This Daring Distiller Is Rocketing Whiskey Into Space

This Daring Distiller Is Rocketing Whiskey Into Space
Image credit: Suntory Holdings

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Former West Coast Editor
3 min read

What’s smoother than espresso in space? Perhaps Earth’s finest whiskey.

In an epic cosmic quest to discover precisely what makes whiskey mellow over time, Suntory Holdings is taking one small, historic step for cocktail connoisseurs everywhere. It’s rocketing the stiff stuff into outer space. 

The 116-year-old Osaka, Japan-based brewing and distilling giant, the world's third largest producer of premium spirits, will send six glass flask-encased samples of the fermented grain mash alcohol into the great beyond on August 16. The libations’ final destination: the International Space Station (ISS).

Related: The Best Whiskey in the World No Longer Hails From Scotland

A host of other Suntory liquors and alcoholic beverages will also make the landmark journey to the intergalactic astronaut digs, which orbits some 220 miles above our big blue marble.

Founded in 1899, Suntory produces popular brands like Jim Beam and Maker’s Mark bourbon, along with dozens of other high-end spirits and non-alcoholic soft drinks and teas. (The legendary distiller’s Yamazaki Single Malt Sherry Cask 2013 whiskey was crowned “World Whisky of the Year’ in the 2015 edition of Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible. It marked the first time in more than a decade that a Scottish whiskey didn’t snag the title.)  

Test samples of a Suntory-produced 21-year-old single malt beverage, along with a freshly distilled potation, will be studied in space to deduce how being suspended in zero gravity affects how they age and taste, per a Suntory statement released yesterday. Research on the intoxicating specimens will take place aboard “Kibo,” a Japanese experiment module inside the ISS (that sounds like the name of a really chill whiskey bar). Initial samples will arrive back on Earth in about a year or so. Others could hover in space for two years or more. Sadly for collectors, none will be available for purchase upon return.

Related: A Family Legacy: Tennessee Brothers Seek to Revive Fallen Whiskey Empire

We wonder if Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronauts will get to sample drams of the buzzy wares, uh, strictly for “research” purposes. We doubt it, but we asked Suntory anyway. We have yet to hear back. We’re also curious as to exactly how expensive it is to commission such an out-of-this-world endeavor. No answer on that yet either.  

In related epicurean space libation news, last April, Elon Musk’s SpaceX rocketed a fancy new espresso machine to the astronauts aboard the ISS. Italian autronauta Samantha Cristoforetti commemorated the first-ever cargo of its kind by tweeting a selfie showing her on the verge of sipping the first interstellar “ISSpresso.”

Related: Meet the Entrepreneurs at the Forefront of the Space Race

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