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Tsukasabotan: A Space Odyssey

Orbit trajectory Sake Captain’s Log, Stardate 1215.6 — I was recently invited to join some friends at awesome Sake Hana (265 E. 78th St btw 2nd and 3rd Ave 212-327-0582) to try Tsukasabotan “Space Sake”. Sake from outer space? Well, not exactly… It’s actually sake made from yeast that was blasted into orbit. Houston, do we have a problem? …could this all be a big marketing gimmick?

Turns out, Space Sake is for real. The Japanese “Space Sake Committee” from Kochi Prefecture negotiated with the Russians to send yeast into space via a Soyuz rocket for 10 days, from Oct. 1 – 11, 2005. Starting in April 2006, Sake made from this high flying yeast was made available to the general public.

And now I was about to Boldy Go into the world of space sake. First the stats… Tsukasabotan Tosa Space Sake space_sake_bottle.jpg(Kochi Prefecture, SMV +5, Acidity 1.5, Seimaibuai 55%). When I first tried this sake, the thing i noticed was light hints of fruit on the palate and in the nose. To me, it was very specifically strawberry. So in a nutshell, Outer Space tastes less like a dark, infinite void and more like a strawberry Lifesaver.

The finish was short and also had light fruit tones – kind of lychee-esque. Overall, space sake didn’t send me over the moon, but it was good. This sake was refined and smooth and enjoyable but for my palate it lacked that balance that I like best, but I’m sure there are others who will love this stuff.

To make things even more interesting, Toshi, our host at Sake Hana, offered me a sip of two other sakes made by Tsukasabotan to contrast and compare the tastes. They were Tsukasabotan Junmai (ALC 15.5%) and Tsukasabotan Senchu Hassaku (Tokubetsu Junmai, SMV +8, Acidity 1.4, ALC 15.5%). Tsukasabotan_sake_smackdown.jpgThese two Earthbound Tsukasabotan sakes are ones I’ve tried before, so I already had an idea of their flavor profiles, but I was excited to do this comparison.

This head-to-head tasting was like the tale of the 3 bears.

The plain old Junmai was earthy and a bit dank, the space sake was not quite balanced for my taste, but the Senchu Hassaku was just right!

Tsukasabotan Senchu is cool. Even the label is written in orange neon kanji. This sake has a unique flavor profile and I highly recommend it. It’s dry, but smooth and supurbly balanced. Watch for a quick finish. I think this sake is a real treat and for my yen, it’s the best value, too.

Sakurai_san_Ai_san.jpgIt was a lot of fun going in this space adventure with my friends Toshi-san, KC-san, Tomo-san, Lefty-san, Min-san and Ai-san. Even Mr. Sakurai made an appearance! The Star Trek geek in me loved the romantic notion of “space sake” orbiting the earth, but the jaded New Yorker in me was left wondering – do I really taste anything special? When all is said and done, i’m going to give in to the romance of space travel. Who wouldn’t want to rocket to the stars? Even if it’s only for a few sips.