The Reactor Room
This is where the magic happens. According to Bryan, it’s the most interesting room in the distillery, filled with clinking devices that he invented in 2014 and patented in 2015. These machines accelerate the process of barrel aging by heating the booze up with the wood, extracting a catalyst that initiates the process of stearification. Then, the liquor is transferred to another machine that uses intense light to quickly degrade the American oak staves, which are sourced from a cooperage in France.
Jamaican High Ester Rum
After checking out Bryan’s proprietary technology, we tasted a Jamaican high ester rum, and Bryan explained the importance of the age-old battle between yeast and bacteria, where humans are recruited as an asset to allow the rapidly-evolving yeast to maintain the upper hand.
Essentially, yeast have adapted a few key superpowers to help them beat back the advance of quick-spawning bacteria. One is that they have learned to speak bacterial languages, emitting short-chain fatty acids that tell bacteria to stop reproducing. The other (and more important for this rum) is that they have learned to create an enzyme that allows them to bind an alcohol molecule to their short-chain fatty acids, turning them into a compoud called an “ester.” Esters are responsible for the fruit smells and flavors we associate with all our favorite foods and drinks.
The upshot? Instead of smelling something nasty and rotten, we smell something that reminds us of mango, or pineapple, or blackberries. And then we try to reproduce that flavor, which requires more yeast, and thus the cycle continues.
After touring Lost Spirits’ lab space, where we saw their gas chromatograph and mass spectrometer, we headed off to the last stop on the tour: Whisky Island.
This room is modeled after The Island of Doctor Moreau, who is an H.G. Wells character who conducts grotesque experiments on animals and humans. This is where we tasted their Abomination Whisky (Sayers of the Law expression), which is made using an 18 month Islay Scotch that is aged using a process designed to imitate aging in a late-harvest Riesling barrel…which doesn’t exist. Thus, the abomination.