will travel to the International Space Station. Traveling aboard the HTV5 transfer vehicle, the shipment will launch at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s Tanegashima Space Center and will be placed in the ISS’ Japanese Experiment Module (aka Kibo). For the sake of getting a true barometer on what zero-gravity does to its products, Suntory intends to send samples of a recently distilled whiskey as well as a 21-year-old single malt.
Suntory established two separate groups of the whiskies heading to the ISS with one group staying for just one year while Group 2 plans to stay for two or more years. Over the duration of the experiment, it also plans to monitor the aging processes of an identical set of spirits at its distillery in Japan which it hopes will give it a better idea of a whiskey’s mellowing process. Based on prior research, a Suntory spokesperson said the company believes an environment with minimal changes in temperature, little to no shaking, and next to no convection of fluids should help foster a mellower spirit. Since space offers all three of those qualities in spades, it was obviously a no-brainer for Suntory to send its world class whiskey on the first rocket heading out of Dodge.
To help with the science side of the whole experiment — and to devise a solid hypothesis — Suntory teamed up with the Japan Synchrotron Radiation Research Institute and the Suntory Foundation for Life Sciences. It also employed the help of two research groups from the Institute of Fluid Science at Tohoku University, and the Institute for Solid State Physics at the University of Tokyo. Once experimentation on the whiskey concludes, the groups hope to find a scientific explanation as to what exactly makes alcohol become more mellow while it ages.
If the thought of space whiskey is making your mouth water as much as it is ours, we have to hit you with some bad news. As of now, Suntory does not plan on making any of its cosmic bourbon purchasable upon re-entering the atmosphere next year. As expected, the samples sent to the ISS will undergo a rigorous amount of tests to study its mellowing process, along with how it compares to the bottles aged on Earth. Sadly, this means only those who work for Suntory — along with a select group of whisky blenders — will be able to enjoy the rare spoils of this expedition. For now, all us whiskey lovers will just have to settle for hooch made in Kentucky and Tennessee.