Category Archives: Drinking Science

Whisky From Space?

Space whisky? Not exactly, but Ardbeg is releasing an homage to a grand experiment going on with space-based whisky maturation in this limited-edition bottling. Read on for the full press release.

Ardbeg Galileo launched to celebrate Scottish distillery’s “world first” experiment in space

Limited Edition of legendary Islay Distillery pays tribute to Galileo, the father of modern astronomy

NEW YORK, Sept. 1, 2012 — Ardbeg Distillery on the island of Islay today announces the release of Ardbeg Galileo, a limited edition 12 Years Old Single Malt Whisky – a special celebration of its “world first” space maturation experiment, previously announced at the Edinburgh International Science Festival in April 2012.

Ardbeg Galileo is a special vatting of different styles of Ardbeg laid down in 1999, all married together to give a sweet, smoky texture. The heart of this limited edition Ardbeg is spirit matured in ex-Marsala wine casks from Sicily that is combined with hallmark Ardbeg matured in first and second fill ex-Bourbon casks. The ex-Marsala casks add fruity aromas and textures to Ardbeg’s famed peaty, smoky house style. Bottled at 49% and non chill-filtered it is being made available on allocation to Ardbeg’s focus markets.

The whisky, named after Galileo, the father of modern astronomy, celebrates the first ever experiment undertaken by Ardbeg Distillery (or any other distillery for that matter) when Ardbeg was invited in late 2011 by US based space research company NanoRacks LLC, based in Houston Texas, to take part in a two year experiment to test micro-organic compounds drawn from the distillery’s production on Islay. This maturation experiment (the inter-action of these compounds with charred oak) between normal gravity on Earth and micro-gravity in space, is currently taking place far up in space on the International Space Station.

The vials that were launched by Soyuz rocket from Baikanor in Kazakhstan in late 2011 contain a class of compounds known as “terpenes,” a set of chemicals which are very widespread in nature and often very aromatic and flavour active. 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 and help uncover new truths about the change that these molecules undergo in this near ‘zero gravity’ environment. It also should help Ardbeg find new chemical building blocks in their own flavour spectrum.

The experiment will have applications for a variety of commercial and research products, including, one day maybe, future generations of Ardbeg.

Working in close collaboration with the Ardbeg Distillery team in Scotland, NanoRacks will closely monitor the experiment against control samples here on earth; both in Houston, Texas at the NanoRacks’ facility and more familiarly, in Warehouse 3 at Ardbeg Distillery on Islay!

Dr Bill Lumsden, Director of Distilling, Whisky Creation and Whisky Stocks at The Glenmorangie Company said:  “So far so good – the experiment went live in January when the scientists broke the separating wall between the two components; Ardbeg new make spirit straight from our still on Islay and shards of charred oak cut out of some of our barrels from the warehouse. 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 Galileo will be made available to Ardbeg and Islay whisky aficionados in specialist malt whisky shops and liquor stores in Ardbeg’s focus markets.

Hamish Torrie for Ardbeg commented: “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 Angel’s Share, Illustrated

Last year I filled a 1.5-liter micro-barrel with Woodinville’s white whiskey, all part of its “age your own” whiskey kit. I’ve sampled it every couple of months but largely it’s been left untouched since July 2011.

Today I bottled what was left. The photo below illustrates what two full bottles of white dog turned into after 13 months in cask in chilly San Francisco.

(For the record, the company says you should probably bottle your hooch after a couple of months or a bit longer.)

angel's share in action

Hands on With Miller’s “Punch Top” Can

miller lite punch topFirst came the wide mouth. Now comes the punch top.

By now you’ve seen the ads touting Miller’s newest beer can technology: A little hole opposite the can’s mouth designed to prevent the “glug” effect, caused by air rushing into the can to replace the outgoing beer through the same orifice that the beer’s coming out of. Give air another way in — the way you do when you punch a hole in a can of tomato sauce or Hawaiian Punch (ah, the old days…) — and things go a lot smoother.

I tried out the can and it works as advertised. Don’t punch the hole and beer glugs out the way you expect it would. Punch it and the pour is smooth… and faster. You can see it for yourself in Miller’s own video (below). There’s no video trickery there. It really pours much more smoothly. The only real trick is figuring out how to punch the hole (Miller sent me a special device to do it but suggests you can use just about anything, even a carefully folded dollar bill if you’re in a pinch).

Now why would Miller do such a thing? Because they want you to have a cleaner pour of your beer, smoother, faster, and less messy. They absolutely, categorically, positively do not want to make it easier for these cans to be shotgunned. Period.

Molecular Mixology and You

Join me as we explore the world of high-tech drinking in today’s installment of “The Drinkhacker” in The Daily!

Now THAT’S a Drinking Problem!

