Lost Spirits Rumbles into High Gear: Aging Reactor Release Imminent

After Lost Spirits’ big announcement this past April that they’d be leasing their revolutionary “reactor” aging technology to other distilleries, owners Bryan Davis and Joanne Haruta have gone mostly dark. To briefly recap their audacious plan as it was announced:

  • An aging process using wood, light, and other techniques to provide the equivalent of fifteen to twenty years of ester/aldehyde transformation (“aging”) in six days. This process has already been demonstrated on their four rum releases.
  • A self-contained reactor, the size of small SUV, delivered to distilleries, who will lease it for a monthly fee.
  • A small handful of carefully selected distilleries for the initial beta test phase.

The announcement created a considerable amount of spirits industry interest and debate, even sparking a Wired article. A lot of attention was focused on whether spirits aged with the Lost Spirits process were “cheating,” and whether any craft distilleries would actually be interested in using the reactor. Since then, Bryan and Joanne have been keeping a low public profile, not releasing any new rums, and the story has mostly faded into the background.

In occasional conversations with Bryan during these past few months, I learned that operations had moved to a new undisclosed location (I’m picturing the Bat Cave here) and that he and Joanne have been burning the midnight oil to create the first portable version of the reactor. Bryan’s reactor design has evolved significantly since the April announcement. The reactor, now dubbed the THEA1, is scaled up beyond the original plan and will take in eighty gallons of new-make spirit every few days. The construction of the main chassis (tanks, plumbing, and such) has been outsourced to a company specializing in building equipment of this nature. Much of Bryan’s recent work has been solving numerous technical challenges to make everything fit and pass rigorous safety testing.

Along the way, I’ve seen a few Facebook posts from Bryan and others showing tangible signs of progress during this quiet period. One showed a tarp-shrouded reactor, roughly the size of an upright piano, being transported on the back of a flatbed truck. Another photo from Copenhagen shows the arrival of reactor-aged samples of “Pungent & Geeky” rum from Rum Club Rum. And a recent post from Bryan himself features a bottle of Rittenhouse Rye 25-year, of which he says: “Now to look under the hood to see what makes this tick.” Based on prior history, this implies running it though the GC/MS analysis process (covered herepreviously) to determine its organic makeup. One might further infer from this that there’s at least one reactor licensee looking into aging rye.

Today (August 16th, 2015) came the first news of an actual (very-likely) Lost Spirits reactor licensee. In a press release from Rational Spirits announcing that rum blogger Helena Olsen will be their brand ambassador, is this nugget:

Founded earlier this year, Rational Spirits is the latest distillery in Charleston, SC, and is focused solely on producing pot still rum with no additives or added sugar. Their first rum, “Santeria Rum,” will be produced in conjunction with Salinas, CA, distillery Lost Spirits. Santeria is a dunder pit style Jamaican rum, which is due out in September to select cities. The distillery expects to commence operations at its Charleston facility later this year.

If you’ve followed this story and the rum industry closely, there’s a lot more here than meets the eye at first glance.

First, Rational Spirits is the first distillery to come out and announce that they’re working with Lost Spirits. Although the release doesn’t explicitly say so, it’s not a huge leap to speculate that they’re licensing the reactor technology.

Second, a little date-specific searching with Google turns up that Rational Spirits is a new entity, not having made or released any prior products. Trademarkswere applied for earlier in 2015, shortly after the Lost Spirits reactor announcement. This is interesting, as this is a brand new distillery popping up around the Lost Spirits technology, rather than an existing distillery dipping their toes into the water.

Third, “…due out in September…” implies that the Lost Spirits reactor is very close to shipping to at least one licensee. Remember the aging process takes approximately a week, so realistically Rational Spirits will need to have it no later than mid-September to meet their planned release date.

Personally, I’m really keen to try out the Santeria rum – I’ve been begging Bryan to make a Jamaican-style “ester bomb” for over a year. This may be it! The “…with no additives or added sugar” from the press release is similar to what the Lost Spirits rums have previously proclaimed on their labels.

Also, I’m very happy to see that my friend and fellow blogger Helena is moving to the United States and adding brand ambassador to her repertoire.

I suspect that Lost Spirits related news will soon start coming fast and furious. I plan to be in California in early September and will be visiting Bryan and Joanne, so I should have more to share afterward. Stay tuned!

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