Jiji The Cat High Top Shoes

Jiji The Cat High Top Shoes

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Jiji The Cat High Top Shoes

Davis’ “bourbon period” began in 2009. With craft distilleries taking off from Brooklyn to San Francisco, he and Haruta decided to start Lost Spirits on land in central California near Salinas owned by her parents. The pair borrowed $80,000 and built a commercial distillery from scratch using copper sheet metal, wooden barrels on sale in Napa and a disassembled old boiler they found on Craigslist. (The standard cost is $600,000.) Poring over New York Times articles from the 1890s, they also decided to recreate a forgotten frontier contraption called “the log and copper still.” Early American settlers had limited access to copper, so they used the materials on hand: a tree trunk split in two, each half hollowed out like a canoe and bound together at the end to form one long log. The log would be filled with fermented rye until it swelled and became watertight, using metal only for the head and condenser. It would then be lit on fire, boiling the liquid inside to separate the alcohol. Davis’ modern remake distilled the first so-called “steam bourbon” anyone had tasted in a century. “There’s a myth that booze is better now, that people drank to just get drunk,” Davis says. “It’s totally the opposite. Thanks to the artisanal process, spirits were heavier and more flavorful.”

sphinxes Two sphinxes adorn part of a still. The sphinx is the company logo, inspired by the design on the cover of the first edition of H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine. (Spencer Lowell)

The “whiskey period” took Lost Spirits on a more avant-garde track. “We moved from ancient arts to ultra-contemporary,” he says. “We wanted to find flavors that nobody had ever tasted before.” Now using a peat-smoked still with a cupola-shaped chimney (a dotty Scottish tradition), Davis experimented with adding bacteria during fermentation—microbes cultivated on bananas, for example—to provide extra layers of flavor. He dabbled in yeast manipulation. (“Yeast is the fastest-evolving organism on the planet,” Davis enthuses. “Its cells reproduce every few hours. They have superpowers!”) He even fermented using Pacific Ocean seawater. (“Thanks to the seaweed, beach water is very alive. It’s full of coastal bacteria!”) The result had the aroma of the beach combined with a distinctive briny taste. (“It had a killer sense of place.”) Aficionados flocked to their quirky tasting room—a mobile home decorated like an estate in the English countryside.




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