"We're probably, realistically, the smallest whiskey distillery, I think, in the world," Davis said of his Monterey County operation, which is just a short drive from the coastal town of Moss Landing. "We're litterally three people and a barrel a week."
Because of Lost Spirits Distillery's diminutive size, Davis is able to source rare peat and casks that wouldn't be sufficient for large-scale operations. For instance, he recently used California late-harvest Cabernet wine barrels to age his Leviathan I release. Davis estimates there are roughly 25 barrels of that wine style produced in the state in any given year. His commitment to local ingredients or flavors extends into California-sourced peat and barley as well. Again, two relatively rare ingredients that wouldn't make economic sense for big producers.
Davis also loves the science behind whiskey making and is happy to explain the chemical compositions responsible for the wide variety of flavors associated with peated whiskeys. His operation has been referred to as "undeniably geeky" because of this passion for science. By mastering how these chemicals change and relate to one another, a good whiskey maker can transform ordinary malted barley into an extrordinarily complex and flavorful spirit.
"There are acids there are generated by either a) bacteria or b) yeast in the fermentation," said Davis. "Those acids are what make alcohol burn." They are also the precursors for the esters that give Davis' premium spirits their pleasant flavors, including peach, smoke, chocolate, coffee, maple syrup, and honey.
Davis said it's challenging to find his product at shops around the U.S., because it's so often sold-out. He recommends K&L Wines in Redwood City, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, because those shops typically have the largest supply in stock.
The whiskeys of Lost Spirits Distillery will be on display at 14th annual Whiskeys of the World event in San Francisco on April 6.