Is Engineered Alcohol Authentic?
Aged spirits command high prices due to quality, obviously taste, and partly lengthy production times, but new technology may disrupt this entire market segment. A company called Lost Spirits Laboratory developed a machine capable of accelerating the alcohol aging process. Instead of waiting 8 to 20 years for a finished product — this technology can age booze similarly in a week. Some companies and consumers feel this scientifically aged liquor is inauthentic and can’t take the place of barrel-aged options, but others look forward to lower-priced bottles with comparable taste.
How Is the Frankenstein Alcohol Aged?
Rational Distillery, based out of South Carolina, is the first company incorporating this technology into its rum production process. The owner, Alex Burns, read about the rapid-aging technology created by Bryan Davis and centered his entire business model around this concept. CBS News reports Davis invented a way to simulate the chemical reactions created in a wood barrel. High-intensity light in a reactor quickly breaks down the wood polymers to incorporate the aged flavor in the rum. The news reporter jokingly referred to the liquor as “Frankenstein Booze.”
Rational Distillery’s first product, Santeria Rum, made a strong showing at the Miami Rum Renaissance Festival. It received a gold medal at the RumXP International Tasting Panel, beating out naturally aged premium rums for the top spot. The company also plans to move into the rye whiskey market.
Removal of the Human Element
The reactor isn’t the only high-tech part of Rational Distillery’s operation. A robot named Tessa handles most of the production process, which removes the human element of alcohol aging entirely. The expertise and craftsmanship associated with traditional barrel aging get lost with this innovative method. This automation makes it easier for Rational Distillery to scale production, but may leave some purists dissatisfied.
Potential Market Disruption
The premium aged spirits market may face price disruption if these products become widespread, especially in the rye whiskey segment. The streamlined process requires fewer resources and substantially less time to make it to store shelves, which lowers the overall cost of these products.
Technology provides many improvements in the alcohol industry, but some innovations may require rapid adjustment. Whether you look forward to faster aging, or you think it removes the charm and character from these traditional spirits, keep an eye on the future impact of “Frankenstein booze.”