The best place to mature whisky is, quite literally, out of this world, it turns out – after Ardbeg Distillery discovered a vial of its distillate sent to the International Space Station (ISS) for three years had returned to earth with an "intense" flavour.
Islay whisky company Ardbeg sent the vial of distillate, complete with shavings of the oak the company's barrels are made from, to the ISS back in 2011, in an effort to find out whether micro-gravity has an effect on the flavour of oak-distilled whisky.
The results? A "dramatically different flavour profile", the company found. Rather than a "dry palate" complete with "wood/balsamic flavours, sweet smoke and clove oil", the whisky came back with a "very focused flavour profile", with "smoked fruits (prunes, raisins, sugared plums and cherries), earth peat smoke, peppermint, aniseed, cinnamon and smoked backon or hickory-smoked ham".
The aftertaste of Ardbeg's astro-booze was "pungent, intense and long, with hints of wood, antiseptic lozenges and rubbery smoke". Er – yum?
"The difference in flavour between the ISS and control samples is so marked, further analysis will be carried out to elucidate the creation of the different flavours," explained a report by Dr Bill Lumsden, Ardbeg's director of distilling.
The bad news is that the quantity sent into space this time around was tiny – but Lumsden reckons this experiment could yield more.
"The experiment… is very much a first step, and further trials on the ISS will be considered," he said.
Fancy a wee dram in future? Your toast may be less "cheers", more, "to infinity, and beyond".