Ardbeg launches Galileo whisky

Islay distillery Ardbeg has launched a limited edition whisky called Galileo to commemorate a space-maturation experiment. The 12 year old single malt is a vatting of different styles of Ardbeg laid down in 1999. 

In addition to the traditional first- and second-fill ex-Bourbon casks used for the maturation of Ardbeg, some ex-Marsala wine casks (from Sicily) have been used for Galileo. The ex-Marsala casks are said to contribute further fruity aromas and textures to Ardbeg’s peaty smokiness. 

The whisky, named after the father of modern astronomy, celebrates a two-year experiment to test micro-organic compounds drawn from the distillery’s production on Islay. US space research company NanoRacks LLC invited Ardbeg to take part in a maturation experiment between normal gravity on earth and micro-gravity which is taking place in the International Space Station.

Vials launched by 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 collaboration with the Ardbeg Distillery team in Scotland, NanoRacks will 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. 

Dr Bill Lumsden, director of distilling, whisky creation and whisky stocks at LVMH's 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!”

Hamish Torrie for Ardbeg 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 a 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."

Bottled at 49%abv and non-chill filtered, Galileo is priced £69.99.