One only has to look at Lost Spirits Distillery's front door to know that this isn't your average distillery: a larger-than-life mural of a woman (with moving eyes, no less) looks down over the entrance, demurely welcoming you to come in. And when you walk in, you're not disappointed.
The place is weird. Wonderfully weird. And it has something for every type of weirdo out there.
Let me explain.
The distillery, housed in downtown Los Angeles' comparably eclectic Arts District, takes visitors to another world, one full of jungle cruises and floating carousels and cats named Radagast. But the tour also celebrates the founders' love of experimentation and science. In between travels to the Caribbean seas and the island of Doctor Moreau, guests can listen to the accented Siri-like voice of Tessa, the distillery's computer, and walk through their white-walled distillation room, where the Lost Spirits team (with help from a patented reactor) makes booze comparable to 20-year-old rum and whiskey in just six days.
It's a mixture of the technical and the fantastical, so if you're not into dragon skulls or drinking alcohol out of glasses placed on the tentacles of an octopus candelabra, you can geek out on the wonders of chemistry and soak in the discussion of esterification and the limbic system. And if you aren't that interested in the details of stoichiometry, there's still 61 proof rum to drink.
That's right: 61 proof rum. The Lost Spirits tour sets each of its tastings in the scene or time that inspired the drink, and their first tasting — their Navy Style Rum — came into being because the founders wanted to recreate the booze that real-life pirates from the Caribbean would have drunk. (Pirates, apparently, got a ration of eight ounces of rum each day. Who knew?! I didn't.) And so, the room where you drink this insanely strong rum is themed to feel like you're back in those swashbuckling good ol' days, with the ceiling emulating the roiling waves of the sea, and of course, the octopus candelabra.
The theming only picks up from there — between the two rum tastings, you navigate through a 'jungle' on a handcrafted boat (everything in the distillery is made by those who work there), which floats on a 'river' that doubles as the cooling system for the distillation process (See? Science! Something for everyone!).
But maybe you don't like pirates, and those copper stills with dragon heads you passed by just didn't do it for you? Don't fret! After a lovely stroll through a botanical garden (another part of the cooling system for the distillation process) and a potential sighting of one of the distillery's three cats, you get to see their R&D space. The lab is replete with a spectrometer and some cleverly altered statues called 'angel sucker machines', which are part of Lost Spirits' attempt to replicate the so-called angel effect (aka the evaporation that takes place in traditionally aged barrels. Centuries ago, before people understood evaporation, monks used to blame angels for sipping the booze. Such tricksters, those angels are!).
Don't care about spectrometers or stories about drunk angels? Don't worry! You'll soon be able to drink whiskey out of a teacup before stumbling onto a carousel that floats in water and moves with the wind. As you twirl around, the lights go out and, if you've imbibed, you might not be sure which way is what.
Think riding a seahorse on a carousel in the dark with a teacup of whiskey is overrated? Good news! There's more in store for you! Once the carousel stops, you're taken to another jungle-like setting based on The Island of Doctor Moreau. As you take a seat at the long ornate table under a makeshift tent, you are surrounded by nerd rarities including a paper mâché dragon skull, a first edition copy of The Island of Doctor Moreau, and walking sticks from Disneyland's Jungle Cruise. Last but not least, this area is also where the Lost Spirits team watches Game of Thrones.
But wait, you say! You're a monster who hates Game of Thrones and classic literature. No worries! just follow Tessa's guidance and push away the fur coats in the wardrobe by Doctor Moreau's table. Soon you'll find yourself in the distillery's gift shop, where talking animatronic parrots 'sing' (Tweet-tweet. Chub-chub.) in accented computer-monotone voices and encourage you to buy something before you reluctantly head back to the real world.
So whatever your nerd proclivities, there's something here for you. It's well worth the $37 price tag, even if you don't drink rum or whiskey. You have to make reservations in advance (they only open for tours on the weekend), so plan ahead for the next time you want to experience something a little bit strange and a whole lot of wonderful.