Lost Spirits Navy Style 61% - 2016 Edition

Lost Spirits Navy Style 61% 2016 Bottle Best Wht II-RG1

Product of:  California, USA
Aged:  THEA 1 Reactor
Price: $43
Alcohol: 61% ABV 
Sugar: 0-5 g/L (estimate)
Context:  Overproof Rum 
RG Rating: 9.5

Tasting Notes 
Take the dark brown, nearly opaque color as warning: you’re in for a Big Rum. The affect of swirling is almost, um boring. The rum smeared inside the tasting glass produced very tiny beads and a few form into legs.  This 61% ABV iteration released is considerably darker than the cultish 2014 68% ABV powerhouse. Move on, there’s not much to learn here.

To enjoy this rum, don’t look at it, and get past the sledgehammer bouquet.  The first affect of careful sniffing is signature Bryan Davis rum: big, bold pot-distilled molasses and wood notes, massive fruity esters (charred pineapple, papaya and overripe black banana peel) and coriander hitting with the impact of a Guyanese rum that’s been aged 20 years. Only it’s not.  More about that time shifting below.  The spent oak aromas approach that of some advanced rancio development.  Then lesser notes appear as your nose recalibrates to the high-ester floor, bringing bay and young eucalyptus leaves, old wet leather, wet cigar, some vanilla, then slight nutmeg, overbaked bread and paraffin.

The initial taste Is pure yummy.  Dark, rum-soaked fruitcake with a chocolate sauce drizzle springs to mind; the flour, candied fruits, black banana and dense body require small portions, albeit encouraging several servings. Fruitcake?  Yes.  Love it or not, fruitcake is a highly desirable flavor for a Navy rum.

The rum’s exit does not overstay its welcome, lasting long enough for the palate to process its well-integrated flavors as a complex whole.

Lost Spirits copper pot still, lyne arm and condenser in daylight.  Handmade by the distiller himself.

Lost Spirits Navy Style 61% rum is the final spirit to be produced at the distillery’s Monterey County, California, USA facility.  Construction of a new distillery in Los Angeles began in the second half of 2106 using a few parts from the old facility.  The LA location enables expanded capacity, more lab space, freedom to experiment, and all new copper pot stills.  

Of course the revolutionary THEA 1 aging reactor – sprung from Bryan Davis’ unbridled mind – continues to play a central role in this rum.  Sure, the molasses wash, bacteria and yeast create necessary precursors to bigness, and a small copper pot still custom-tailored to the desired outcome anchors the rum in a craft foundation.  From there, THEA 1’s photo-cryo induced chemical reactions on the oak medium make their contribution. Six days later, something magical results.

THEA 1 Prototype

Revolution, then Evolution
Just a few short years ago, Bryan Davis’ THEA 1 reactor shook the distilled spirits industry with its unheard of ability to reproduce the flavor compound profile and quality of spirits that were aged for two and three decades.  Bryan’s machine did it in six days.  Some of the World’s largest producers of Bourbon, Scotch, Rye, Rum and other spirits came a-knockin’ on Lost Spirit’s door.  After dipping his toes in those deep waters, he wisely stepped back from that infinity pool and has regrouped, bigger and more creative than ever, set to open a new Lost Spirits Distillery in Los Angeles in early 2017.  The distillery will enable much higher production levels, finer tuning of spirits’ profiles, and of course the latest upgrades to the aging reactor.  Interpret this 2016 61% Navy Style Rum as the segue from humble roots to magnificence.  

In Bryan Davis’ own words:
Rum Gallery: How does the aging reactor that was used to finish this latest edition 61% Navy Style Rum differ from THEA 1?
Davis: The process duration is 6 days.  It is a tweaked version of the 2014 Colonial process.  It employs some of the new things we learned over the past year and a half of R&D.  

Rum Gallery: How does the latest edition 61% Navy Style Rum differ in production technique, fermentation, distillation, aging, wood used or otherwise, from previous editions of Lost Spirits Navy Style Rums?
Davis: The only difference is in the aging process.  And it s more subtle than usual.  It was just about subtle changes in wood treatments, concentrations, and exposure times.  In other words its a series of small refinements.

Let’s compare Lost Spirits’ earlier 2014-15 Navy Style rum to this 2016 iteration.  The latest is probably the final rum to be produced in the original smoke-breathing-dragon-inspired copper pot still located in Monterey County, California.  It is also the latest spirituous incarnation from Lost Spirits photo-cryo alchemy aging machine.  Hopefully it is not the last one.

