Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Sake to Sakana #1 Tosa Space Sake

* The author of this post does not recommend sake-drinking to anyone who has not reached the legal drinking age or who should not consume alcohol due to medical/psychological concerns.

Finally! I’m posting about sake and appetizers -- a new project I had mentioned LONG time ago. The first entry is going to feature this Tosa Uchu Shu 土佐宇宙酒 (Tosa Space Sake). I know. It was launched on April 1st, 2006, and it’s already June! Didn’t I tell you that I’m a procrastinator? :P

Maybe some of you have read about this space sake project in my another blog or somewhere else. The full story in English is available here. (Well, I should say half of the story, because it only tells you what happened before the launch of this unique sake.) To my pleasant surprise, I also found that someone outside Japan already tasted Tosa Space Sake and posted about it in English here!! :D

OK. Now I’m going to share with you some inside stories that only I can tell to the English speaking world ;)

Read More

After the yeast safely came back on Soyuz in October 2005, 18 (some websites say 17) breweries in Kochi started making sake with it. Then in November 2005, Russia claimed that the space sake should not be sold because the contract said the yeast was to be sent to space for research purpose. According to our local newspaper, Japanese side had chosen the “research purpose” alternative because it was cheaper than sending the yeast to space for future commercial use, but they thought there was an unspoken agreement about making space sake with the yeast. Then some sort of legal revision took place in Russia and the unspoken agreement seemed to have been cancelled, the newspaper said.

The solution was sending some yeast to space again at the end of March 2006, for the purpose of future commercial use this time. That means having to pay enormous amount of additional money, but the good thing is that it was NOT added to the price of Tosa space sake. When they finally came on the market in April 2006, they were in the favorable price range -- almost the same as other junmai daiginjo-shu.

Appetizer #1 Chicken with yuzu-kosho and black sesame seeds (Also see this post)
This did not go very well with this space sake. Somehow it brought out the greasiness of the chicken.

On April 1st, several special events were held in Kochi to celebrate the launch. I heard one of them was a drinking party under cherry trees to enjoy the first batch of Tosa space sake, viewing beautiful cherry blossoms. Doesn’t that sound tempting? Too bad I was extremely busy at that time and missed the application deadline. Also, I missed the chance to get the space sake of my favorite brand. Though all the breweries in this project were required to use the space-traveled yeast and local sake rice to make the space sake, of course the taste of the resulting products varied according to the technique each brewery used. (Actually, they were allowed to choose from 6 types of local yeasts that came back from space and 2 types of local sake rice, so the combination chosen also contributed to the difference in taste, I believe.) Advance orders poured in. The space sake version of several prestigious brands from small breweries were sold out immediately after the launch (or never available at stores), leaving no chance for a procrastinator like me. :(

I was disappointed, but not terribly disappointed, to tell you the truth. Why? Because I had heard that the ones launched in 2006 were made from the “dry yeast” with little possibility of any mutation to happen as a result of the space travel. The real excitement will come next year… when they brew and launch the ones made with the “wet yeast” which may surprise us with some kind of mutation. I’m definitely going to place an advance order for a couple of them next spring.

Anyway, it was in the middle of May when my attention was finally back on the space sake project after the busy days. I bought this space sake named “Uchu hikou (space flight)” by Kikusui Suzo.

Now, if I want to see what difference the special yeast made, I should buy a junmai daiginjo by Kikusui made from the same kind of rice, through the same method and with the same kind of yeast which did NOT experience a space travel, and compare the taste. Unfortunately I have never tried regular Kikusui 菊水 daiginjo before, and I didn’t buy a bottle of it to use as a “control sample.” Therefore, I cannot tell how different this space sake version is from regular Kikusui daiginjo. Sorry.

When I opened the bottle of this “Uchu hikou” first, I felt that the aroma was kind of “wet” (does this description make sense??) compared to the ginjo-shu I usually drink such as Bijofu 美丈夫 or Tosazuru 土佐鶴. But it may be the way Kikusui usually is. According to the shopkeeper, this is a rather “dry” type with a moderate fruity fragrance, and I think it’s true. Sorry, that’s all I can say about this “Uchu hikou”.

Appetizer #2 Avocado & bonito with store-bought lemon dressing
This was very refreshing and good with
"Uchu hikou."

Before and after drinking the space sake, I googled quite a bit to find out what other Japanese consumers (esp. Kochi locals) said about Tosa uchu shu. To summarize what I’ve read so far, the brewers had the impression that the space sake has somewhat more body and fragrance than regular ginjo or daiginjo-shu. Also, I think I read on someone’s blog that the space sake version of Bunkajin 文佳人tasted richer(?) with a stronger body compared to the regular Bunkajin. (But now I cannot find the post anywhere so I could be wrong.) It was one of those that were sold out right after the launch, thus not available until next year. I’m determined to be more prepared in 2007 and place advance orders to get this brand and a couple other brands I like. Oh, and apply for space-sake drinking party under cherry trees. :)



Karen said...

That's a very interesting way of promoting sake! Is it more expensive than the regular version?

obachan said...

Hi karen,
Thanks for your comment. No, not really. This one was 1600 yen (apx. US$14) for 500 mL, and all other space sake (mostly 720 mL bottle) seem to cost under 3000 yen (apx. US$26). If I'm not mistaken, the most expensive one costs just a little more than US$23. Considering that some prestigious junmai daiginjo (720 mL) cost above 5000 yen or even 10,000 yen here, I don't think Tosa space sake is expensive.

Karen said...

Thank you, Obachan!