Blast off for new Ardbeg single malt


A new limited-edition Islay single malt has been launched today (September 5) by Ardbeg Distillery, celebrating an experiment into maturation carried out in space.

It has released the 12-year-old Galileo, bottled at 49 per cent ABV and non-chill-filtered. It is a vatting of different styles of Ardbeg laid down in 1999, married together to give a sweet, smoky texture.

In addition to the traditional first- and second-fill ex-bourbon casks used for the maturation of Ardbeg, it also involved some ex-marsala wine casks from Sicily. These ex-marsala casks contribute further fruity aromas and textures to Ardbeg’s peaty smokiness.

The whisky, named after the 17th-century father of astronomy, celebrates a two-year experiment to test micro-organic compounds drawn from the distillery’s production on Islay. US space research company NanoRacks invited Ardbeg to take part in an experiment on the International Space Station comparing maturation in normal gravity on Earth with that in micro-gravity.

Vials. launched by the Soyuz rocket from Baikonur in Kazakhstan in late 2011, contain a class of compounds known as “terpenes”. The experiment could explain the workings of these large, complex molecules as they will remain on the International Space Station for at least two years.

Working in close collaboration with the Ardbeg Distillery team, NanoRacks will monitor the experiment against control samples on Earth, both at the NanoRacks facility in Houston, Texas, and in Warehouse 3 at the Ardbeg Distillery.

Ardbeg Galileo was launched today at the National Space Centre in Leicester, the UK’s largest attraction dedicated to space exploration and space science.

Dr Bill Lumsden, director of distilling, whisky creation and whisky stocks at The Glenmorangie Company, said: “We will not know the results for another year or so but in the meantime we thought we would celebrate the experiment by the introduction of Ardbeg Galileo, our own earthly tribute to the scientific experiment taking place far up in space.”

Ardbeg spokesman Hamish Torrie added: “Each year we have brought out a limited edition of Ardbeg as a supplement to our core range and, although Ardbeg Galileo in no way resembles the actual experiment going on in space, nevertheless we thought it would be appropriate to celebrate the experiment, and our partnership with NanoRacks in Houston, with a whisky which Bill and the team on Islay laid down way back in 1999 shortly after we bought Ardbeg Distillery. There are only a few thousand cases available and as ever with Ardbeg we expect demand to be brisk.”

The Glenmorangie Company acquired the Ardbeg Distillery from Allied Distillers for £7million in 1997. Under distillery manager Mickey Heads, the range now comprises the Ten Year Old, Corryvreckan, Supernova, Blasda and Uigeadail.

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