Dragon Head breathes excess steam from the boiler as it stands guard over the crypt-like copper fermentation tank

To this taster’s eye, the 61% is darker, more brown in color than the red/brown color of Lost Spirits’ 68% ABV Navy Style rum circa 2014-15.  

Aromatically, the 61% is bigger, bolder, with more old wet leather and tobacco on the nose, simply more Guyanese smelling than the Lost Spirits’ 68% ABV Navy Style  The 68% version is comparatively closer to the funky, fruity, floral long-aged Jamaican pot still rums.

Both rums are full bodied powerhouses to be reckoned with; neither are for the faint of palate.  Flavor wise, the 61% is boastfully chewy, sodden with charred oak and wasted leather, whereas the 68% is slightly more ethereal, spiced and fruity.  Here too, the Guyana vs Jamaica resemblance stands.  Overall, the 61% is bigger in flavor and nose but more balanced on the palate, whereas the 68% is beautifully finessed.  Both pay respectful homage to the Navy style.   These are both HUGE rums, and my comparison is only relative to Lost Spirits’ new vs old Navy Style rums.

Navy Style, Navy Proof
Ed Hamilton, Rum Gallery’s friend, rum historian and accomplished sailor, tells us about Navy Style rum on his Ministry of Rum website:
"The original British Navy rum was a blend of rums from several Caribbean islands including Guyana and Jamaica which still produce some of the heaviest rums from the Caribbean. The British Admiralty was so concerned with the welfare of the sailors that they were given a daily ration of dry bread, generally-rancid meat, tobacco, tainted water and rum. Considering the quality of their other rations, I have no reason to believe that sailors were being provided with the finest aged rum, although at least some of the rum rationed to British sailors was blended in England and dispensed through official Navy pursers and since this process took some time the rum was aged in barrels."

Lost Spirits Navy Style 61% on S:V Vela's fordeck-RG1

Navy Proof refers to the Royal Navy’s practice of “proofing” the alcohol content of the rums they sourced from colonial distilleries.  Proofing was the practice of soaking gunpowder in rum (or later, gin), and trying to ignite it.  If the gunpowder burned, then the rum was of sufficiently high alcohol content, typically 114 Proof (57% ABV) or higher.  The official requirement was borne out of military necessity, to ensure that gunpowder would ignite even after being accidentally soaked in rum.  Both staples of survival were stored belowdecks in wooden casks. Proofing was not performed to ensure the jack’s got a suitably strong daily ration, though one imagines all were happier for it.  

It’s important to note the ignition used for proofing.  I’ve read of two techniques from credible sources.   One claims that a magnifying glass was used to focus the Sun’s rays on grains of gunpowder soaked in rum. The other says a flint and metal striker were used to create the spark.  In any case, a match was supposedly not used.  Remember, this practice dates back to the 17th Century, more than 100 years before the invention of the modern match.

Lost Spirits Navy Style 61% 2016 Bottle Blk-RG2b-USE

A Lost Spirits liquor is always,
um, a safe purchase.  You don’t know exactly what the booze is going to taste like, but assuredly it will deliver flavor like nothing else on the market.  Those familiar with the Lost Spirits’ previous rums and heavily-peated whiskies expect them to alter their tastebuds' paradigm, again. The 2016 61% ABV Navy Style rum marks a big step forward in balance of flavors and approachability for this ground-breaking distillery – Lost Spirits’ best yet. 

A daily ration of Lost Spirits Navy Style 61% rum would have taken a good deal of the misery out of the life of a Royal Navy jack tar, shanghaied into servitude, imaginably selected for his health, inability to swim, lack of family ties, and probably his general rum sotness.  This rum would have erased much of the day’’s labor pains and overwhelming destitution.  Better that we can just purchase it.

But is this latest rum from Lost Spirits true to the Navy style?  I’ve had my share of the incredibly expensive, rare and discontinued Black Tot rum, supposedly hidden treasure from the last consignment of the Royal Navy’s stores.  If that’s representative of how most Navy Rums tasted decades or centuries ago, then yes, Lost Spirit’s version is a respectful homage.  If I were facing  battle at sea the next day, I’d certainly want a double ration of Lost Spirits’ Navy Style Rum the night before, for courage.  That, it delivers with aplomb.

Reviewed:  January 2017 at The Rum Gallery, USA.

© Dave Russell 2017