Review: This Is the Best Smoky American Whiskey We’ve Ever Tasted

Lost Lantern’s new Single Distillery Series offers one particularly aggressive standout

April 28, 2023 7:06 am
The three new bottles from Lost Lantern's Single Distillery Series
The three new bottles from Lost Lantern's Single Distillery Series
Kirk Miller

What we’re drinking: Lost Lantern’s Single Distillery Series featuring Balcones and Whiskey Del Bac

Where it’s from: Lost Lantern is an independent bottler of American whiskey, based in Vermont. 

Why we’re drinking these: We’re already big fans of Lost Lantern, a brand co-founded by Nora Ganley-Roper and Adam Polonski, which offers up limited-edition and unique bottlings from some of the country’s finest craft whiskey distilleries. Their collaborative releases tend to be whiskeys that don’t quite fit the distilleries’ standard profile. 

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“The fun thing for us is working with distilleries that produce a lot of different kind of whiskey,” says Polonski. “Sometimes they make it just to make it and don’t know what they want to do with it. So we talk to them about finding ways to showcase their whiskey in a new way.”

Their new Single Distillery Series is slightly different from their Single Cask series, which features one-off casks. The Distillery Series instead utilizes several unique casks blended together. For the series debut, Lost Lantern collaborated with two American Single Malt purveyors that we quite like: Balcones Distilling in Waco, TX, and Whiskey Del Bac in Tucson, AZ.

The latter of which is a unique, mesquite-smoked whiskey that’s under two years of age. “It’s really bringing something new and American to the tradition of single malts,” says Ganley-Roper. “You get smoke but don’t get [flavors like] iodine or Band-Aid. Here, we’re trying to highlight the elegance of smoke with one release, and then amp up the smoke flavors in the other.”

Let’s test ‘em out.

A bottle of Lost Lantern Mega Mesquite, part of a new Single Distillery Series
Mega Mesquite, the smoky standout of Lost Lantern’s new Single Distillery Series
Lost Lantern

How they taste:

  • Lost Lantern “Gentle Giant” Balcones Distilling Texas Single Malt (Proof: 115.2): Balcones can make some intense whiskeys, but this release — made from 100% malted barley, with the whiskey aged in European oak casks, an ex-bourbon barrel and in ex-apple brandy casks — is fruity (mainly apple), approachable and not too overly oaky. 
  • Lost Lantern “Desert Dessert” Whiskey Del Bac Arizona Single Malt (Proof: 113.8): A portion of this mesquite-smoked whiskey was finished in casks that previously held Sauternes and Pineau des Charentes. It offers a barbecue sweetness and an elegance that reflects its nickname.
  • Lost Lantern “Mega Mesquite” Whiskey Del Bac Arizona Single Malt (Proof: 120) The emphasis here is on the smoke, as this is Whiskey Del Bac without its usual blend (which combines mesquite- and unsmoked single malt; this one foregoes the unsmoked portion). You’ll get some sweeter notes on the nose and a little fruit, but this is really about highlighting smoke, oak, savoriness and spice. If you like heavily peated Scotch but with a richer profile, this is your bottle.

Fun fact: The “Gentle Giant” release has already won the Best American Single Malt Aged Under 12 Years at the 2023 World Whiskies Awards and a Double Gold Medal at this year’s San Francisco World Spirits Competition. 

Where to buy: These bottles, which are very limited in numbers (from 180 for the Mega Mesquite to 1,100 for the Gentle Giant) are available for purchase online starting this week at Lost Lantern and Seilbachs, as well as in some California and New York stores — the first time Lost Lantern will be available at brick-and-mortar retailers.


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