Few spirits rival the romanticism of Scotch whisky. Dramatic seaside landscapes and time-worn distilleries are as much a part of the drinking experience as the complex, challenging whisky in the glass. Scotch always has a story.
The Lost Distillery Company, located in Kilmarnock, Scotland, produces a line of blended whiskies meant to represent modern interpretations of single malts that would have been produced at various defunct distilleries across the country.
I tried the company's Lossit expression, based on the Lossit distillery in Islay, a small island off Scotland's west coast that produces some of the country's most respected malts. Lossit opened in 1817 and was Islay's top whisky producer for much of its history, closing in 1867.
Getting your hands on whisky from the original Lossit distillery might be impossible. But the Lost Distillery has dug into historical records, analyzing the variables that would have gone into Lossit's whisky — production techniques of the time, ingredients local to the area (water, yeast, barley, peat), types and size of the equipment used in the original distillery, wood and so on — to create a modern rendition of what Lossit might be producing were it still here today.
The whisky itself is not dissimilar to other Islay malts and blended malts on the market currently, but at a price point of just more than $40 a bottle, it's a serious contender for repeat purchases. It's firmly on the smoky/phenolic end of the spectrum, with its intense peat character balanced by a subtle underlying sweetness. There's a light nuttiness and a hint of black pepper. Despite the intense smokiness, Lossit is relatively light-bodied and finishes clean.
While Lossit won't be unfamiliar taste territory for experienced scotch drinkers, its process is unquestionably compelling. It reminds me of German gose — a beer style that had gone extinct and had to be re-created from old production notes and oral accounts from elderly drinkers who still remembered what it tasted like.
The Lost Distillery didn't have the advantage of using taste panels of original Lossit drinkers, so there's no way to know how this whisky stacks up against its 200-year-old predecessor. But part of the fun of scotch is the romantic images it evokes. What better way to get your imagination going than to picture a tiny, 19th century Islay distillery as you sip the Lost Distillery's best re-creation of what Lossit would have tasted like?
Justin Grant, Times correspondent