Review: Lost Lantern Is Pushing the Boundaries of American Whiskey
Chardonnay and sloe gin maturations are highlights of this indie bottler’s latest whiskey collaborations
What we’re drinking: 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 it’s from: Founded by drinks vets Nora Ganley-Roper and Adam Polonski, and launched in fall 2020, Lost Lantern sources different casks and single malts from around the U.S.; these limited-edition whiskeys shine a lot on smaller craft distilleries, and Lost Lantern’s collaborative releases are unique from what the distillers are putting out on their own.
Why we’re drinking this: Lost Lantern’s 2021 spring releases were instrumental in helping me discover my favorite whiskey of the year — obviously, I’m hoping their whiskey magic strikes again. More recently, their flagship American Vatted Malt was named the Best American Blended Malt at the World Whiskies Awards.
Plus, it’s Women’s History Month, and Ganley-Roper, who got her start in spirits retail at New York’s Astor Wines and Spirits, did want to showcase a few distilleries that had women as owners or head distillers.
“It was really important to me to put out casks this month from Frey Ranch and Spirit Works,” she says. “It’s still so rare to see female-led distilleries so I want to take every opportunity to spotlight the women who are making whiskey that I love.”
(Ganley-Roper also notes that the whiskey category, in particular, presents challenges for women. “I continue to regularly get asked if ‘I even like whiskey’ and for whatever reason, that doesn’t seem to happen as often with other spirits,” she says.)
We were also curious about how this batch of whiskies was chosen. “We try to pick whiskies that have a profile that matches the season,” says Ganley-Roper. “So for spring, I’m looking for whiskies that are a bit lighter and more nuanced than the big, robust whiskies I drink in the winter.” She also credits the current batch as hailing from distillers who “push the boundaries of American whiskey.”
How it tastes:
All of Lost Lantern’s offerings are bottled at cask strength (so they are strong), are non-chill-filtered and have natural color.
- 2022 Single Cask #1: Smooth Ambler West Virginia Straight Bourbon Whiskey — I get a lot of dark fruits here on the nose, with clove and cherry notes coming out on the palate. It’s almost syrupy in texture; a bit of water brings forth some wonderful baking spices.
- 2022 Single Cask #2: Westward Oregon Single Malt Whiskey Finished in Chardonnay Cask — This is malty, fruity and creamy all at once — even as the nose leans far more toward wine than whiskey.
- 2022 Single Cask #3: Frey Ranch Distillery Nevada Four Grain Straight Bourbon Whiskey — The most straight-forward release here is also going to 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 one that’ll grow on you and even change a bit the more you spend time sipping.
- 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 little salinity and some berries mixed in with the more traditional oak and vanilla notes. It certainly deserves more of an explanation…which we got below.
Fun fact: That sloe gin cask was a new one for me and for 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 this provides a new perspective on rye — when was the last time any of us could use strawberry or raspberry in a rye-tasting note?”
Where to buy: Only a few hundred bottles are available per release, ranging from $80-$130. You can get ‘em either at Seelbach’s or at Lost Lantern — and, if history is any indication, these will sell out quickly.
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