© Juliet Frew

After working on it for years, the process is now on the books.

Mike Pomranz
March 31, 2017

The craft spirits industry, like plenty of other craft food and beverage sectors, has seen a boom in the past decade. But many of these boozy upstarts are encountering a unique problem: Customers like whiskey that’s been aged for years and, if they can get it, decades. That’s a hard demand to meet when you’ve only been in business for six months. However, a California distillery not only thinks it’s found a way to circumvent Father Time, it’s recently been issued patents covering these procedures, and the man behind this method says he can recreate 20 years’ worth of aging in under a week.

We first discussed Lost Spirits Distillery and its founder Bryan Davis back in April 2015. At the time, Davis had already started using his scientifically-developed reactors that he boasted “offer an average six-day turnaround time from fresh white spirit to the shelf” for some of his own rums. The plan was to try out a larger test run, with the hope of one day maybe manufacturing as many as 50 of these reactors a year.

Well, two years later, Davis has taken another big step: The US Patent and Trademark Office has awarded his company two patents which “describe processes for maturing distilled spirits involving heat driven esterification and photocatalytic polymer degradation of oak barrel staves,” the company said in a statement. Essentially what that means is changing the chemistry of its spirits. Lost Spirits distills the technology down this way: “[Davis] has published data demonstrating that the new technology can nearly identically match the chemical signature of a 20-year-old rum, but do so in under a week's time.”

© Juliet Frew

Though originally Davis sounded as if he wanted to spread his technology to other distilleries, now it sounds as if Lost Spirits may be focusing on using the patented process itself. The distillery says it plans to “commercialize, protect and further develop its revolutionary technology,” which “includes designing and marketing unique matured spirits that are impossible to produce via conventional spirits-making techniques -- in effect creating a new spirits growth platform.”

In fact, Lost Spirits has already been doing exactly that. The distillery recently released an entire line of “Heavily Peated Malt” under the name “Abomination.” Though they can’t officially be labeled whiskies because they haven’t been aged at least three years, these spirits are essentially far-out takes on that classic tipple – “combining Islay spirit with charred and toasted oak staves seasoned with California late harvest Riesling.”

Though the 20-years-in-six-days sales pitch is certainly head-turning, products like Abomination may actually prove to be more interesting: Instead of simply using this technology as an aging workaround, Davis also seems to believe he can use it to push the boundaries of spirit making. That could be truly revolutionary.