Tuesday 10 April 2012

Ardbeg in space

If I had received this 10 days ago, I would have though, "What an adventurous April Fool's item." However, this is the 10th of April, so it isn't a jape.
Ardbeg has despatched "research vials of precious Ardbeg-crafted molecules", pieces of oak from their casks into space to rest for 2 years in an experiment to compare how terpenes behave in near-zero gravity as compared with their performance here on Earth.
"Ardbeg is taking part in an experiment led by US-based space research company NanoRacks LLC to test these micro-organic compounds. The maturation experiment will test the interaction of these Ardbeg-crafted molecules with charred oak. This will take place in normal gravity on Earth and also microgravity, far up in space on the International Space Station.
The vials contain a class of compounds known as “terpenes” – a set of chemicals which are very widespread in nature and often very aromatic and flavour-active – as well as other molecules. It is the interaction of these molecules with oak wood that forms the basis of this maturation experiment.
This experiment could explain the workings of these large, complex molecules as they will remain on the International Space Station for at least two years and help uncover new truths about the change that these molecules undergo in this near zero-gravity environment.
It could also have applications for a variety of commercial and research products, including future generations of Ardbeg.
Working in close collaboration with the Ardbeg Distillery team in Scotland, the US team will closely monitor the experiment against control samples here on Earth; both in Houston, Texas at the NanoRacks' facility, and also in Warehouse 3 at Ardbeg Distillery on the Scottish island of Islay.
Michael Johnson, Chief Technical Officer of NanoRacks LLC, said: “By doing this microgravity experiment on the interaction of terpenes and other molecules with the wood samples provided by Ardbeg we will learn much about flavours, even extending to applications like food and perfume. At the same time it should help Ardbeg find new chemical building blocks in their own flavour spectrum.”
And to further emphasise the serious nature of this research, Ardbeg's Dr. Bill Lumsden, is today addressing to the Edinburgh Science Festival with a talk entitled "Whisky Wisdom - Scotch Whisky: Science, Art or Myth?"
Bill is quoted as saying,
This experiment will throw new light on the effect of gravity on the maturation process. We are all tremendously excited by this experiment: who knows where it will lead?”

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