Some time ago, Matt and I were invited to do a virtual tasting with Nora Ganley-Roper and Adam Polonski, Founders of Lost Lantern Independent Spirits. They sent us sample bottles of six of their products and set up a Zoom meeting. What Nora and Adam have created is a company that purchases barrels from artisan distilleries across the nation and bottles them with that distillery’s name on the label. Their focus is to bring these distilleries to the public eye by showcasing really good barrels from those distilleries. It is a very good program and I hope that it is bringing success to these distilleries.

Matt and I set up in my office with the tasting sheets and the sample bottles in front of us. We made the connection and were pleased to virtually meet the founders of this company. They are both passionate about good whiskey. They explained their business plan to us and we commenced to taste their whiskeys.

The first tasting was a vatted malt whiskey. It is a marriage of malt whiskeys from Balcones, Copperworks, Santa Fe Spirits, Triple Eight, Virginia Distilling Co., and Westward Distillery. I have not been a fan of American malt whiskey since I was a judge at the ADI meeting at Huber’s about eight years ago. I tasted a lot of awful American malts that day and it scarred my impression of the category. This whiskey changed that for me. Both Matt and I rather liked this whiskey. We were off to a good start.

Next on the agenda was New York Distilling Co.’s Straight Rye whiskey at cask strength of 116 proof. It was a very good rye whiskey and Matt was particularly pleased, as he likes a good rye whiskey. It was still fairly young, but tasted like an older whiskey. I do believe New York Distilling Company has a lower barrel entry proof and I credit that for the well balanced flavor. 

The third product in line was also a product from the same distillery – a rye whiskey finished in an apple brandy cask. Again, it was at cask strength and I like the balance of the rye whiskey and the hint of apples from the brandy cask. These distillers were not trying to cover up sub-par whiskey with apple brandy flavor. The rye shone brightly in the mouth and the apple brandy was mostly in the finish. 

We moved to Iowa for the fourth whiskey. It was a Bourbon from Cedar Ridge Distillery. Bottled at cask strength of 120.6. Matt and I agreed that it needed more time in the barrel as it still had some rough edges, but it was a fundamentally sound whiskey. I hope to taste some of this Bourbon when it is aged a little longer because I think I will like it a lot with more age.

For the fifth whiskey we had another Bourbon. This was a cask strength bottling from Balcones Distillery in Texas. I have never been disappointed with any whiskey I have drank from Balcones and this one kept that streak alive. Matt and I both thought this was the best product of the evening. It was full of caramel and fruit flavors that I liked and it had some nice spice notes in the finish that Matt really likes.

The final product was chosen by Nora and Adam as a bit of a challenge to me. This was a malt whiskey from Santa Fe Spirits. I had said when we were setting up this tasting that I did not care for Mesquite smoked whiskey. This dates back twenty years ago or so when McKenndricks Mesquite Smoked Bourbon came out. It was so heavy in the mesquite smoke that you could not taste anything else. A little mesquite goes a long way. This malt was actually well balanced with only a slight taste of mesquite. Even so Matt and I both agreed that it was not to our liking. It was drinkable, but we would not ask for a pour at a bar. 

This was a very enjoyable tasting and I am glad Matt and I had a chance to do this with Nora and Adam. They are wonderfully knowledgeable whiskey people with great palates. I am glad that they are working to bring more recognition to these artisan distilleries. They are bottling very good whiskeys from these distilleries and I am sure that this will lead to further interest in these distilleries and their products.

Photos Courtesy of Rosemary Miller and Lost Lantern Independent Spirits