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Review: Lost Lantern Pushes the Boundaries of American Whiskey

What we drink: The latest single cask collection from independent bottlers Lost Lantern, including collaborative releases with craft distillers Smooth Ambler (West Virginia), Westward Whiskey (Oregon), Frey Ranch (Nevada) and Spirit Works (California).

Where is that from : Founded by beverage vets Nora Ganley-Roper and Adam Polonski, and launching in fall 2020, Lost Lantern sources various casks and single malts from across the United States; these limited-edition whiskeys shine a lot on small craft distilleries, and the collaborative versions of Lost Lantern are unique from what the distillers produce themselves.

Why we drink this: The spring 2021 releases of Lost Lantern helped me find my favorite whiskey of the year – obviously I hope their whiskey magic strikes again. More recently, their flagship product American Vatted Malt was named America’s Best Blended Malt at the World Whiskeys Awards.

Plus, it’s Women’s History Month, and Ganley-Roper, who got her start in spirits retail at Astor Wines and Spirits in New York, wanted to showcase a few distilleries that had women like owners or chief distillers.

Nora Ganley-Roper and Adam Polonski, co-founders of Lost Lantern

Oliver Parini / Lost Lantern

“It was really important to me to release casks from Frey Ranch and Spirit Works this month,” she says. “It’s still so rare to see distilleries run by women, so I want to take every opportunity to shine a light on the women who make the whiskey I love.”

(Ganley-Roper also notes that the whiskey category, in particular, presents challenges for women. “I get asked regularly if ‘I even like whiskey’ and for some reason it doesn’t seem to happen as often. with other spirits.,” she says.)

We were also curious how this batch of whiskeys was chosen. “We try to choose whiskeys that have a profile that matches the season,” says Ganley-Roper. “So for spring, I’m looking for whiskeys that are a bit lighter and more nuanced than the big, robust whiskeys I drink in the winter.” She also credits the current batch to distillers who are “pushing the boundaries of American whiskey.”

How it tastes:

All Lost Lantern offerings are bottled at cask strength (so they are strong), are not chill-filtered and have a natural color.

  • 2022 Single Cask #1: Smooth Ambler West Virginia Straight Bourbon Whiskey — I have a lot of dark fruit here on the nose, with hints of clove and cherry coming through on the palate. Its texture is almost syrupy; a little water makes wonderful baking spices.
  • 2022 Single Cask #2: Westward Oregon Single Malt Whiskey finished in Chardonnay cask – It’s malty, fruity and creamy at the same time – even if the nose leans much more towards wine than whiskey.
  • 2022 Single Cask #3: Frey Ranch Distillery Nevada Four Grain Straight Bourbon Whiskey — The simplest version here will also excite bourbon fans the most. I get a lot of tobacco and brown sugar, and the rye really comes out (even though it’s only 11% of the mashbill). A bit drier on the finish, this is a wine that will grow on you and even change a little as you spend time sipping it.
  • 2022 Single Cask #4: Spirit Works California Straight Rye Whiskey finished in a Sloe Gin Cask — Exciting, as I’ve never had a whiskey with juniper on the nose, plus a bit of salinity and a few berries mixed in with the more traditional oak and vanilla notes. This certainly deserves more explanation… which we have below.

Fun fact: This cask of sloe gin was new to me and the Lost Lantern team. “It’s probably as close to a cask-strength bottled cocktail as Lost Lantern will ever get – it reminds us of a Boulevardier,” says Ganley-Roper. “And I love that it offers a fresh perspective on rye – when was the last time any of us could use strawberry or raspberry in a rye tasting note?”

Or buy: Only a few hundred bottles are available per version, ranging from $80 to $130. You can get them at Seelbach or Lost Lantern – and, if history is any indication, they’ll sell out fast.