Inspired by the tradition of Scotland’s independent bottlers, Lost Lantern seeks unique whiskies made around the U.S., and releases them as single cask offerings and blends. Their commitment to transparency has increased the visibility and reach of numerous makers, and brought a wide-ranging bounty to whiskey lovers who might otherwise have missed out.
Lost Lantern was founded in 2018 by Nora Ganley-Roper, a former sales manager at New York retailer Astor Wine & Spirits, and Adam Polonski, formerly senior whisky specialist and editor at Whisky Advocate. The married duo’s venture was born from a desire to highlight great distilleries around the country that are crafting exciting whiskey. Nora manages the operations and oversees production, while Adam heads up sales, marketing, and sourcing.
“There are approximately 2,000 distilleries in the United States, yet there’s no easy way for whiskey lovers to discover the best and most exciting ones,” Adam says. “I kept dwelling on this idea and realized that somebody was going to do this sooner or later. It was clear that, between my experience and contacts and Nora’s palate and background in startups and operations, we were the ones who should do it.”
Nora and Adam have committed to only purchasing whiskey from distilleries they have visited in person—100 to date. “We’re presenting distilleries to our customers under the Lost Lantern name as exemplars in their field, so we need to understand what they’re doing and why,” says Nora. Many visits were part of their 2018 “Great Whiskey Road Trip,” an eight-month journey that took them to 50 distilleries across dozens of states. They visited another 25 while touring the Midwest in 2019.
Lost Lantern shines a light on whiskies that might otherwise be lost in the shuffle, such as those from distilleries that do not distribute nationally, or offerings from well-known distilleries that are not consistent with their core lineup. “This might include a finished whiskey, or an experiment that they’re not quite sure how to release,” said Nora. “We’re looking for whiskies that we can bottle or blend that will expand the understanding of the landscape of American whiskey by whiskey connoisseurs.”
The initial portfolio of Lost Lantern includes the brand’s first original bottling, American Vatted Malt Edition No.1, a blend of single malts from six American distilleries: Balcones (Waco, TX); Copperworks (Seattle, WA); Santa Fe Spirits (Santa Fe, NM); Triple Eight (Nantucket, MA); Westward (Portland, OR); and Virginia Distillery Co. (Lovingston, VA). Limited to 3,000 bottles, the $120, 12-barrel blend of American single malts has been aged for two years.
“American Vatted Malt is indicative of why American craft whiskey is so exciting,” Adam notes. “We brought together six of the very best single malt producers in the U.S. and we worked together to create something entirely new and unique. It’s a great symbol of what we want Lost Lantern to contribute to the industry and provide for whiskey lovers. It’s unique, collaborative, and above all, deeply delicious.”