Longtime readers of this site know well that mad scientist Bryan Davis and his Lost Spirits distillery supply a steady stream of newsworthy stories to this little corner of the blogosphere. From a radical hyper-speed aging reactor (dubbed “THEA”), to an ambitious plan to license reactors to other distilleries, abandoning that, and moving operations to Los Angeles to create an ever-evolving “distillery as theme park,” Bryan has kept everyone guessing as to what’s coming next. It’s never predictable, frequently controversial, and always entertaining.
While the Los Angeles distillery is rum-focused, the enterprise has also found success in purchasing lightly aged spirit from a well-known Islay whisky distillery and running it through their banks of THEA aging reactors. THEA, to briefly recap, is a patented system that uses intense light and moderate heat in a carefully choreographed, computer controlled process that accelerates many of the same chemical transformations that occur over decades in a barrel–but within a week’s time. The Lost Spirits “Abomination” series offers THEA-aged whiskies — “The Crying of the Puma” and “The Sayers of the Law” being the first two expressions released. (Both are chapter titles in H.G. Wells’ The Island of Doctor Moreau.) While sparking much controversy in the whisky crowd, they were dubbed “Liquid Gold” in the 2018 version of Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible.
Like many confirmed rum-heads, Bryan is a huge fan of Jamaican rums. So with one of his passions already in the books—i.e., THEA aged Islay Whisky–it’s no surprise he’s turned his attentions to Jamaican rum. In fact, the only surprise is that it took him so long – I’ve bugged him to do exactly this for years. At long last, the result is here: Lost Spirits Jamaica Rum.
I was fortunate enough to receive a very early release bottle, so let’s take a look!
Just as when he purchased Islay distillate, Bryan turned to the undisputed experts for sourcing. In the rum world, this is Amsterdam’s E&A Scheer, who I’ve written about extensively. Scheer is the largest rum merchant in the world, with vast reserves of rum from all over the globe. They have extensive expertise in blending rums to their customers’ specification – including Banks, Denizen, Ron de Jeremy, and many more.
The custom rum blend Scheer created for Bryan is a combination of distillates from several different Jamaican distilleries. Normally, we wouldn’t know exactly who those distilleries are, and the label on the Lost Spirits bottle does not explicitly say. However, thanks to a misunderstanding several months ago, we have a very strong clue!
A few months back, Bryan submitted a label approval request to the U.S. TTB, a process that requires the inclusion of an image of all labels to be used on a bottle. Because I’m known to dig through the TTB approval database occasionally, I came across his approved label—the artwork included the words Hampden, Worthy Park, and Monymusk, all three being Jamaican rum distilleries. After I posted the label image on the Cocktail Wonk Facebook page, it caused a small firestorm: You see, some of the Jamaican distilleries (for various branding and copyright reasons) do not wish for their names to be cited like this. Bryan subsequently submitted a replacement label, which was also approved, and is what you see in the images here.
So then, on to the rum! It’s bottled at 49.7 percent ABV. Strictly on principal I wish it were a bit higher proof, but according to Bryan, California liquor taxes rise quite rapidly on spirits over 50 percent ABV. The wood used for the THEA aging is the straightforward charred American oak that’s also used for the flagship Lost Spirits Navy Style rum. (There’s no special wood treatment here, akin to the Riesling-treated wood used for the Abomination line.) In the bottle, the rum is quite dark. At least one person has commented that they thought it contained a lot of caramel coloring. But like other Lost Spirits rums, the color is entirely from the wood used in the THEA aging process, with no post distillation sugar or other sweeteners added.
How does it taste? If I had to guess, I’d bet that when Bryan worked with E&A Scheer on the blend, he may have been inspired by the now-classic Smith & Cross profile. Naturally a side by side comparison of these two rums was in order! Without doing a full write-up, the nose and palate are undeniably Jamaican, and the usual over-ripe banana notes you’d expect are prominent. Even at 100 proof, the entry is more refined than aggressive, and I get less of the smoky THEA-aged notes I often get with some of Bryan’s earlier rums.
At 57 percent ABV, Smith & Cross is understandably a bit “hotter” from the additional alcohol content. The nose and palate are a bit brighter compared to the Lost Spirits Jamaica, however the similarities are still quite evident. The Lost Spirits Jamaica shows a bit more roundness and significantly more wood notes. While Smith & Cross is generally viewed as a mixing rum, it can be sipped if you’re a Jamaican rum lover. In contrast, the Lost Spirits Jamaica comes across as more refined, the edges more rounded off. It represents its heritage well in a nosing glass.
As with all the Lost Spirits THEA-aged products, the Lost Spirits Jamaica may or may not be your thing. If you’re a traditionalist who can’t imagine anything other than barrel aging the way it’s been done for centuries, this rum probably won’t sway you. But if you’re looking for yet another interesting Jamaican rum, with more funk than Appleton and more age than rums like Smith & Cross and Doctor Bird, you may find the Lost Spirits Jamaica suits you just fine.