Lucidi's Mixologist Knows Her Shit
I fucked up and did not call Lucidi Distilling Co. before I arrived. First, I got to experience breathtaking traffic from Tempe to Peoria, where Lucidi is based. Everyone knows about LA traffic, but this is the Friday kickoff of the Final Four tournament in Phoenix. So all I can do is watch as my goal of making the 3pm tour creeps over to 5pm.
Despite a couple wrong turns along the way, I get there right at 5. It's a renovated fire station with it's front doors rolled up in welcome. Very cute.
I'm greeted by Megan behind the bar and Nick to my side. There's a group at the far end who give me a boisterous greeting. They have been drinking since the 3pm tour ended over an hour ago - explains it all.
Megan is super nice, and explains that because I did not call ahead, she did not get someone to cover the bar and she cannot therefore give me a tour. Damn it! Her demeanor is disarming, however, and before I realize what's happening, she has already set up a tasting flight. I will see exactly how this girl has the place under control.
She sneaks away to run drinks to a few couples scattered around tables, giving me a chance to talk to Nick. He used to work at Lucidi's while being in the Army Reserves. Ten years sent him on nine different tours. He was there on this day to celebrate his official discharge. I toast him to hanging on to his arms and legs.
Megan's back and expertly walks me through Lucidi's four spirits: Canadian Rye, Gin, Vodka and Spiced Rum. She calls the vodka -"Forcible Entry," they really go all in with the firefighting theme- US style. I'm not sure what that means, but it's sweetness is distinctly melon-y. Watermelon, if I have to choose.
The rum, she tells me, is distilled from a "Virgin Island blackstrap molasses." Naturally, I ask what "blackstrap" means. She says it's basically as dark as molasses can go before it turns to tar. Fair enough. The rum has a distinctive sweet smell and tastes smooth, not overly sweet. No darkness here.
The Rye Whiskey - "Fire Station No. 1"- is made in Canada and bottled at Lucidi. Megan explains that since it's aged three-years and Lucidi has only been open a year, it was necessary to import. It's made from a mash that's at least 60% rye. As Megan lists its notes -caramel, vanilla, hint of maple- it dawns on me: it tastes like a cream soda!
And then the "Dispatch" gin. It's thankfully citrus forward. I get mostly blueberry and lime notes. It's twelve-times distilled, just like the vodka. It's very enjoyable to drink.
It's a welcomed surprise, once some of the tables empty out, when Megan says she can take me back to see the distillery. Understand, the entire front bar is meticulously decorated. Donated firefighting gear hangs on the wall, lit like an art gallery. The ceiling is all reclaimed wood from a barn in Kansas and the lighting is a constellation of bulbs hanging down in mason jars. You get the idea.
The distillery equipment is equally as beautiful: giant tanks and columns of polished copper. It sits silent on my visit. Megan tells me one batch will last six months. With the giant windows looking on from the bar, at least it provides something to look at.
A side note on Megan: she is a genius. Ok, it's more like she is clearly passionate about the history of alcohol and its role in different societies. I try to keep up on various tangents: the agave brew Mayans made and reserved for only their own elite, or throwing shade on the supposed origins of bourbon (Elijah Craig transporting whiskey in barrels down a river, from Bourbon County, Kentucky). Not to diminish what she does for Lucidi, because it is clearly valuable. Suffice it to say, when you chat with Megan, her ambitions and talents are clear, and point to the wider world beyond Lucidi's retracting doors. For however long she's there inventing new cocktails, Megan is as much of a reason as the drinks to stop by Lucidi in Peoria, AZ.