I recently attended my first meeting of the San Diego Whisk(e)y Enthusiasts. Granted that sounds like Tuesday night in a dive bar, but I promise, it wasn’t. There’s something to be said about being in a room with people that all like the brown stuff, enough that they’ve paid out a bit of money to be guided through a tasting. The planned tasting was Colorado whiskies (you can read about that here), but the surprise guest was something altogether different.
“Many unique and venerable brands have been lost to the world. Until now.”
Meet Jeffrey Karlovitch, CEO USA and Master Blender for The Lost Distillery Company, who showed up our guest for the evening. First of all, who doesn’t love a man in a kilt carrying a suitcase of whisky? So we know we’re off on the right foot already. But what’s in the case?! According to Lost Distillery’s website, “In the last century, almost one hundred of Scotland’s malt whisky distilleries have been closed or destroyed. This accounts for nearly half of all distilleries that have ever existed in Scotland..As a result…many unique and venerable brands have been lost to the world. Until now.”
Lost Distillery has an Archiving Team, that searches high and low for recipes, plans and bottles of whisky left from the closed distilleries. (A quick note so you know I can spell: a rule of thumb, whiskey has an E if the country it’s made in has one. So Ireland makes whiskey, Scotland makes whisky.) Given the amount of time some of these have been defunct, talking to locals in the small towns where these distillers used to hang their hats is essential. I think my favorite story from Jeffrey was about the distillery that they looked for any remnants of – and came up with nothing. Until a little old lady and her grandson walked up to them with a box full of plans and schematics – and several bottles of the last whisky in existence. Good thing people were hoarding more than old magazines and cats, right?
We were privileged to try both the Deluxe and Vintage versions of all three whiskies that Lost Distillery currently produces. I’ll be honest – I wasn’t a huge Scotch fan before this tasting. Peat isn’t my favorite flavor usually (I’m more of a bourbon/rye girl). But I will say that these three have definitely made me a believer. (which also means a new set of bottles on my already-overflowing shelves). I know, the difficult life of a whisk(e)y writer…
Stratheden Distillery was in business from 1829-1926, and was family owned from start to finish. If I have to rank the three, I’d say this one was my least favorite. Not that it wasn’t tasty, but I just preferred the flavors of the other two whiskies a bit more.
Gerston Distilleries – notice the plural? – is actually the story of two distilleries, that were around from 1796-1882 and 1886-1914, respectively. Gerston One’s end came from their water source drying up/being diverted in the wrong direction and since water is seriously important to whisky, that was the end of the distillery. Two was built as a massive industrial operation, but it seems they were never quite able to produce the same quality and taste, so they only lasted two decades before closing their doors.
Auchnagie Distillery was around from 1812-1911. The history of Auchnagie is interesting – no less than 7 different people owned it throughout its history, but the exact location of the distillery isn’t known. This was my favorite of the evening, in both the deluxe and vintage versions (buy whatever your budget can afford and know you’re getting a tasty Scotch either way). I didn’t do an official review with tasting notes (yet), but you can find that info on their website.
All three whiskies were a treat. If you’re unfamiliar with Scotch, or like me, had dipped into the peaty end of the pool and weren’t super fond of it, I’d say Lost Distillery is a great introduction. If you’re already a Scotch fan, these whiskies provide a taste of history you’ll find nowhere else. If you’re in NYC on July 8, and can make it to ABC Wine Company for their Lost Distillery tasting, I’d highly suggest it. Great whisky, a fun and engaging presentation, a guy in a kilt – and oh yeah, did I mention great whisky?? If you meet Jeffrey, tell him I sent you (and that you’re not a Jets fan – unless you are, and then you’ll make a new friend!) Cheers!
Article by: Jeanne Runkle