back to article It's Suntory time: Japanese whisky to be distilled in SPAAAAACE

Japanese whisky maker Suntory is to distill its firewater on the International Space Station, as part of an experiment to discover how liquor develops a mellow taste. Most alcoholic beverages tend to develop a mellow flavour when aged for a long time. But while the majority of folk are content with simply enjoying that taste, …

  1. Phuq Witt

    Risky Experiment [Geddit?!]

    Being a Celt, I find the very thought of Japanese whiskey tantamount to blasphemy. But, in the pioneering spirit of scientific curiosity, I'd be interested in at least trying it. After all, it couldn't be any worse than that perfumed piss the Yanks have the cheek to label as whiskey.

    Anyone know if Suntory is available in the UK?

    [*to anyone who did 'geddit', I apologise unreservedly for the 1970s comedy stereotyping]

    1. arnieL

      Re: Risky Experiment [Geddit?!]

      You probably don't want to read this then...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Risky Experiment [Geddit?!]

        @arnieL; "Named the best in the world"... by one particular whisky writer, that is. But it made a great headline for the papers anyway, so let's not spoil things for them by keeping them it perspective!

        1. Fraggle850

          Re: Risky Experiment [Geddit?!]

          @ Anon Coward responding to arnieL:

          Yes, the story about the best whisky in the world being Suntory is misleading. The best whisky in the world as agreed at the world whisky awards 2014 is actually by Sullivan's Cove in Tasmania.

    2. Archie Woodnuts

      Re: Risky Experiment [Geddit?!]

      I shall be your google:

      There's also Nikka but the whisky shop don't appear to stock that, which is odd, as my local off-license does.

    3. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: Risky Experiment [Geddit?!]

      You can get Suntory 10 year old in Sainsbury's. I've heard that it's very nice - but I seem to remember that it's £40 a bottle, and I can get a nice 15 year old for that, so haven't bothered to try it yet.

      There's also an English Whisky Company, I saw a bottle of their 10 year old in Morrisons. Just imagine the horror if they were to win an award...

      1. joms

        Re: Risky Experiment [Geddit?!]

        Age is no guarantee of quality

        1. kraut

          Re: Risky Experiment [Geddit?!]

          No, but there is a fair amount of correlation (at least amongst reputable single malts)

          1. joms

            Re: Risky Experiment [Geddit?!]

            Up to a point, but like MPG it's only a valid comparison if you are comparing like with like.

            A whisky aged in a Quarter Cask (80 litres) will mature much faster than a whisky aged in a Hogshead (250 litres) - it's all to do with the volume-to-surface area ratio as the whisky takes on colour and flavour from it's contact with the wood.

            So a 10 year whisky aged in a smaller cask could be darker/richer/smoother/fuller bodied compared to a 12 or 15 year aged in a larger cask or butt.

            Also, the evolution of flavour means a whisky could pass it's sweetspot and take on unwanted flavour or character. I've certainly had 18 year or 21 year whisky that tasted harsher than 12 year from the same distillery.

            Finally, and this seems to be particularly true for Japanese whiskey, the production methods and techniques have evolved over the decades. From what I've tasted, recently made Japanese whiskey is preferable to the much older stuff (huge generalisation, but true in my experience).

            Whether they have taken a while to settle on a style, have been tweaking their production or maybe there is some other reason (perhaps I just don't like older Japanese whiskey) I don't know.

            1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

              Re: Risky Experiment [Geddit?!]


              Interesting. I'd not thought about it, but of course you must be right, smaller barrel, faster ageing. Proportionately more of the alcohol will evaporate (boo!) - and it'll take on more flavours from the wood.

              The only thing is that for £40 I can have a bottle of Balvenie Doublewood - which is one of my favourites. Or the 15 year old when it's on special offer. So I'm less likely to want to try the Japanese ones. But I must give them a go, just out of interest. There are still far too many whiskies that I haven't tasted. Must try harder.

            2. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge

              Re: Risky Experiment [Geddit?!]

              Then there's some of the more interesting distillers doing 3 year old scotch, very young but leaves more of the grain flavour in.

              As for calling all yank whiskey piss is an insult. I'd advise you seek out some pappy van winkle bourbon and see what can happen if someone pays attention (though don't bother with the 23/25 year old, the 20 and 15 is where it's at).

