In the world of spirits, few things are as valuable as time. Aging barrels of Scotch, bourbon or rum for decades imparts the complex, wonderful flavor profiles that we all know and love. But recently, some companies have tried taking shortcuts, claiming that could give younger alcohol an aged flavor in almost no time at all. Their results have been mixed at best, and the methods have generated quite a bit of criticism from drinkers and distillers alike. But man’s quest to create aged spirits without waiting almost two decades for them continues. And the newest entrant in this quixotic endeavor is California’s Lost Spirits Distillery.
Before you jump to judgment of Lost Spirits, two things make their attempt different than previous ones we’ve seen. First of all, they aren’t just entrepreneurs out there looking to make a buck on Kickstarter. They actually produce some good rum and have a reputation to protect. Liquor.com chose their 151 rum as one of the best spirits of 2014, and their Navy Rum won a silver medal at the International Review of Spirits. But the second thing that makes their work unique is the mass of scientific research and advanced technology they poured into it. What Lost Spirits claims to have invented is a chemical reactor that can give young spirits an almost identical chemical signature to 20-year-old barrel-aged products.
“Our compact reactors combine a series of alternative aging approaches, taking the best parts of each and then tuning them using gas chromatography and mass spectroscopy to clone the natural effects of age on a spirit,” Lost Spirits founder Bryan Davis said in a statement. “The end result offers…a near perfect match to the semi-volatile organic fingerprint of the traditionally aged product. The reactors offer an average six-day turnaround time from fresh white spirit to the shelf, and no chemical additives are involved in the process.”
Now, anyone claiming they can make a 20-year-old rum in six days certainly seems suspicious, but Davis, at least, has put his rum where his mouth is. He used the technology to make the most recent bottling of Lost Spirits Colonial American-Inspired rum, which, like the 151 and Navy rums, has received positive reviews.
Davis is planning a larger test run of the reactors this summer; he will give them to five as yet unnamed distilleries. And if that launch is successful, he hopes to manufacture as many as 50 reactors a year.