Q Awards Weekly Wrap: Ardbeg whisky trial back to earth after 1,000 days in space

The Q Awards Weekly Wrap takes a look at what has been making the news in the worlds of food and drink over the last seven days, including how much a pint of beer costs in different parts of the country, a whisky matured in space returns to earth, and how former Manchester United players are turning their skills to the hotel world.


 Ardbeg whisky matured in space returns to earth to a mixed reaction

            The space experiment could have long standing implications for the whisky industry

            The space experiment could have long standing implications for the whisky industry


Now normally a whisky will sit quietly in a wooden cask for year after year, slowly maturing away in a dark cellar. But not when you have Dr Bill Lumsden on your books.

Head of distilling and whisky creation at Glenmorangie more than lives up to his name with a series of trials and experiments to push the boundaries of whisky production. But nothing quite beats his most recent project which has seen him mature samples of Ardgeg whisky, produced on the island of Islay, not in the distillery's cellar but, for the last years, on board the International Space Station.

The whisky has this month returned to earth and come under rather circumspect examination by leading whisky experts and tasters. They compared the space samples to whiskey that had matured in a similar way here on earth.

Not surprisingly the tasting team, led by Dr Lumsden, said the space samples were "completely unlike anything they had ever tasted before".  "It was the most unusual tasting we'd ever done," saidDr Lumsden.  "I was amazed at how different the samples were."

The space whiskey had a much smokier quality, with a much more "pungent, intense and long" aftertaste. "It had hints of wood, antiseptic lozenges, and rubbery smoke," he added.

To conduct the trial Dr Lumsden sent 32 small samples of distillate, along with wood shavings carved from inside an oak cask. The whiskey and wood shavings were packaged together in special tubes called MixStix. Inside the tubes, a glass barrier kept the distillate and the shavings separated. Then when the MixStix samples made it to the space station, the astronauts broke the tubes' internal glass barriers, allowing the wood and the distillate to mingle.

Dr Lumsden did the same for six MixStix samples back on earth.

In all the whisky samples were matured in space for 971 days. Dr Lumsden admitted it will take some time to determine exactly what has happened to the space whisky, but the results will have a serious side in that they will help whisky companies better understand what happens during the maturation process.


How what we pay for a pint differs hugely around the UK

           The cost of beer varies across the country. No matter who you are. Picture. Daily Telegraph   

           The cost of beer varies across the country. No matter who you are. Picture. Daily Telegraph



How much do you pay for a pint in your local pub? Well the answer to that question rests very much where you live.

According to the latest figures from the Good Pub Guide then you should be paying on average around a £3.46 a pint, up from £3.31 in 2014.

But if you happen to live in Herefordshire then you can get away with paying as little as £3.10.

London, not surprisingly, is by far the most expensive place to go drinking. The average cheapest price for a pint in London rattles in at £3.92 which is 76p more than the cheapest overall, up from a 65p difference last year.

If you really want to count the pennies then head for a pub that is brewing its own beer as there the average price drops to below £3 with an average pint costing typically £2.98 -  48p less than the national average of a pint of beer.

The 10 cheapest areas of the country to buy a pint of beer are:

* Herefordshire    £3.03

* Worcestershire £3.09

* Derbyshire         £3.14

* Cumbria              £3.14

* Staffordshire      £3.14

* Northants           £3.15

* Northumbria     £3.15

* Yorkshire           £3.16

* Wales                  £3.18

* Shropshire         £3.19


Manchester United stars look to open second hotel in the city


Former Manchester United football stars, Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs, are two of the investors behind a new propery plan to build a five star hotel in Manchester.

 The move follows the opening of their first property, Hotel Football, in March which is close to Old Trafford, Manchester United's ground home ground. The 133-room hotel features a rooftop football pitch, called Heaven, and specialist restaurants including a premium burger restaurant, Cafe Football.

The new venture in the Jackson's Row area of the city would also include retail and office space and has been recommended for approval for the city's council.

Giggs and Neville are two of the investors in the Jackson's Row Development Company along with Brendan Flood, owner of Burnley Football Club.



Google starts trial of its own grocery retail delilvery service in the US

              Google Express is trialling a grocery service in San Francisco

              Google Express is trialling a grocery service in San Francisco


There are reports this week that Google is looking to become a grocery retailer in its own right and bring your weekly food and drink to your front door as well as service all your online needs.

It is said to be trialling a new delivery service for fresh food and groceries in San Francisco and will roll this out to another US city later in the year, according to Bloomberg. 

The San Francisco trail is being run in collaboration with Costco and and Whole Foods Market. first reported the news, which Google later confirmed.

The move follows Amazon's decision to trial its own grocery delivery service also in San Francisco.

Google will be able to service people's orders by souring them from Whole Foods Market and Costco so will not have to run their own logistics or warehouse functions.

Bloomberg estimates the US online grocery market is set to grow by nearly 10% year-on-year for the next five years from its current $10.9 billion value.


The Great Tea Revolution launched to combat coffee sales

                     We need to get better at making cups of tea in the hospitality sector: Pic by Paul Grover   

                     We need to get better at making cups of tea in the hospitality sector: Pic by Paul Grover


A tea business in London has launched the Great Tea Revolution with a Tea Manifesto which it hopes will raise the standards of tea making across the food service sector including restaurants, bars and service stations.

Rosy Lea Tea also hopes to address the massive change in the drinking habits of UK consumers that has saw some 2 billion cups of coffee drunk last year compared to only 887 million cups of tea.

The equivalent of over two cups of coffee for every cup of tea.

Clare Fuller, director, Rosy Lea Tea, said: “If tea is the UK’s national drink, the foodservice industry figures just don’t support the claim. That’s why we are calling on the foodservice industry to work together to start the Great Tea Revolution, just like we have seen the ‘coffee revolution’. It’s time for tea to catch up. Coffee has somehow sidelined tea in the image battle."

She added: "People have not gone off tea; they have gone off the way the foodservice industry often serves it."


* You can read more of my stories about the world of food and drink on the Q Awards website to help promote the Quality Food Awards and Quality Drinks Awards as well as all the other initiatives in the programme.