I don’t think I could even drink 10 liters of water a day. From Fox News:

A New Zealand mother of eight has died after drinking 10 liters of Coca-Cola a day, a coroner’s investigation heard.

Natasha Harris, 30, suffered a cardiac arrest that her partner believes was brought on by her massive soft drink intake.

Harris, from the southern city of Invercargill, was vomiting six times a week in the months leading up to her sudden death in February 2010, but she attributed it to stress.

The mom would become moody, irritable and have no energy without her daily dose of Coke, but the family did not suspect her habit was to blame, the Otago Daily Times reported.

Imagine what that recycling bin must have looked like each week.

Alcohol Can Turn You Into MacGyver

Usually the news about alcohol is about whether or not it can help or cause heart attacks, strokes, cancer, or other maladies, but today’s headline is different. Medical Daily reports “Drinking Alcohol May Significantly Enhance Problem Solving Skills.” That drinking a few beers can make you better at logic puzzles.

Scientists found that men who either drank two pints of beer or two glasses of wine before solving brain teasers not only got more questions right, they also were quicker in delivering correct answers, compared to men who answered the questions sober….

Researchers from the current study published in the journal Consciousness and Cognition also found that people who drank alcohol and had a blood alcohol level of 0.07 or higher were worse at completing problems that required attentional control but better at creative problem solving tests.

However, the surprising discovery was that participants with a BAC of 0.07 or higher solved 40 percent more problems than their sober counterparts and took 12 seconds to complete the tasks compared to 15.5 seconds by teetotal participants.

Wiley said that the key finding was that being too focused can blind a person to novel possibilities and a broader, more flexible state of attention may be helpful for creative solutions to emerge.

No word on whether booze helps you out on trivia night at the bar. But I like to think a bit o’ whiskey will help you turn a typewriter into a nuclear bomb. Or…

Giving New Meaning to High-Octane Booze

According to Mother Jones, the waste products from whiskey-making are being turned into fuel.

Here’s how it works: To make Scotch whiskey, you take barley, separate out the sugar, add water and yeast, and ferment it. The result is similar to beer. The next step is to distill the alcohol from that beer in pots. Set it to age in wooden casks, and a few months later, you have whiskey.

The problem is that the process creates a lot of byproduct: First there are the remains of the barley, called draff. And when you distill the alcohol, you’re left with a liquid called pot ale, which is hard to dispose of because it contains biological components that can acidify ecosystems, along with traces of copper that are leached from the pots. Celtic Renewables makes a soup out of the pot ale and draff. Then—through a fuel-making fermentation process that was developed during the leadup to World War I but fell out of favor when it couldn’t compete with petroleum—the company converts the stuff into biobutanol fuel, animal feed, and acetone.

The used corn/grain mash in Kentucky is typically also sold or given to farmers as cattle feed. Lightly alcoholic, it is said to result in very happy cows.

The End of Hangovers, Alcoholism… and Getting Drunk?

Could a Chinese pill end your hangover… and cure alcoholism? The trick is to keep you from getting drunk in the first place.

Imagine a pill that could instantly sober you up no matter how much you’ve had to drink, or a hangover cure that worked minutes after swallowing it. Hardened drinkers rejoice: researchers are about to begin human trials on an “alcohol antidote” that may soon offer a cure to alcoholism, reports New Scientist.

The drug is a chemical called dihydromyricetin, or DHM, and is derived from a Chinese variety of the oriental raisin tree, which has been used for at least 500 years in China as an effective hangover cure. So far the extract has only been tested on boozing rats, but with promising results.

“DHM will reduce the degree of drunkenness for the amount of alcohol drunk and will definitely reduce the hangover symptoms,” said Jing Liang, lead researcher in the study. “In time, it will reduce [an alcoholic’s] desire for alcohol.”

LG’s “Blast Chiller” Refrigerator Ices Down Your Beer in 5 Minutes

Waiting for a drink to get cold enough in the fridge or freezer is one of life’s biggest frustrations. The scientists at LG have turned to science to solve the problem. I saw this in operation today at CES. It’s so crazy… it just might work.

Enter the Blast Chiller – a new feature in LG Electronics Inc.’s premium refrigerators available later this year – which promises to turn that room-temperature 12-ounce can brew (or soda) frosty in five minutes. Want to chill a bottle of wine? Eight minutes. It’s the same amount of time to cool two cans at the same time.

LG said the new technology blasts the cans with icy-cold air gusts with the power of a jet engine. (This is not a joke.) In order to ensure that ice crystals don’t form, the system gently swirls the cans while the cold air blows.

Today I Learned…

1 in 4 people never get hangovers.

More anti-hangover tips to help prepare you for New Year’s Eve in this Washington Post piece.