Culture, Happenings

This L.A. Distillery Tour is a Booze-Infused Adventure that Combines Mystery, Weirdness, and Storytelling

February 26, 2020 by Iona Brannon
Photo by Iona Brannon

On the corner of 5th Street and Colyton in the Arts District, a group of mad scientists offer weekend tours of a fine spirits distillery where weirdness and storytelling abound.

The first thing you need to know is that Lost Spirits Distillery doesn’t take itself too seriously. They’ve stood out from the day they discovered a way to accelerate the distillation process of spirits. Instead of mourning the differences, the scientists at LSD celebrate them. This is reflected in every detail of the quirky tour, from the waiting room bathroom to the labyrinth inside. A cross between an art exhibit and a science lab, the tour attracts a diverse crowd.

Once guests check in and sign the lengthy release and liability agreement (which includes clauses that cover claustrophobia, strobe lighting, motion sickness, and boating accidents), they’re summoned to begin their spirits tasting. 

Each tour accommodates up to 14 people and spans two hours in multiple locations both indoor and outdoor. Presented scenes lean heavy into the Victorian Era and The Island of Doctor Moreau, a science fiction novel by H. G. Wells. Think jungles, science experiments, and a bit of eerie mystery. 

Photo by Iona Brannon

The tasting rooms, which they refer to as “worlds to play in,” were built by the team members after a fire burned down their last location in 2019. Tour participants get to hear the details of the “great fire” and how it impacted the business. In each space, a different storyteller, or “spirit guide,” takes the tour group on a journey and explains the science and history behind the distillation process. 

Part of the appeal of the LSD tour is the commitment to storytelling. Guests watch rum bubble and age in dark barrels as lab technicians explain the chemical process that breaks down compounds to recognizable flavors. While the topic is technical, the guides do a great job entertaining while translating everything into “regular english.” 

Tour-goers hear about how groundbreaking LSD’s rapid distillation process is–they’re able to produce whisky that has the flavor complex of 15-20 year-old whisky in just six days. Their innovation, a “time machine,” originally branded Lost Spirits as an outsider in the whisky game, but awards such as the Jim Murray Whisky Bible’s “Liquid Gold” and the International Rum Renaissance Festival’s gold medal have helped establish LSD’s credibility in the industry. 

CEO Bryan Davis’s background in amusement park design shines through in the tour. In fact, one could say that visitors go on multiple rides as they explore the distillery. You didn’t think the liability form was just a formality did you?

Photo by Iona Brannon

Part of the magic of the Lost Spirits Distillery tour is the mystery, so I’ll shy shy away from giving away too many details. As is true for most things, the best way to experience it is in person. If you’re looking for a booze-infused adventure with a twist, this is it. The tour includes four 1oz tastings of whiskey, rum and bourbon. It only runs on the weekend, and tickets are $46 per person.

For those looking for a food and drink experience, LSD has also recently opened a reservation-only restaurant called Fish or Flesh. For $190, guests experience a creative multi-course meal paired with fine wines and spirits in addition to the regular distillery tour. 

Know before you go:

  • Bring comfortable shoes
  • Tours only operate on the weekend
  • You can add mystery to the journey by going at night
  • Wear a jacket on chilly days as part of the tour is outside
  • The gift shop is near the end of the tour, and every bottle you purchase includes a golden ticket back to the tour.

Lost Spirits Distillery is located at 1200 E 5th St, Los Angeles, CA. You can get more information and book a tour at their official website.

Culture, Happenings

An Experimental Adaptation of Shelley’s ‘Frankenstein’ is Playing at The Wallis

February 19, 2020 by Iona Brannon
Photo via The Wallis Annenberg Center of Performing Arts

Frankenstein, the classic novel by Mary Shelley, gets a modern facelift in the latest show commissioned by The Wallis Annenberg Center of Performing Arts in Beverly Hills. The story follows an ambitious scientist, Frankenstein, who discovers a secret method to create life. He dissects and puts together bodies, building a hideous human-like creature. He and his creature both suffer the consequences of Frankenstein’s unbridled desire for glory and recognition, raising questions regarding moral responsibility and ethical science. 

Four Larks, an L.A.-based theater company, created this Frankenstein piece as their Wallis debut. The adaptation draws heavily on Shelley’s work, preserving much of her original wording in the libretto. It also brings in context from Shelley’s life and works referenced in her book, such as John Milton’s Paradise Lost. 

Co-founder Mat Sweeney created, staged, and composed the entire performance. His fellow co-founder Sebastian Peters-Lazaro designed and choreographed it. The libretto was written with Jesse Rasmussen.

Four Larks, created in 2008, is often described as experimental and genre-fusing. The company is known for its contemporary approach to theater as well as its inventive orchestration and emphasis on physical theater. 

The play utilizes a small cast of 12 who are actors, musicians, and stagehands in one. Frankenstein builds on aspects of theater, dance, music, and visual arts to create a comprehensive experience. Four Larks’ “junkyard opera” approach incorporates discarded objects into the set design. The cast uses musical instruments as props and props as musical instruments throughout the show. 

Creators Sweeney, Peters-Lazaro, and Rasmussen adapted the play specifically for the Lovelace Theater in The Wallis. The Lovelace was once a mail-sorting room for the Beverly Hills Post office. Now the converted theater sits an intimate crowd of 250. 

While there are specific themes classic to the Frankenstein story, Max Louis Baumgarten, who portrays The Creature, hopes that the audience all take something different away from the performance. 

“There is so much in the story and the production, and a lot in it that interested me that is eerily relevant today, like the issues of technology and the speed with which we’re progressing,” says Baumgarten. “You can take it in a lot of different directions but with our ability right now on the verge of artificial intelligence, bioengineering of people and maybe a different race of human beings, which is hugely problematic theoretically and socially. We are rushing ever closer to this haunting reality..”

There is a warning that the performance includes theatrical haze, flashing lights, strobe light effects, and partial nudity. It runs for 1 hour and 15 minutes in total, with no pause for intermission. Frankenstein today through March 1 on Tuesdays through Sundays, with multiple showings on some days. Opening night is Feb. 19, and tickets can be purchased on The Wallis website for $60.

The Wallis is located at 9390 N Santa Monica Blvd, Beverly Hills, CA. Underground parking available for an $8 flat parking fee, and there is often street parking available nearby as well. Theatergoers can also purchase drinks at Barlingual, the theater bar, to enjoy during the show.