Lost Spirits Distillery
“Leviathan II is one of the most heavily peated whiskeys in the world,” says Bryan Davis, resident distiller at Lost Spirits Distillery. Inspired to create a worthy successor to Leviathan I Whiskey, Davis sought to create an incredibly complex, heavily peated American whiskey. He succeeded.
Davis begins the process of making Leviathan II Whiskey by first sourcing malted barley from the West Coast and coarse-cut Canadian peat harvested just north of Edmonton.
“The most interesting thing about our whiskey compared to other whiskies is the source of peat,” explains Davis. “Different peat bogs each have different types of moss and plant debris, which are ultimately preserved in the peat. Islay peat for example is influenced by seaweed that washes into the bogs during storms. Heather peat from the other Scotch isles is influenced by heather bushes preserved in the mix. Since our peat comes from an evergreen forest, it is full of ancient conifer trees, which add unique flavors and textures to Leviathan.”
The Canadian peat that Davis sources for Leviathan II is from peat bogs situated closer to the tree line than the peat Davis sourced for Levithan I. As such, the peat is richer in concentrations of guaiacol than Leviathan I (guaiacol gives peat its signature, smoky flavor). In addition, “simple phenol — which is the sort of band-aid and rubber note that you typically find in smoked whiskies — is lower in the Canadian peat,” Davis explains, resulting in a smoother, more refined flavor.
After sourcing the ingredients, Davis smokes the barley in his small, hand-made kiln over a peat flame. The kiln can only hold 750 pounds of barley at a time — enough to create about half a barrel of whiskey. Peated to 110 phenol ppm, Leviathan II is by far the most heavily peated whiskey ever made off the island of Islay (except for Leviathan I, which was also peated to 110 phenol ppm).
After peating and fermenting the grains, Davis distills the wash through his handmade, steam-powered oak still, which, much like a Duracell battery, has a copper top. Since Leviathan Whiskey is exposed to oak even in the still (which is located outside, completely exposed to the elements) the whiskey contains nearly double the concentration of furfural — the compound which gives whiskey its cookie-like, baked goods quality — as compared to ordinary whiskies.
While Leviathan I was aged in Cabernet Sauvignon casks, Leviathan II Whiskey is matured exclusively in late-harvest Semillon casks. The wine-soaked wood — which Davis rechars prior to aging the whiskey — accentuates the caffeic acid from the peat, giving Leviathan II Whiskey strong notes of chocolate, dried fruit and caramel. In addition, the French oak casks, which are more loosely grained and porous than American oak casks, add a touch of spice to the whiskey.
After aging the whiskey, the non-chill filtered Leviathan II is bottled from a single cask at cask strength — it is never diluted by water. Its golden honey color, which is completely natural, is a result of its slumber in the Semillon casks. The aroma, while peaty, is less smoky than expected and has hints of stone fruits and milk chocolate. Initial notes of maple syrup and dried fruits fade mid-palate in favor of a smoky flavor that has hints of cinnamon, vanilla, caramel and figs. The finish has different textures, and complex flavors of smoke, fruit and spices.