Lot 40 Whisky is on a winning streak. The 100-percent rye spirit has been named Canadian Whisky of the Year two of the last four years and this year it was also named Connoisseur Whisky of the year. To find out just how the brand does it, the Daily Beast’s Drink + Food editor Noah Rothbaum recently took a tour of Lot 40’s historic distillery in Windsor, Ontario, which is just across the Detroit River from the Motor City. Who better to show him around than the brand’s master blender Dr. Don Livermore? Livermore certainly knows a thing or two about whisky, having earned both a MSc and a PhD in brewing and distilling from Heriot Watt University in Scotland.
Read on to find about how Lot 40 goes from grain to bottle in the gallery below.
While you can make whiskey from a range of grains, Lot 40 is made exclusively from unmalted rye, which gives the spirit a spicy kick and a long finish. The distillery gets it rye from farms in southern Ontario. The distillery has been dealing with some of the farmers for more than four generations. Each batch is carefully inspected and rigorously tested before it’s accepted.
Master blender Livermore, Lot 40 national ambassador Dave Mitton and Rothbaum walk through the distillery’s many fermenters. Through the magic of chemistry, the milled rye grain, hot water and yeast turn into what is called “distiller’s beer.” This unhopped beer will become the base of Lot 40.
The beer is then piped over to the distillery’s giant column still, which will turn it into spirit and refine its flavor. The spent grain will be filtered out, dried and used to feed cattle. After a distillation the alcohol will not only get more potent but also smoother and its flavors more concentrated.
What makes Lot 40 unique to most rye's is that after this column distillation, the alcohol goes into a specially designed copper pot still. The spirit’s inherent rye character is accentuated in the process.
Lot 40 is aged in barrels made of new oak, which, according to Livermore, brings out its spice note and adds a vanilla flavor. The brand’s warehouses are just a few miles away from the distillery. Thanks to their construction and Canadian weather, the temperature inside the huge buildings remain cool long into the spring. As a result, the whisky matures at a gentle pace.
By Canadian law, the whisky has to be aged for at least three years, however, Lot 40 contains whiskies that are much older, with the youngest starting around seven years. Blending is as much an art as it is a science.
While Lot 40 is great neat or on the rocks, it is also perfect in many cocktail recipes. (Its flavors are bold enough to stand out even when mixed with other ingredients.) Mitten likes to use the spirit in a classic Whisky Sour that combines Lot 40 with egg whites, lemon juice and a dash of ground nutmeg, a traditional garnish.
INGREDIENTS:2 oz Lot 40.75 oz Lemon juice.75 oz Simple syrup (one part sugar, one part water)1 Egg whiteGarnish: nutmegGlass: Coupe
DIRECTIONS: Add the egg white to a shaker and shake hard without ice. Add the rest of the ingredients and fill with ice. Shake again and then strain into a coupe. Garnish with grated nutmeg.