As a confirmed Jamaican rum “dunderhead,” I obsessively track every snippet of news regarding the island’s rum industry. So it was with great joy that I learned about a year ago that the Long Pond Distillery was gearing up to resume operations after a several year hiatus.
The seaside city of Liverpool, England (yes, home of the Beatles), was one of England’s major shipping hubs in the not-so-distant past. Magnificent ocean liners like the RMS Titanic, Lusitania, and Queen Mary were all registered there. The city is also infamous for its part in the triangle trade, where rum, sugar, finished goods, and enslaved humans crisscrossed the Atlantic between the Old World, Africa, and the New World, with Liverpool as a northern Hub.
Hugging Liverpool’s dozens of remaining docks are gigantic brick warehouses, built in the 1800s as the city rose to prominence. On a blustery October day, I find myself inside one such warehouse, descending to the basement in a rickety freight elevator, although “suspended metal cage” might be a more apt description. I’m doing my best to contain my excitement at what lies in wait once the doors open. For among my journeys to the epicenters of rum, this particular warehouse has become a singular obsession.
Maggie Campbell glances at the clock again, then toward the still. Even from twenty feet away, she knows the thin stream of still-warm rum coming off it is the “hearts” – ethanol, aka “the good alcohol” that we drink. She frowns a bit. Normally this is the raison d’etre of a distiller’s day, but for some reason, this distillation is taking far longer than she’d estimated when we began hours ago. In the hours since we started, Maggie has done the near-impossible – answered every single one of my wonky questions about every aspect of Privateer Rum’s production process, from cane sourcing to distilling to bottling. I’ve literally run out of questions to ask – a first for me.
For one glorious long weekend this past October, the rum world descended on London to celebrate all things rummy. Industry legends such as Alexandre Gabriel, Luca Gargano, Richard Seale, Martin Cate, Jeff “Beachbum” Berry, Bryan Davis, and of course Ian “Rum Ambassador” Burrell offered up rumtastic sessions, showed off their latest highly covetable rums, and spread the gospel of rum to a very enthusiastic crowd.
Here at Cocktail Wonk, we pride ourselves on being on the bleeding edge when covering Lost Spirits and Bryan Davis, famous for their hyper-accelerated aging technology using wood, heat and light. Love what they’re doing or call it sacrilege, it’s always interesting to watch their story evolve.
The latest big news in Lost Spirits land is their impressively high scores in Jim Murray’s 2018 Whisky Bible. Quoting from the press release:
Jim Murray’s famous 2018 Whisky Bible has awarded 94 points and its coveted Liquid Gold designation to Lost Spirits Abomination, a peated malt “aged” in just 6 days utilizing Lost Spirits’ revolutionary patented technology….
Lost Spirits entered two peated malts into the judging: Abomination – Crying of the Puma and Abomination – Sayers of the Law. Both started as Scottish malts so young they cannot yet legally be labeled whisky. The spirits were then finished in California over 6 days utilizing Lost Spirits’ revolutionary patented technology. The Crying of the Puma expression nearly also achieved the Liquid Gold designation, scoring 93 points. No additives or flavorings of any kind were utilized from start to finish.
The technology works by exposing oak to high intensity light and heat while suspended in a glass tube filled with unaged or young distilled spirit. The combination of specific wavelengths of light and heat has been proven to trigger the same chemical reactions that happen in casks aged for many years.
My most recent article on Lost Spirits, including tons of photos of their insane, ever evolving Los Angeles distiller can be found here. And for some deep background on the science of spirit flavors, and how Bryan is hacking the aging process, see this article.
A quick post to share some photos from The Rum Lab’s 2017 California Rum Festival, recently held in San Francisco on September 8th.
A pre-show party at Pagan Idol the evening before featured Spiribam rums, and called together numerous rum industry influencers, including Foursquare Rum Distillery’s Richard Seale, Benoît Bail and Jerry Gitany of The Rum Embassy, as well as many hardcore California Tiki scene enthusiasts.