Whisky matured in microgravity with very different flavours. Research into terpenes.
- Novelty drink.
- Publicity for microgravity commercialization.
- Terpenes are used in hundreds of products.
Why & Solution
Ardbeg wished to be associated with the demographics world-wide that embrace space exploration. But the policies of NASA prohibit blatant commercial programs. NanoRacks proposed and received NASA permission for Ardbeg to undertake a company sponsored research project to study what happens in the absence of gravity on a class of molecules called terpenes. Terpenes are essential to the smells, tastes and flavorings of foods, perfumes and liquors. Ardbeg wanted to understand whether new flavors and tastes are possible when interacting with oak barrels in the absence of gravity found in the space environment.4
Scientifically, Ardberg and NanoRacks studied the extraction of terpenes from wood samples. Hundreds of everyday products include terpenes including beverages, perfumes and cosmetics. Synthetic variations of terpenes and terpenoids also greatly expand the variety of flavors used in food additives. The ingredients of terpenes have been shown to serve as natural agricultural pesticides. Hence, the understanding of terpenes extracted without gravity may well produce new understandings of a wide range of new products and processes.1
To re-cap, Nanoracks launched Ardbeg’s first whisky experiment into space in 2011 – in the shape of vials of Ardbeg-crafted molecules – where it orbited the planet on the International Space Station at 17,227 miles per hour, 15 times a day.
The vials contained a class of compounds known as ‘terpenes’. Ardbeg was invited by US based space research company NanoRacks LLC to take part in testing these micro organic compounds in a maturation experiment (the interaction of these compounds with charred oak) between normal gravity on Earth and micro-gravity i.e. space.
Building an “orbital distillery to experiment making whiskey at low Earth orbit. Stellar Luxuries boldly pushes the boundaries of luxury and innovation in outer space, crafting rare and exquisite products that reflect the boundless human spirit of adventure and discovery.
Main objectives is to be able to experiment making whiskey at low earth orbit, medium earth orbit and geostationary earth orbit, which, going from lower to higher, would increase the amount of radiation exposure.
“It’s real science, because we’re trying to go to Mars,” he told the crowd. “We’re trying to go far places. We need to know what happens to liquids, when we go, so the beautiful thing about this is that even though we’re doing something really fun and cool, we are literally moving humanity forward in our ability to live on other planets, because radiation is the thing we need to overcome in order to actually do some of the cool things that we’ve been talking about.”
He hopes to start this endeavor at the end of 2024 or early 2025, estimating startup costs in the vicinity of $6 million to $7 million. He is initially seeking out about $800,000 to get rolling before starting a crowdfunding campaign down the road.
“My goal is to find a bunch of Kentucky distilleries who want to make a Kentucky blend that will send out to space, and so then Kentucky will be the world’s first ever [origin of] space blend of whiskey,” said Anderson, who also serves as the managing general partner of Ansuz Capital.
First, the good part. Anderson hopes to be able to sell one standard 750ml bottle of space whiskey for $1 million. One barrel should be able to make 100 bottles for an approximate revenue of $94 million. This represents around a 90% profit margin on what we’re going to be doing,” Anderson told the crowd.
Anderson derives his $94 million revenue estimates from Beam Suntory’s asking price of Yamazaki 55, a Japanese single malt whiskey that has been aged, you guessed it, 55 years. The going rate for a bottle, Anderson said, was between $800,000 and $1.2 million. Coincidentally, Beam Suntory was also the first company to attempt to experiment with whiskey at the International Space Station (ISS), some eight years ago.
Using a technology in which the barrels will be continuously blasted with sound in a new-age barrel involving intricate latticework at zero gravity (see below), Anderson estimates that three months in his arrangement will be akin to being aged 30 years on Earth.
Likely starting from \$150,000 - \$200,000 per liter when fully made in space.
Earthly Solution Risk
Taste might be imitated eventually, but uniqueness remains.