The folks at Lost Spirits seemed apprehensive when I first began talking with them. My blunt and churlish style often deters people who disagree with my convictions, but they rolled with the punches and brought an awesome sense of humor to the conversation. I have a hard time resisting the charm of folks who aren’t afraid to take a good-humored jab back, so I offered them a small concession for when I wrote about their distillery: as a sign of good faith and in deference to their position on the contentious issue of spelling, (and also because I’m a little afraid of anyone who would intentionally create a spirit like this) for the duration of this post I will call it whiskey with an e. The spelling was carefully deliberated by visionary Bryan Davis and longtime business-partner/romantic-companion Joanne Haruta. They settled on that spelling to further distinguish their peated American whiskey from the traditionally peated Scottish product. Standing out from the crowd is a welcome theme here, and the spirit’s unusual constitution, from the wooden “log-and-copper still” to the Canadian-sourced peat, certainly deserves a little extra distinction.
As far as movies go, horror is not a genre for everyone, and for me, Lost Spirits’ whiskey is like the liquor version of torture-porn. It’s just so crazy that I can’t look away. I have to find out what happens next. Wait… what’s that guy doing with that blow-torch?!Ahhhhh!!! After adding a heaping dose of water, which I highly recommend, this could also be a Spaghetti Western; unapologetic, wild and lawless. Each sip confronts you with two hours worth of tumble weeds, senseless dueling on dusty boardwalks and people getting kicked in the stomach by horses. What will the next cask of this be like, because while all of their bottlings are completely untamed, the production here is so small that all of their whiskey is single cask by virtue of not having a tun that’s big enough to mix multiple casks. That means their bottlings number in the very low hundreds with lots of variation from release to release.
A while ago, Dalmore tried to cater to the cigar crowd by releasing a bottle called “Cigar Malt.” I thought that one was alright but extremely overpriced and probably not as good as they thought it was for sharing with a cigar. Lost Spirits just delivered a swift taintpunch to those clowns, with what I would consider to be a true “cigar malt”; one that would probably hold up much better being served on the patio with a nice, Dominican Robusto than neat and isolated in a sterile nosing lab. Now, I’m not really into smoking, but if you’re one of those people who dig a dank stogie, then this is whiskey you should seek out above all others. As it turns out, Davis is an avid cigar smoker, which may just explain the density of terror and violence he prepares his spirits with.
If you need a good reason to visit, besides the freakishly huge whiskey, there are few places on the planet more beautiful than Monterey County. Nestled between ice plant littered ocean front, redwood forests and chaparral California hills, Monterey County is the middle point on the drive from Morro Bay to San Francisco, which is a bucket-list worthy adventure up the 1. Second only to Big Sur, this might just be the coolest stop along the way. They found an awesome spot to exercise their craft, one I am extremely envious of.
Nose: Snuffed pipe tobacco and Heath bar. Dried moss and cherry tree bark. The interior of an old-timey western saloon and the whiskey or tequila they would serve there, with sandalwood and lots of desert gore. Blood pouring over the dirt floor of an abandoned Utah cellar where dark, terrible things are happening. Stomach acid stalks the finish on the nose. Malt waits until the coast is clear before breaking out the oatmeal cookies. Traces of bandage and menthol. Very young; I’d be very interested to see what the new make smells like and how much of this character is the spirit itself as opposed to the cask.
Palate: Citrus laced tobacco and sage. Hot, hot, hot. Salted, bloodied chocolate races past followed closely by a man with a rubber mask, a brass-handled knife and a smudge stick. Metallic wafts of gunpowder smoke, ACE bandage and bile in the bright, bright finish. It’s herby and nutty, too, like peanut shells and thyme bundles, with a touch of trout skin and a sprinkle of cinnamon from the cookies.
I give this rating as lovingly as possible. Would I Recommend this bottle to someone who asked me on the street for a recommendation? Probably not. Believe it or not, this sounds like it’s on the mild end of the spectrum for Lost Spirits and I don’t think Bryan is trying to make a comfortable, socially-acceptable drink. Timid explorers need not apply, I think he’s trekking over new frontier while trying to find an identity for his brainchild, a whiskey you should definitely Drink At Your Own Risk. I hope he can own that assertion with pride. As for horror, personally, I love it and would jump at Lost Spirits’ next mutation in a heartbeat should I find it within reach, however perilous that may be.
Thanks to the awesome folks at Lost Spirits for the bottle! Cheers!!!