              1. Fraggle850

                Re: Risky Experiment [Geddit?!]

                @Sgt Oddball: indeed, I had some rather nice bourbon at a whisky festival earlier this year, can't recall the name but then I was very very drunk (joking, that didn't happen until we decided to finish the afternoon off with a trip to a real ale pub-have a note of it somewhere)

              2. joms

                Re: Risky Experiment [Geddit?!]

                A few newer/recently re-opened distilleries are selling very young whisky as either new make or uisge beatha.

                Kilchoman have been selling some great whisky as soon as it was old enough and continue to sell excellent 4/5/6 year old.

                Glenglassaugh and Strathearn are also selling new make (months old) and spirit they are calling "uisge beatha" to get around the SWA requirement for "3 year minimum and aged in oak" for it to be called whisky.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Risky Experiment [Geddit?!]

          Age is no guarantee of quality

          You sound like my wife.. :)

      2. launcap Silver badge

        Re: Risky Experiment [Geddit?!]

        > There's also an English Whisky Company

        Who produce some very very fine whiskys indeed. Their Chapter 7 is particularly recommended (not that they have it very often - it's a limited release).

        Not cheap though - economies of scale they do not have!

    4. Fraggle850

      Re: Risky Experiment [Geddit?!]

      @ Phuq Wit: I've recently had the good fortune to enjoy a bottle each of Yamazaki and Hakushu by Suntory, thinking I may have to forgo the pleasures of my favourite tipples on principle if Scotland voted yes last year so doing some preparatory research.

      I must say that I've found both to be very pleasant with distinctive characters and subtle and complex flavours. I'd certainly buy them again, although I do tend to prefer the peatier malts of the Western Isles. Suntory do seem to have paid some attention to the siting of their distilleries with a view to developing different characteristics. To be fair to Suntory they have been doing this since 1923 so nearly a century in the game and they seem to have done what the Japanese did with so many things they took from the UK: a very serious and reverent homage.

  2. Snowy Silver badge

    Fun except

    They are just storing up there rather than distilling it.

    Was hoping they where going to something clever with the vacuum of space to do the distillation.

    1. Chemist

      Re: Fun except

      "Was hoping they where going to something clever with the vacuum of space to do the distillation."

      You don't need vacuum to distil such a low-boiling mix. If you did use one it would have to be relatively weak and you'd need very cold condensing surfaces to avoid losing it all.

      What "high-dimensional molecular structure consisting of water,....." is supposed to mean I can't imagine !

      1. Aremmes

        Re: Fun except

        I don't know what "high-dimensional molecular structure" means either, but given the source I bet it involves giant robots in space.

        1. Captain DaFt

          Re: Fun except

          "but given the source I bet it involves giant robots in space."

          Or another, even more frightening version of Gojirra.

          "Oh no! He drank space whiskey! Tokyo is doomed!"

          1. WraithCadmus

            Re: Fun except

            Who will pilot the robot to defeat him? I propose "Eight Ace" from the Viz, he already has quite a Japanese superhero name.

            "エース8 GO"

    2. Phuq Witt

      Re: Fun except

      "...Was hoping they where going to something clever with the vacuum of space to do the distillation...."

      Me too. Another Japanese stereotype, I guess. I thought it was going to be some fiendish hi-tech experiment in somehow using zero-G to artificially mature the stuff more rapidly.

      The thinking of which reminded me of this story I came across, a while back.

  3. G R Goslin

    Not distilling

    I don't think they actually say they're distilling it up there. Merely storing the distilled product, using the microgravity effect to nullify 'convective' issues. However, they can do that cheaply, on planet Earth, by simply holding the container in water deep underground. The temperature, there, in the absence of flowing water or air remains remarkably stable, and of course, in a fluid, gravity does not have any effect, so long as the liquid is homogenous, and if a mixture of liquids, is totally miscible.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Not distilling

      "I don't think they actually say they're distilling it up there"

      "Japanese whisky maker Suntory is to distill its firewater on the International Space Station, as part of an experiment to discover how liquor develops a mellow taste."

  4. Z80

    Sainsbury's appear to stock Suntory's Yamazaki and Hakushu for £45/700ml.

