"Lost Distillery" could be the title of a Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew mystery book for kids. But there is nothing adolescent or mysterious about this producer who recreates single-malt scotch whiskies from a forgotten era.
Lost Distillery is a unique concept. It doesn’t distill any whiskey, but instead painstakingly researches the manufacturing methods of long-shuttered scotch distilleries from the 1800s and early 1900s to replicate a template of style, flavor, and scent components.
Elements -- geographical origin of peat, water source, type of barley, yeasts, still size and shape, wood cask aging -- all affect the final product. Lost Distillery uses a blend of currently available single malts to craft a single malt from the past. Although some modern scotch blends use grain whiskies other than those made from barley, Lost Distillery uses only single malt whisky from an inventory of about 80 out of 100 single malts available in Scotland.
We recently met with Ken Rose, a partner in the firm that owns Lost Distillery, to taste some of their products. Ken described the elaborate “scientific matrix basis” they use to form their blended malt scotches. He said their efforts are not to duplicate the products from these shuttered distilleries but to create “a modern homage… a modern interpretation" of what these distilleries produced.
Because no examples of the Lost Distillery’s original single malts exist today, we have to take their word on the results. The former distilleries from Lost Distillerys' portfolio closed for a variety of reasons. Auchnagie, Benachie, and Lossit closed due to transportation issues in an era where access to the sea or railroad lines were paramount. Gerston closed due to a loss of its water supply and Stratheden succumbed to Prohibition.
Lost Distillery offers three levels of aging for each distillery, according to Rose, with Classic created from 10- 12-year-old single malts, Archivist from 15- to 18-year-old stock and Vintage from 25-plus-year-old single malts.
We enjoyed tasting Lost Distillery’s offerings, although the Vintage-level Stratheden and Gerston ($275/750ml) are priced above the comfort level of many consumers. The Stratheden displayed lovely pineapple, spicy notes with a slight grain flavor. The Gerston reflects an 1800’s single malt scotch that, in addition to its widespread British popularity, was the favorite of the Duke of Wellington famed for his defeat of Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo. It showed good complexity, a hint of pear with salty iodine, dried fruit, and leather notes.
The Auchnagie ($63) smelled and tasted of honey, fruit and a wee bit of smoke. The fruity notes made this a very nice drink.
The stars of the show were the Benachie and Lossit that priced at $43 create an opportunity to taste Lost Distillery’s efforts at a reasonable price. The Benachie presented a broad, rich, ripe fruit expression with a hint of iodine in the nose. It is aged in sherry and oloroso casks. The Lossit is for those who enjoy peaty Islay scotch. The peat is not overwhelming, allowing the fruity sweetness to shine. A very well-balanced scotch, it is company’s top seller.
Trivento Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve Mendoza 2016 ($14). This is a very well-made cabernet sauvignon at a great price from a country better known for its malbec wines. A very straightforward fruity red wine with a cherry and chocolate nose and flavors. Great balance and very drinkable.
Achaval Ferrar Cabernet Franc Mendoza 2015 ($21). This is a bold wine for bold cuisine. Entirely cabernet franc, this cherry and herbal wine illustrate the potential for cabernet franc in Argentina. Well-integrated and pleasing with food.
Trivento Golden Reserve Mendoza Malbec 2012 ($24). If you are looking to up your Argentinian malbec game, then consider this terrific example from Trivento. This is a very deep and rich malbec with expressive berry and plum notes with a pleasant mocha and earthy finish. A perfect pairing with hearty winter beef dishes.
Niro Pecorino Terre Di Chieti Abruzzo IGT 2016 ($18). Made from the indigenous pecorino grape, this wine is somewhat reminiscent of Tuscany’s Vernaccia di San Gimignano. Extended skin contact gives this wine plenty of flavor and aromas with ripe peach and pear notes and a pleasant mineral component. Great by itself or a complement to chicken or seafood dishes.
Steele Red Hills Lake County Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 ($26). Forward dark berry flavors with spice, pepper and vanilla notes. Soft tannins make it approachable now.
The Prisoner Napa Valley Red Wine 2016 ($47). Dave Phinney says that his biggest mistake may have been selling this iconic Orin Swift label to Agustin Huneeus for $40 million – not a bad deal but Huneeus then sold it to Constellation six years later for $285 million. Since then production has skyrocketed for what was once a cult wine cherished by a few rabid fans. However large the production, it continues to please consumers with its exotic blend of zinfandel, cabernet sauvignon, syrah, petite sirah, and charbono. Smooth and luscious in texture it shows rich plum, raspberry and pomegranate flavors.
Imagery Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 ($20). Fifteen percent of this wine is petite sirah and that provides more color and aromatics. Winemaker Jamie Benziger comes from a respected family who should be proud of this effort. Well priced, it shows off ripe black fruit flavors and hints of pepper and spice.
J. Lohr Estates Flume Crossing Sauvignon Blanc 2016 ($14). A good value, this simple and balanced sauvignon blanc from Monterey has juicy lime and grapefruit flavors.
Chelsea Goldschmidt Alexander Valley Merlot 2015 ($20). Very well priced for what you get, this easy and quaffable merlot shows off red berry aromas and black cherry and ripe plum flavors with a dash of cloves. This is a great buy for those of you who love merlot.