Experiments using malt from the Ardbeg distillery on Islay are being carried out on the International Space Station to see how it matures without gravity.
Compounds of unmatured malt were sent to the station in an unmanned cargo spacecraft in October last year, along with particles of charred oak.
Scientists want to understand how they interact at close to zero gravity.
NanoRacks LLC, the US company behind the research, has said understanding the influence of gravity could help a number of industries, including the whisky industry, to develop new products in the future.
The experiment, unveiled at the Edinburgh International Science Centre, will last for at least two years.
Ardbeg happens to be very dear to my heart. I am pretty sure that this was the distillery that produced the most expensive bottle of spirits I ever purchased, a single-cask offering that I discovered in Menlo Park back in better days. My wife and I knew this was a one-of-a-kind experience; and we were pretty good at making that bottle last.
Still, given the perspective of my own experience, I have to say that I find this a rather elitist project in the midst of difficult economic times. Unfortunately, NanoRacks is not doing much to allay these feelings. Here is what Michael Johnson, their Chief Technical Officer, has to say:
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.
Goodie. As far as I can tell, all that will result is that the most expensive bottles of Scotch and perfume will be superseded by new bottles that are even more expensive. However, when the new brew comes down to Earth after two years, if Ardbeg is looking for volunteers for any taste-testing, I shall be only too happy to hear from them!