    I used up my loose change buying a small (180ml) bottle of The Yamazaki when I flew out of Narita a few months back. It didn't seem anything spectacular to me but I'm no connoisseur.

  5. Mark 85 Silver badge

    Publicity stunt?

    It sure does have the hallmarks of that. How much are they sending up? In a wooden barrel or...? I would think that the lift-off would shake things up beyond "well-shaken" and the landing would also skew things. So, unless there's something of substance... meh.

  6. JakeMS

    Need taste testers?

    Do they need any taste testers? They're more than welcome to send the first test batch of bottles to me for free taste testing! :-D.

  7. Grikath


    the mellowing is merely a result of the breakdown and conversion of a very distinct set of molecules which are also produced during the fermentation process, and evaporate quite happily along with the alcohol during destillation. It's a thing that's easily proven with decent lab equipment, and the reason yeast strains are jealously guarded and coddled.

    But hey... nothing like a bit of Mysticism when it comes to alcohol, right?

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Fat chance

    "The drinks maker is to store samples of its whisky on the Japanese laboratory facility of the International Space Station for at least a year"

    I give it six weeks at best until the astronauts quaff the lot.

    1. ScottAS2

      Re: Fat chance

      I do wonder if the *ahem* angels take a slightly larger than expected share of space whisky.

    2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: Fat chance

      I predict that a slightly smaller than usual amount of space piss will be making its way into the space toilet, after a few months - and instead will be deposited in the nice wooden casks so thoughtfully provided.

      They should be a little dehydrated afterwards, so it should be about the right colour. And then the research will just show that the conditions in space are not favourable for the maturation process.

    3. hatti

      Re: Fat chance

      I'll drink to that!

  9. HildyJ

    No No No

    Whiskey, unlike wine, doesn't age in the bottle. It only ages while it's in the barrel. This is why it is labeled "X Years Old" (the X being the time it spent in the barrel) and not with a vintage year. It's a publicity stunt (and a very successful one if even El Reg bought it).

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Mixing Instructions:

    Take the juice from one bottle of Ol' Janx Spirit

    Pour into it one measure of water from the seas of Santraginus V — Oh, that Santraginean seawater! Oh, those Santraginean fish!

    Allow three cubes of Arcturan Mega-gin to melt into the mixture (it must be properly iced or the benzene is lost).

    Allow four litres of Fallian marsh gas to bubble through it, in memory of all those happy hikers who have died of pleasure in the Marshes of Fallia.

    Over the back of a silver spoon float a measure of Qualactin Hypermint extract, redolent of all the heady odours of the dark Qualactin Zones, subtle, sweet and mystic.

    Drop in the tooth of an Algolian Suntiger. Watch it dissolve, spreading the fires of the Algolian Suns deep into the heart of the drink.

    Sprinkle Zamphuor.

    Add an olive.

    Drink... but... very carefully...

    1. MichaelBirks


      T'was good. (hic). I'll have two more.

    2. TitterYeNot

      "Drink... but... very carefully..."

      On the International Space Station? How thoroughly irresponsible! Yes, it's all fun and games until somebody gets their brains smashed in by a slice of lemon wrapped around a large gold brick...

  11. joms

    Ardbeg already did this in 2011-2014

    Was left up there for 3 years - the minimum length of time the spirit must be left to mature before it can be called whisky.

    1. Dapprman

      Re: Ardbeg already did this in 2011-2014

      But being Ardberg they were probably on their second different owener by the time it got back down to earth.

      I should point out I am a long term (well ~30 years of drinking it) fan of Arbnerg.

  12. Kracula

    New experiment proposal

    Instead of storing alcohol in space, why not sending some good stuff up there (min 12 years) and study the effects of that on the human brain and body. What are the differences between getting wasted in space versus your regular pub binge?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: New experiment proposal

      What are the differences between getting wasted in space versus your regular pub binge?

      - no chance to get a curry afterwards

      - a sorry absence of bacon

      - puking will *not* be a popular move

      - no drunk driving (drunk flying?)

      - no fumbling with keys to get inside

      - the bed *is* revolving


      This should be a Friday article :)

  13. Iain Cognito

    Next up - whalemeat.

  14. hi_robb

    I can just see it...

    "Hic, Houston, we haaaaave a proooblem, Hic"

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