The craft liquor boom in the Arts District; only one comes with a boat

Move over craft beer. Make way for craft liquor. In the Arts District of downtown Los Angeles, there are now multiple distilleries producing liquor. 

Green Bar Distillery gets the bragging rights as the first. Here they make organic tequila, fruit liqueurs, even an amaro.

At The Spirit Guild, the idea to distill liquor started with an orange farm and turned into an award winning gin and vodka.

The newest kid on the block is Lost, the focus is on rum and whiskey.  Typically, liquors are barrel aged and take years before a product is brought to market.

Lost Sprits founder Bryan Davis wanted to hack the process and basically, reverse engineered all the components of a rum or whiskey to reproduce something similar to a 20 or 30-year aged liquor.  His hacks, though, mean The Abomination and Navy Rum are ready to bottle in just six days.

There’s a whole, long explanation on how he does it and does it well enough to win awards and accolades, but he refuses to declare his product is truly comparable to a 30-year old barrel aged liquor.  Considering each bottle costs about $50 bucks, compared to an aged liquor that can cost twice as much or more, there are few complaints.

Each distillery offers tastings and tours. But the tour for Lost Spirits comes with a little more fantasy than the other two.

Look for the painted doorway of the queen of hearts and grab the heavy door knocker. Once inside, you’ll be greeted by Davis and a topiary of a stegosaurus. With a tickle underneath the dinosaurs chin, he comes alive, purrs and growls. Such is the beginning of a journey that leaves you with the question of 'why'. To which, Davis will answer, “Why, not?” 

Davis and his team embraced their inner movie nerd to create a dramatic curtain reveal of a the first tasting room for the rum. Here, Davis is candle it, standing behind a bar to pour out the tastes. He explains that he and his team sat down and watched all the “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies. “We then tried to figure out what the rum would taste like if we could actually, reach into the screen, pull out the bottle and pour a glass.”

This could be tour enough, Davis is that entertaining and excited to answer all questions, but there’s still that boat ride to get to. It silently arrives, as the guests finish their drinks. Hop aboard and Davis cranks the wheel, hits a button on his cellphone to plunge the boat in darkness. A jungle soundtrack plays with birds and bugs and before long we’re pulling alongside the distillery, nicknamed the Opium Den. Red Chinese lanterns glow through some fog as we carefully disembark. It’s here that Davis shows off the hand pounded copper vats which will “wash” the molasses for the rum.

This part of the tour could have looked like any other distillery, but the Lost Spirit team was having too much to stop now, Davis took left over copper to decorate the stills, fashioned like a dragon.

He then calls out to Tessa, the artificial intelligence for the distillery. “Tessa, can you turn the barrel lights on for me?”. Through a wooden door, a light glows through the cracks. He slides the doors open to reveal the part of the distillery that represents the hack to traditional distilling.

The challenge for liquor makers has always been to create a product that has the perfect spectrum of flavors, colors, aromas and viscosity. Davis essentially reverse engineered and de-mystified the barrel aging process.   He figure out how to use wood chips, high intensity light and other things, he’s not willing to reveal.

There’s still more…an “island” tented dining room to taste The Abomination Heavily Peated Malt, Davis power point and the sounds of drums in the distance. When those drums and chants grow louder, Davis herds out of the room and into the final stop, the enchanted gift shop. Parakeets animate and there’s a whole show to point out the available items available for purchase.

My personal favorite: the tee shirt emblazoned with lettering that reads. “My Phenylethyl acetate brings all the boys to the yard.” Phenylethyl acetate is the chemical name for honey!

To book a tour of Lost Spirits, go to their website for available dates. The tour costs $35. 


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