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Suntory to test spirits ageing process in space

Japanese whisky producer Suntory is readying to launch some of its products into space and conduct a series of experiments testing how gravity affects the spirits ageing process.

Suntory will launch a number of its spirits brands into space next weekend to conduct a two-year long ageing experiment

Suntory Global Innovation Centre will launch five types of distilled spirits with 40% abv into space on 16 August to test the “development of mellowness in alcoholic beverages through the use of a microgravity environment.”

The study, called “Elucidating the Mechanism Mellowing Alcoholic Beverage”, will be conducted on the International Space Station’s Japanese Experiment Module, nicknamed Kibo.

In collaboration with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), Suntory will test two experimental groups of distilled spirits.

Both will take off from JAXA’s Tanegashima Space Center on Sunday 16 August, though Group 1 will return to Earth in September 2016, while Group 2 will return at an unspecified date two or more years later.

In each group, one set of samples consisting of various alcoholic beverages will be stored in a “convection-free state” at the space station, while another identical set will be stored in Japan for the same period of time.

Each group will then be compared to test the affects of environment on maturation.

Researchers at Suntory claim that the experiment will serve to help the industry understand how spirits “mellow” with age.

“Although researchers have taken a variety of scientific approaches to elucidating the underlying mechanism, we still do not have a full picture of how this occurs,” the group said.

Suntory has already carried out research in collaboration with a number of academic groups that suggests “mellowness develops by promoted formation of the high-dimensional molecular structure in the alcoholic beverage in environments where liquid convection is suppressed”.

Scotch whisky producer Ardbeg recently ended a similar experiment that tested the effects of gravity on micro-organic compounds found at its distillery on Islay.

The experiment was concluded in August last year and celebrated with the launch of limited edition Ardbeg Supernova.

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