California – 53%ABV – $55 (solid pricing for single cask, cask strength whiskey!)
Today I’ll be sharing some details on a new American whiskey called “Leviathan I” and the distillery that produces it; Lost Spirits Distillery. If you’ve not heard of Lost Spirits before, don’t feel bad. Most folks have not heard of them. They waited quietly and patiently for their whiskey to mature before they made any large public announcements about their distillery and whiskeys.
Before we start with the whiskey, let’s start with the bottle and the fact that it’s got a wine cork rather than a whisk(e)y bottle cork with the plastic top (see right). If you’re like me, you save your whisk(e)y bottle corks – you may need one after opening this bottle.
Now, onto the distillery owners.
Bryan and Joanne, owners of Lost Spirits in Monterey County California, came back to their native Cali-roots after a good stint with another distillery they owned; that one in Spain where they made Obsello Absinthe and Port of Barcelona Gin.
Not only did Bryan and Joanne up and move back to California to open a whiskey distillery, these good folks built their still entirely by hand. Two people, four hands, one giant still with a big dragon head attached:
Yeah, that’s right. A dragon head. And what’s more is that the still is located outside… not confined in any building. I’ve not seen anything like this before and I doubt you have either. Located outside and with a dragon head, it’s like this whiskey is distilled atop the Misty Mountains (where the spirits go now). Brilliant:
Now let’s talk about the actual whiskey itself. This is peated American single malt. Bryan and Joanne have sourced Canadian peat to peat their California barley to 110ppm. Then they mature the whiskey exclusively in late harvest “Botrytised Cabernet” casks. This type of Cabernet, as Bryan taught me, is basically a somewhat Sauternes-like wine. If you frequent my blog then you know I’ve got a “thing” for Sauternes matured whiskies…
What’s more is every single release of theirs will be release as a single cask, cask strength bottling. (*Swoon*) It’s as if they had whisk(e)y geeks like me in mind when the designed this stuff!
Kudos to Bryan and Joanne for doing something so unique in the world of American whiskey! It just goes to show that craft distilling in the US is growing; not only in the number of US craft distillers but also in the styles of whiskey and the way they produce it.
Now, to taste the Leviathan:
On the nose — Lost Spirits? More like wild, crazy, wacky spirits.
I would have have never pegged this for malt whiskey. I’d perhaps more assume this were a Mezcal. (In fact, it’s quite like the Tobala Del Maguey Mezcal I reviewed last year.) Smoky yet not smoked (if that makes sense), phenolic/carbolic.
Screeching tires on sticky black tarmac.
Wine influence is quite noticeable after a few minutes. Pungent and sweet red wine reduction and then hints of red wine vinegar.
The sweetness then dissipates to reveal charred swamp ash and an intense bitterness that evolves into what I’d swear is the scent of Manchego cheese.
Like I said, this is wild stuff.
On the mouth — Massive mouthfeel, sweet grape jam flavor to start but this is followed by tropical fruits such as mango and papaya.
Some malty quality comes through but this is still quite Mezcal-like.
Speaking of malty, I’m reminded here of a smoked porter flavor. I love smoked porters.
I can taste the burning swamp ash.
Very salty/briny if you take the time to notice – a fine quality.
Finish — Like a smoked madeira or some red grape desert wine. The finish goes on and on.
In sum — Read the label – 110ppm (phenols rated in parts per million) peated malt whiskey. Now forget what the labels says. Do not go into this thinking you’re going to taste an Islay like whisky.
Like any and all spirits, you should go into a dram of this with the mind wide open. If you do you’ll find that it’s a well crafted whiskey. It’s not an every day whiskey, for sure, but it’s sort of “yum” in a glass if you ask me.
I’d suggest drinking this when you have time outside (fishing or hiking) or after a moment of completion – maybe once you’ve climbed to the top of that mountain.
Really enjoyable whiskey!
Special thanks to Bryan and Joanne for the sample!