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Enjoyed a bottle of Lost Spirit 61% Navy Strength while in San Francisco. At $50 a bottle its a great price. I found it at a local Raley's at $38 which is a steal. Decent bottle and label design. Very dark brown color. Super nice flavors to the nose. Its all molasses and brown sugar to the palate. Burn is there like you imagine for a 61% Navy Strength rum. What a find indeed!
I've put off this review for a long time. Lost Spirits bottlings are a bit of an enigma—which, I imagine, is not at all unintentional. With Bryan Davis' unique accelerated-aging device, the production/maturation techniques are unlike just about anything else on the market today. Though he names them things like "Navy Style," "Cuban-Inspired," or Polynesian-Inspired," that really only helps with what was Bryan was thinking of when he crafted them (sailors, nightclubs, beaches)—not the final tasting notes. (For more information on the aging process, there are some excellent articles out there, a quick Google search away. Perhaps I'll stick some links in at the end.)
Some other things getting in the way of this review is that each bottle I sample from (which currently is at least 4) strikes me differently. The first few gave me rather different impressions, the last one not as much. Perhaps related to this is that this rum (and its siblings) changes more in the glass over time (oxidizes) more dramatically than any other spirit I've encountered. It's a very organic experience, discovering these mutations over time. (Again, I can't help but think that even if Bryan doesn't plan for that, he probably still loves it.)
In any case, I think I've had enough now (I've been working through my own bottle of it for months) to finally stop procrastinating. On with the tasting notes:
If there's one thing that describes the aroma of this rum, it's buttered toast. (I kid you not.) And the toast is dark, but not quite so burnt you throw it away. There's loads of toffee and vanilla—very creamy, but still very "dark" and woody, with more than a hint of smoke. Campfires come to mind (for the smoke, not the marshmallows). It's a strong flavor profile that you either like or you don't.
And frankly, I don't.
At least not at first. If you're patient (30 minutes+), the vanilla buttercream will yield to more delicate, distillate-driven aromas. It becomes much more balanced. I can't really describe it that well, just that the aromas that put me off initially step back enough for me to actually enjoy the blend of smells emanating from the glass. In any case, it strongly benefits from time to breathe. (Of course, if buttered toast and woody vanilla toffee are your thing, dive right in!)
The tasting follows suit. The first time I tried this, I was amazed it was 61% (122 proof). I found it remarkably smooth and drinkable (this was the tasting that resulted in a purchase). Future tastings have been a bit sharper, and quite astringent. Still, there's really no off-putting alcohol aromas to spoil entry, which is impressive for what is technically an unaged rum (from an American craft distiller, no less). It's very dry, and warming. While other grocery-store-shelf rums that lead with toffee and vanilla on the nose usually follow that with a mild, approachable off-sweet palate at 80 proof, Lost Spirits' rums are bottled at cask strength, and the juice is clear about that. It's probably not something you'll want to shoot or gulp, but sip respectably. You can sip it at 61%, or you can bring it down to 60 or 50 (I probably wouldn't go below that) if that works better for you. With a few drops of water, it's still rather astringent. A dry, smoky finish lingers. (Where's a glass of water?)
So, I have very mixed feelings on this rum, and I've found myself struggling with how to actually deploy it (and free up space for something I might be more excited about). I'll sip it neat occasionally, but it's more "interesting" than "delicious." It's great in cocktails—sub it for OFTD or a Demerara rum and the vanilla/spice notes shine. It's also remarkably good with/on (gasp!) desserts, such as bread pudding or ice cream, for which normally I wouldn't bring out a $40+ bottle. So while it may best other "navy-esque" rums from Lemon Hart, Hamilton, and Plantation in these regards, it also costs quite a bit more. And I, personally, don't want to stock anything in this price range that I don't thoroughly enjoy sipping neat.
While Bryan's reactor relies on extracting compounds from charred wood to emulate the chemical makeup of long-barrel-aged spirit, it's that aggressive woody influence that keeps this rum from being great. If the distillate itself was able to shine through more, if the aging process rounded the edges without stealing the show, and if I didn't have to wait so long for the glass to change into something I kinda enjoy, well, I'd give it at least an 8. But whether you like the profile or not, it's undeniably impressive what Mr. Davis is able to accomplish, and I hope future offerings bring something new to the table (oh yes, you can rest assured they'll be "different").
Further reading on Lost Spirits:
- WIRED article by Wayne Curtis: https://www.wired.com/2017/05/brian-davis-lost-spirits-distillery-aging-rum-fast/
- Cocktail Wonk's posts: http://cocktailwonk.com/category/lost-spirits
61% your gonna need a water back! Priced right around $40 a bottle will go a long ways if sipping neat, as I always do.
This is a bread heady rum. Strong aromas of good quality Christmas stollen, ginger bread and of course rum cake. Gooey Turkish dates, plump raisins and honey. Black strap molasses and a hint of funk and citrus. Wood but not over powering. It's a wood rum not a bourbon rum. Cognac. Step away return and smacked with maraschino cherry.
Totally unadulterated. No additives in the form of flavorings or colorings. It's made clear on the label.
This is a polarizing rum. It'll be far too strong for some even when hit with a big healthy splash of water. It's a dark deep flavored rum. No bits of sugary smoothness. Those seeking the bold rich and beautiful will love it. A true stand out sitting next to other bottles on the shelves.
If your a fan of REAL rum not the overly sweet mutated piss formulated to please the pedestrians, then you see you buy. I would pay more than the out the door price for this rum!! It's a solid 10 in my book.
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