An online spirits merchant is commemorating the past and future of NASA missions to the moon with limited scotch whisky offerings for 2022.
Scotland-based The Whisky Barrel is marking the new year with the release of the first bottling of its Artemis whisky series commemorating the upcoming first flight of NASA's new lunar program. The bottler also has an Apollo series, including a single barrel whisky bottled for the last mission to land astronauts on the moon 50 years ago.
"When the crew of Apollo 17 returned to Earth in December 1972, the program came to an end amid waning enthusiasm and finances. Little did anybody realize that it would be 50 years before a new program to return humans even close to our beautiful moon," The Whisky Barrel wrote on its company blog.
Originally scheduled for 2017 but delayed by a series of technical and budget setbacks, NASA's Artemis 1 mission is now targeted to launch an uncrewed Orion spacecraft on a three-week mission around the moon in the spring of 2022. The flight will mark the first integrated test of the capsule and the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket on a journey that will loop around the moon at a distance farther into space than any previous crew-rated spacecraft has traveled before.
"To celebrate the (still delayed) launch of Artemis 1, we are delighted to bring to you an incredible single cask from Islay to mark our return to the moon," the bottler wrote on its website. "As planning goes, this superb whisky has not fallen to quite the same level of delay [as the mission] so in full anticipation, and so you can have it in your hand when the day of launch arrives, The Whisky Barrel presents Bunnahabhain Artemis First Launch Edition."
Matured in a single hogshead cask and distilled in 1990 at Bunnahabhain Distillery on the Isle of Islay, the Artemis First Launch Edition features a blueprint-inspired label with line drawings of the Orion spacecraft and SLS rocket.
"We think enjoying this when Artemis 1 launches next year will provide the moment for this," wrote The Whisky Barrel, adding tasting notes of "orbital barley sugars, ginger eclipse, lemon juice pulsars, hot chili rocket fuel, honey starburst, solar salt and pepper."
Limited to 285 bottles, Artemis First Launch Edition retails for $245.43 and can be shipped worldwide.
If the past is more to your taste, The Whisky Barrel also has an exclusive single cask whisky commemorating the Apollo 17 mission, which landed on the moon 50 years ago as of December 2022.
"On the 13th December 1972, astronauts Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt performed the last of the lunar surface explorations. This would be the last human footsteps not only of the Apollo missions but of anybody. On this same day back on planet Earth, this very whisky from Invergordon distillery was being filled into its cask," The Whisky Barrel wrote.
Named after Cernan's call back to Earth as he and Schmitt left the moon, "We're On Our Way, Houston!" Blended Grain Scotch Whisky features a photo of Apollo 17's Saturn V rocket on the launch pad on its label. Tasting notes include a "deep space orange zest on a burst of nutmeg starlight orbiting spearmint asteroids, nebula of drive fruits, meteoroid shower of cinnamon, leather and oak observing a soft dry finish."
Released in October and limited to only 109 bottles, the Apollo 17 "We're On Our Way, Houston!" edition sells for $363.03.
In addition to Apollo 17, The Whisky Barrel's "black label" Apollo series also includes spirits bottled for Apollo 8, Apollo 9, Apollo 10, Apollo 11, Apollo 14 and Apollo 15. Apollo 12 and Apollo 16 editions are still to come.
The Whisky Barrel also sells an exclusive trilogy of Scotch whisky celebrating "perilous, exciting and simply hilarious moments" from three Apollo missions with labels featuring the artwork of illustrator Jamie Coe. The trio commemorates the strike of lightning during the launch of Apollo 12, the first lunar golf shot on Apollo 14 and the discovery of the Genesis rock on Apollo 15.
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Robert Pearlman is a space historian, journalist and the founder and editor of collectSPACE.com, an online publication and community devoted to space history with a particular focus on how and where space exploration intersects with pop culture. Pearlman is also a contributing writer for Space.com and co-author of "Space Stations: The Art, Science, and Reality of Working in Space” published by Smithsonian Books in 2018. He previously developed online content for the National Space Society and Apollo 11 moonwalker Buzz Aldrin, helped establish the space tourism company Space Adventures and currently serves on the History Committee of the American Astronautical Society, the advisory committee for The Mars Generation and leadership board of For All Moonkind. In 2009, he was inducted into the U.S. Space Camp Hall of Fame in Huntsville, Alabama. In 2021, he was honored by the American Astronautical Society with the Ordway Award for Sustained Excellence in Spaceflight History.