Editor’s Note: These whiskeys were provided to us as review samples by Lost Lantern. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review.
Independent bottler Lost Lantern has challenged themselves with finding some of the best and most unique whiskeys from distillers around the country. This spring will see the release of the Lost Lantern’s Spring 2022 Single Cask Collection, a series of four whiskies from Smooth Ambler, Westward, Frey Ranch Distillery, and Spirit Works.
The co-founders of Lost Lantern, Nora Ganley-Roper and Adam Polonski, have made it their mission to curate some of their favorite whiskeys from a vast array of distilleries, utilizing tastings and distillery visits to secure the perfect selection for their collection. Of this collection, Ganley-Roper and Polonski have expressed these whiskies embrace both tradition and innovation. In a prepared statement, the pair observes, “This group of distilleries is continually pushing the boundaries of American whiskey and exploring new ways of making whiskey in many different forms.”
Smooth Ambler, located in West Virginia, has been pulled by Lost Lantern before for a previous selection. The Smooth Ambler Straight Bourbon Whiskey was aged in a 53-gallon barrel for five years. Oregon distillery Westward Whiskey has been in production for two decades, priding themselves in slow distilling, featuring classic techniques mixed with innovative craft “mingling,” what they call batch processing. Westward’s offering for the Lost Lantern collection is the Westward Single Malt Whiskey Finished in a Chardonnay Cask.
Located in Nevada, Frey Ranch Distillery is a fifth-generation family farm that provides the collection’s Frey Ranch Four Grain Straight Bourbon Whiskey. The whiskey in this expression is a 5-year made from grain that was grown exclusively at Frey Ranch. Lastly, Spirit Works Distillery hails from California, one of the few Cali whiskies I’ve tasted. This expression is unique in that this straight rye whiskey is finished in a sloe gin cask, marrying the two spirits successfully to create a compelling and delicious offering. All of the bottles in this collection were bottled at cask strength and are non-chill filtered.
Ultimately, Lost Lantern’s Spring 2022 Single Cask Collection offers a little bit for everyone and is the perfect selection for drinkers to discover whiskies they might otherwise never get the opportunity to try.
Tasting Notes: Cask #1 – Smooth Ambler Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Vital Stats: 123 proof. SRP $80. Aged in a 53-gallon barrel for 5 years. Mash bill of 71.5% yellow corn, 21.5% soft red winter wheat, and 7% malted barley. No color added.
Appearance: Orange sky
Nose: The nose is fairly mellow, with nectarine and toasted nuts, and a bitterness that comes through along with dry cereal notes.
Palate: A fiery, strong hit right off the bat. Oaky notes and almond peel along with dark stone fruit offer an interesting profile, though not my favorite of the bunch.
Tasting Notes: Cask #2 – Westward Whiskey Single Malt Finished in a Chardonnay Cask
Vital Stats: 121 proof. SRP $130. Aged 28 months in a new oak cask, finished for 20 months in an ex-Chardonnay Barrique from Dominio IV Wines. Mash bill of 100% two-row, proprietary blend of three barley varieties grown in the Pacific Northwest.
Appearance: A bold amber skewing to the lighter side.
Nose: Strong notes of orange and herbal tea. Floral elements capture the nose the more the whiskey is allowed to breathe.
Palate: This whiskey is a little harsh for my taste. Orange blossom and walnut stand out, with Oregon pear balancing the finish.
Tasting Notes: Cask #3 – Frey Ranch Distillery Four Grain Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Vital Stats: 124 proof. SRP $100. Aged 5 years and made entirely from grain grown at Frey Ranch. Mash bill of 67% corn, 12% two-row malted barley, 11% winter rye, 10% soft white winter wheat.
Appearance: Golden brown with flecks of yellow.
Nose: The nose gives perfumed floral notes at the first sniff. From there I got the aroma of apricot and candied ginger.
Palate: There is a complexity in this whiskey that the prior two lack. Caramel and champagne mango along with bittersweet notes of stone fruit come through strongly.
Tasting Notes: Cask #4 – Spirit Works Straight Rye Whiskey Finished in a Sloe Gin Cask
Vital Stats: 113 proof. SRP $100. Aged 3 years, finished for one year in a cask that held the distillery’s sloe gin. Mash bill of 70% organic rye, 10% malted rye, 20% specialty brewing malts.
Appearance: Dark orange marmalade.
Nose: Seeded berries soaked in squished juniper berry.
Palate: That sloe gin cask finish has definitely made its mark on this whiskey. There’s a bitterness that comes through on the tail of that juniper taste. A woody, oak finish along with grassy vanilla notes gives this whiskey an interesting flavor profile, though not interesting enough to make it great.
Final Thoughts: I do like that Lost Lantern has provided a diverse array of flavor profiles and unique perspectives. That said, I wasn’t really blown away by any one of these whiskies. I preferred Cask #3, Frey Ranch Distillery’s Straight Bourbon Whiskey, over the other three due to the more complex profile and distinct flavors. I found a lot of bitterness in this collection, and a lack of the smoothness that I prefer.
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Jerry Jenae Sampson
Jerry Sampson is a freelance writer, editor and screenwriter. Her creative work is ever improved by her love of whiskey and craft cocktails. She enjoys taking cool fall days to explore the great distilleries around Portland to get a closer look at the inner workings of her favorite spirits.