New Release: Lost Spirits Umami – Discussion With Bryan Davis

Lost Spirits has a slew of new single malt whisky releases this Spring. They have Seascape II, Umami and Leviathan III. Master distiller Bryan Davis has continued to evolve his process and experiment with different methods to yield tasty results. Seascape II and Umami are both fermented with salt water brine which instilled unique flavors into the whisky. I had a quick call with Bryan to discuss the details surrounding the effects of the salt water brine on the Umami release and more. Unfortunately Seascape II won’t make it to the NY market, but it’s available for order on my favorite online retailer Read on for more details about this exciting release which marks a distinct change in Lost Spirits whisky making process going forward. I’ll be posting a full review of Umami later this week.

Pacific Ocean

The Pacific Ocean nearby the distillery

Tell us about this new release, Umami, what makes it distinct?
Bryan: Umami is peated to 100+ PPM with Canadian peat. Technically Leviathan is peated at a higher PPM, but the smoke is showcased more in Umami. This whisky is also fermented with salt water. It started as an experiment a while back because we wondered what it would do the spirit. I was trying to figure out how some distilleries were able to get briny flavors into whisky. We started out by experimenting with putting ocean water into the fermenter, but it didn’t necessarily work out how I thought. We eventually settled on making our own salt water by mixing salt water from a local salt supplier with our well water.

We found that when we ferment with the salt water, the yeast goes through significant changes. One of which is that the yeast also grows very thick cell walls in order to keep itself alive in the salt water. The thicker cell walls block the yeast from performing normal functions that take place through the cell walls. We don’t know all the implications of this, but one thing we do know is that the yeast are not able to duplicate in the salt water fermentation, so they actually need to be grown outside of the fermentation and put them into the tank in the correct numbers that is needed. This is unusual because typically we grow the yeast in the fermentation tank.

Another major change is that the salt water changes the boiling point of the distillation. The salt water causes the boiling point to rise exponentially. As a consequence, other flavor compounds that normally couldn’t get through the system can now volatize and come through the still. This allows for new flavors to be brought into the distillate that previously couldn’t have been captured.

What flavor profile we can expect from this release?
Bryan tasted the whisky while on the call with me: On the nose I get beach, ocean, sweet and caramel scents, citrus – orange/lemon rinds, peat, hint of strawberries. On the palate I initially get a lot of brine, salted caramel and then a boat-load of semi-classic peat smoke. There’s also some citrus mixed in as well. The lingering aftertaste resembles the smell of a campfire.

What was the inspiration of behind the name Umami?
B: Umami can be translated as “pleasant savory taste.” People taste umami through receptors for glutamate, for that reason, scientists consider umami to be distinct from saltiness. In this whisky you get the flavors of salt without the other qualities of salt so we thought it fit very nicely with the idea of Umami.

Lost Spirits Umami

How many bottles of Umami will be released? When/Where are bottles expected to hit the shelves?
B: Umami is not a one off. It should be in production for years like Leviathan. As it evolves we will give it numbers like Leviathan but don’t expect to see it go away.

You should see it everywhere you see Leviathan within a few weeks. IE NY, CA, DC, Germany, Denmark

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