Ardbeg, makers of extremely peaty Scotch whisky, has launched samples of its product into space. Not as a gift from Earth to extraterrestrial races, nor even as a refreshment for human astronauts -- no, the idea is to study how whisky ages in zero-gravity conditions.
As I write this, I'm sipping three aged Scotches that have been fractionated into some nine glasses. It's mid-afternoon. Yes, I am at the Tales of the Cocktail convention in New Orleans again -- one part learning and one part drinking, served straight up. Some people prefer to vary the proportions slightly.
When you drink whisky, you're drinking the wood it was aged in. That's easy to understand in concept, but friend of PopSci Dave Arnold is here to spell it out for our taste buds: He has set up his laboratory evaporator and physically separated out the flavor components in a glass of Glenlivet so they can be sipped individually.
The effects of alcohol are generally pleasant until they're not anymore, at which point they become blindingly painful and, in some cases, quite dangerous. Whether or not a hard-partying type is struck by a crippling hangover or a sudden desire to text his or her ex is generally dependent on how that individual metabolizes and eliminates alcohol in his or her body.
At the New York WhiskyFest this week, nobody wanted to talk much about technological innovations in the industry. Most of the whisky professionals I asked assured me that there was no such thing as innovation at their tradition-steeped distillery -- they were doing everything the same way it had been done for generations, thank you very much. Some distillers seemed put out that their companies had recently embraced such cutting-edge twentieth-century technology as labelling barrels with bar codes. The marketing side of the business is innovating to beat the band -- look for a new Irish whiskey called Feckin and a new rye called (rī)1 coming soon to bars near you -- but the production side remains defiantly old-fangled.