Why the Maker of the World’s Best Whiskey Is Sending Samples Into Space

Suntory, the distiller behind the Hakushu, Yamazaki, and Hibiki whiskeys, is sending samples in to space.
Suntory, the distiller behind the Hakushu, Yamazaki, and Hibiki whiskeys, is sending samples in to space. Akio Kon / Bloomberg / Getty Images

Tokyo-based Suntory, the distiller behind the world's best whiskey, is sending its spirits into space to see how micro-gravity affects the aging process of the liquor. Six varieties of whiskey are en route to the International Space Station as part of an experiment to study the aging process and shed light as to why spirits become smoother when aged properly. Suntory hopes that the controlled environment of space will result in new discoveries and a superior whiskey than is possible to create on Earth. Employees at Japan's Tsukuba City Space Center have prepared glass flasks that will be used to transport the spirits when Konotori Vehicle 5 launches from the Tanegashima Space Center on August 16.

One group of whiskeys will be aged aboard the space station for 13 months while a second batch will remain on board for two or more years before being flown home and inspected. Unfortunately, Suntory has already stated that they have no plans to sell space whiskey as a product to the general public.

But this isn't the first time space whiskey has led to new discoveries. Ardbeg Distillery sent the world's first whiskey experiment samples up beyond the atmosphere back in 2011. The single malt Scotch returned to Earth after three years and was studied for its maturation and mellowing qualities. 

That experiment led to some far-out whiskey gear, including a recently debuted carafe, called the Ardbeg Haar, which is designed to simulate the cold fog typically associated with the isle of Islay Scotch mist. (See video below). "The haar rolling in from the sea is as familiar a sight to island life as the precious peat that influences our whiskies," says director of distilling and whiskey creation, Dr. Bill Lumsden. "We believe that in this sampling ritual we have captured the essence of its elusive qualities." So while you may not be able to get your hands on any space whiskey for your top shelf, you can still enjoy the fruits of its research.