A Los(t) Angeles Distillery Tour
A review of the Lost Distillery tour in Los Angeles
To most, the idea of making whisky and rum is intricately linked with the idea of rolling fields, gleaming pot stills and barrels stacked up high with liquid gold slowly taking on flavours of their vessel. Given the images propagated by decades of spirits advertising and marketing, it is of no surprise that anyone claiming to be able to bypass the years of creation open themselves up to a healthy dose of scepticism and reservation.
Lost Spirits Distillery has seen its fair share of controversy over its self-developed technology that claims to produce the equivalent of a 20 year old spirit in…6 days. Founders Bryan Davis and partner Joanne Harula initially started off in 2010 with absinthe making before the idea evolved into accelerated spirits making. There’s far too much technical detail to cover but in a nutshell, the technology works by immersing wood chips in a glass reactor containing newly made spirit and then exposing the reactor to intense wavelengths of heat and light to simulate the kind of reactions happening between the liquid and wood. So far, they’ve produced whiskies and rums; and have garnered some good reviews along the way, though predictably, there have also been fierce opposition from certain quarters of the drinking community.
Whatever your predisposition, if it is the one thing that nearly everyone seems to agree on, it’s that Lost Distillery lives up to its crazy scientist moniker when it comes to their tours. In a city dominated by big movie studios, it seems apt the tour is designed more as a theme park attraction than a dry production walk through. Combining geeky science know how with a mix of theatrics that draw on references such as Pirates of the Caribbean and Chronicles of Narnia, the team changes up the details every few months just to keep things interesting. Our tour in June 2018 encompassed a short boat ride, hopping on a spinning carousel and traversing wild jungles the likes of which would feel more at home on a Warner Bros studio tour than a boutique distillery (despite their technology, the distillery is not pumping out millions of litres of pure alcohol and supply is such that you are likely to only find their products at a handful of stores or at the distillery itself). And for all of the slick production details, there was still a certain level of human element underscoring the whole proceedings – the tour team include their scientist and the founders themselves, so parts of the tour felt less scripted than what it could be.
Heading into Lost Distillery does require leaving your prejudices at the door. You get a tasting of three of their spirits interspersed at various points of the tour, ending at their gift shop complete with talking parrots (or were they parakeets?). Whether you agree with what these guys are doing, if you are in Los Angeles, the tour is a must do; though you will have to book in advance – such is its popularity that reservations fill up weeks in advance.