ABOVE: Mystic Farm & Distillery co-owner Jonathan Blitz enjoys a glass of the distillery’s award-winning Broken Oak Whiskey. Photo by Bruce DeBoer.
Local Bourbon-Makers Set Their Sights on the Cosmos
BY DON VAUGHAN | PHOTOS BY BRUCE DeBOER
The owners of Durham’s Mystic Farm & Distillery have launched a mission of the highest order: sending their Mystic Galactic bourbon, literally, right into Earth’s orbit.
Bourbon aficionados love their spirits, and are always up for something new and different. Durham-based Mystic Farm & Distillery’s owners plan to give them exactly that by sending 10 barrels of their award-winning bourbon into space to age for a year. They call it Mystic Galactic, and it will be packaged in 900-gram European glass bottles laser-etched with metal insets upon its return.
A total of 1,500 bottles will be produced, with 1,000 bottles available at a presale price of $75,000—each with a $15,000 deposit required to reserve a bottle.
Mystic Farm & Distillery’s owners—Jonathan Blitz; his wife, Marla Tuchinsky; and Mike and Katie Sinclair—have set up a special purpose entity called Mystic Galactic Mission One LLC, and have signed a letter of intent with The Exploration Company, a spacecraft manufacturer based in Munich, Germany, and Bordeaux, France.
The Exploration Company has the capability to take the bottles of Mystic Galactic bourbon into Earth’s orbit aboard its Nyx orbiter—named after the Greek goddess of night. “The vehicle has a 4 metric ton capacity,” Blitz notes. “We won’t be using all of it, and intend to offer the unused capacity to universities and educational programs so researchers can use it for experiments in space.”
Preparing for Takeoff
If all goes as planned, Mystic Farm & Distillery will launch the bourbon into orbit in 2026 on Nyx, which consists of service and orbiter modules. After a year, the orbiter will disconnect from the service module and return to Earth via parachute, protected from the intense heat of reentry by a heat shield.
Prior to the launch, oak barrels containing the bourbon will be re-coopered to replace any problem staves, reassembled and sealed to prevent leaks. In addition, the barrels’ carbon steel hoops will be replaced by rust-proof titanium hoops, and stainless-steel baffles will be installed to keep the bourbon from sloshing around, which could dangerously destabilize the spacecraft. The barrels will also endure pressure-testing far beyond what they will experience in space.
Mystic Galactic purchasers will receive a non-fungible token as proof of ownership, as well as a fragment of one of the space-faring barrels and a 50-milliliter sample so they can taste the bourbon without opening their bottles. Each bottle comes with a tamper-evident composite nose cone over the top, which requires a special tool to remove. “Once you remove the top part of the fairing, you will never be able to reseal it again,” Blitz says.
Purchasers will also be invited to launch and recovery parties, and will receive an app that allows them to monitor Nyx’s telemetry in real time, so they will know when the orbiter passes over their position. They can even view a live video feed from inside one of the barrels.
All of this, of course, comes with a hefty price tag. Blitz says the mission will cost upwards of $80 million, which will be paid through private financing. Bottle deposits are not being used to pay for the mission’s expenses. “None of that money will be spent on the mission,” Blitz says. “The intent is to establish for the financiers that there is sufficient demand to justify the expense. If the mission fails for any reason, we will be able to provide full refunds to our customers.”
As this story went to press, six bottles had been sold, with payments on four others pending. “We are also planning to auction off the rights to the first bottle, which will be extremely special because the bottle itself will actually orbit with the barrels,” Blitz says.
Blitz and the other owners have plenty of reasons for embarking on this pie-in-the-sky endeavor. One is purely promotional: to highlight the quality of Mystic Farm & Distillery’s product. Blitz says he recognizes that many people believe bourbon can only be produced in Kentucky, despite the fact that conditions in the Tar Heel State are perfect for making high-quality spirits. In fact, Mystic Farm & Distillery grows its own wheat and uses water from a natural aquifer under the distillery, and sources North Carolina oak for its custom-made barrels.
The distillery’s bourbon is turning heads in international competitions as well, winning consecutive gold medals at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition in 2021 and 2022, and taking both a double-gold medal and the top honor of “Best Small Batch Bourbon Up to 5 Years”—unseating Kentucky distillers who have long held that title.
“We only enter the competitions that are judged blind because that creates a level playing field for small producers like us, and it creates a big stir when North Carolina producers come out on top of hundreds of bourbons and 93 other medalists,” Blitz adds.
Another reason Blitz gets behind this passion project, he says, is because he is just a “space geek” with an interest in promoting manufacturing in space. “I was born in 1972, after the Apollo program, when things like Skylab and the Space Shuttle program were getting rolling,” he says.
“I remember everyone telling us how space manufacturing was going to be important to humanity’s future. Well, there has never been a commercial spirits product manufactured in orbit, so this is an opportunity to create the first commercially manufactured spirits product in space. I want that to be our product.”
And then there’s the incredible opportunity to offer a product only a small number of people will ever get to taste. “It’s a selfish motivation,” Blitz admits. “I just wanted to know what a bourbon aged in space for a year would taste like.”
There are a lot of bottles still to be sold, but Blitz is confident the mission will be a success. “We’re the guys to do it,” he says. “This is something I think the world is ready for. We’ve gotten some pushback from others in the industry who are treating it as just a gimmick.
But spending a year in orbit will produce something substantially different from terrestrial bourbon. The naysayers joke, but the last thing they always say to me is, ‘Boy, I sure want to taste it!’”
In addition to six different bourbons, Mystic Farm & Distillery also creates Mystic Vision Vodka, Mystic 57 Navy-Strength Gin and the Soul of Mystic (a spirit distilled from corn and wheat grown on the distillery’s North Carolina farmland). You can purchase their products online at whatismystic.com or at the distillery. Many of these spirits are also available for purchase in local ABC Stores.
You’ll also find information about distillery tours, bourbon flights and special events on the website, as well as venue rental information.
Ready to reserve your bottle of space-aged bourbon? Check out mysticgalactic.com to learn more.