‘An adult version of Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory.’ ‘Jurassic Park but for rum and whiskey.’ ‘A theme park for grown-ups.’ Lost Spirits Distillery in Los Angeles has been called a lot of things since it opened in 2016.
What has remained consistent, however, is that it also provides tourists with a moral dilemma: do you put your rum and whiskey traditions aside and drink? Or do you refuse to drink a beverage that tastes like it has been aged for 20 years (but is really only 6 days old)?
This is the (light-hearted) question any visitor to Lost Spirits must answer. But before we get into that, here’s a bit of backstory.
After a fire a couple of years ago, owners Bryan Davis and Joanne Haruta rebuilt the distillery, which is located in a building in Los Angeles’ arts district, with an amusement park type atmosphere, adding new features to their existing rotation of award-winning , freaky ‘whiskey’ and rum tasting experiences (or, as they are more technically known, dark spirits engineered to taste like rum and whiskey).
Forbes Reports the place is a bit like a “roving submarine” with all sorts of nooks, crannies and attractions, and of course, tastings (from sunny outdoor gardens to indoor Frankenstein-like brewing labs). Apparently, there is also a ‘river’ somewhere inside. To give you a taste of how the owners’ brains work, they tried to set up a GPS blocker that would tell guests they were in The South China Sea (until they realised it was illegal).
The place’s main thing, though, is making ‘whiskey’ and ‘rum’ that taste decades old, but which are actually produced in a flash. They’ve been getting praise for this ever since opening. Though they’ve probably pissed a few traditionalists off, they’ve been given acclaim for their ingenuity.
We had a fun time at the @LostSpirits1 distillery tour at @AREA15official. It was like the @OmegaMartUSA of distillery tours. Super themed and fun! And several potent potables to taste! pic.twitter.com/K6mObrHL2G
— George Addams (@George_Addams) December 10, 2021
Their first immoral whiskey iteration became known as “Abomination” to reflect this. The Crying Of The Puma (one iteration of The Abomination) was called World Whiskey Of The Year in 2019.
Whiskey aficionado Scotch Noob describes the “Abomination” well over on their blog. One pertinent couple of paragraphs can be seen below.
“This aptly-named Abomination is bottled at a hefty 54% ABV without added coloring or chill filtration, and comes in two varieties. The Crying of the Puma uses oak staves that have been toasted prior to the Riesling treatment, while The Sayers of the Law uses staves that have been charred first. It’s worth noting that nobody has ever released a whisky finished in late-harvest Riesling casks (or any Riesling casks, to my knowledge) because there is no such thing.”
“Riesling is kept in stainless-steel tanks after fermentation and is not aged in wood. To create this effect, Bryan sourced used wine barrel oak staves, stripped the tannins from the wood in his lab amongst bubbling beakers and during a lightning storm (OK that last bit is just in my head), toasted/charred the staves, and then soaked them in late-harvest Riesling before using them in his reactor.”
In a recent review of Lost Spirits by TravelerLost Spirits co-owner Davis explains: “You can’t make rum in a dry arid climate, you need a hot humid jungle. So we built one.”
Traveler He describes the place as follow: “A colonial-era verandah looks out to a strange tropical jungle, filled with chirping crickets, colourful, conversational birds and other bizarre creatures. Then there’s a sudden thunderstorm on this sunny LA day. It’s The Island of Dr Moreau meets Pirates of the Caribbean for grown-ups.
“The result was ‘aged’ whiskey in under a week. Properly aged bottles routinely cost more than $1000 each; Lost Spirits are able to sell them at the much friendlier price point of $US40.”
On Tripadvisor, one tourist wrote (of the Lost Spirits In Vegas, which appears somewhat similar to the Los Angeles version): “Woah! What an interesting experience! For $55 we had 4 tastings of their liquor, 3 burlesque dancers, one aerial act, a ‘submarine’ ride and lots of laughs! It’s dark, it’s weird, it’s discombobulating and and absolute blast! If you’re looking for entertainment in Vegas without spending $100’s check this out!”
Intrigued? The underworld awaits.
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