Whisky that was launched into space almost four years ago as part of an experiment has returned to earth with enhanced flavour and character, according to its creator. Mmmm space whisky, go on…

A vial of unmatured malt from the Ardbeg Distillery on Islay was sent to the International Space Station in an unmanned cargo spacecraft in October 2011, along with particles of charred oak.

Another vial of the same whisky was was kept at the distillery for comparison. That would be boring Earth whisky.

The actual vial of space whisky
The space whisky which is all the rage (Ardbeg Distillery/Phil Wilkinson/PA)

The space whisky retuned home last year after orbiting the Earth at 17,227mph, 15 times a day for 1,045 days on board the ISS.

A series of tests by the distillery found that the space samples were “noticeably different” to those kept on earth. Good different?

The experiment was designed to investigate how micro-gravity would affect the behaviour of terpenes, compounds that give flavour to many foods, wines and spirits.

Ardbeg Distilllery of Ardbeg's director of distilling Dr Bill Lumsden
The whisky was joined on its space adventure by particles of charred oak – not barrels like this (Ardbeg Distillery/Phil Wilkinson/PA)

Dr Bill Lumsden, Ardbeg’s director of distilling, said: “The space samples were noticeably different. When I nosed and tasted the space samples, it became clear that much more of Ardbeg’s smoky, phenolic character shone through – to reveal a different set of smoky flavours which I have not encountered here on earth before.

“Ardbeg already has a complex character, but the results of our experiment show that there is potentially even more complexity that we can uncover, to reveal a different side to the whisky.

Ardbeg Distilllery of Ardbeg's director of distilling Dr Bill Lumsden looks at the vial
Dr Bill Lumsden gets to examine the whisky (Ardbeg Distillery/Phil Wilkinson/PA)

“Our findings may also one day have significant implications for the whisky industry as a whole.

“In the future, the altered range of wood extractions could lead scientists to be able to detail the ratios of compounds expected in whiskies of a certain age.”

Ardbeg was invited to take part in the space experiment by US space research company NanoRacks, which praised the distillery for being “pioneers”.

whisky expert Charles MacLean, NanoRacks CEO Jeffrey Manber and Ardbeg's director of distilling Dr Bill Lumsden
Whisky expert Charles MacLean, NanoRacks chief executive Jeffrey Manber and Ardbeg’s director of distilling Dr Bill Lumsden look (longingly) at the space whisky. (Ardbeg Distillery/Phil Wilkinson/PA)