Spirit Of The Week: Lost Lantern Far Flung Rye Whiskey

The finest bottle from Lost Lantern’s Spring 2024 Collection blends a pool of ryes from across the Midwest.

(Lost Lantern)

Lost Lantern boasts a fairly unique origin story, as the label was founded when two whiskey lovers from different aisles of the industry wanted to bring much needed attention to smaller American craft distilleries—especially those that may not be receiving the shine they deserve. 

Adam Polonski was a staff writer at Whisky Advocate, while Nora Ganley-Roper ran the sales floor at New York City spirits landmark Astor Wines. When the duo were finally ready to launch their Lost Lantern endeavor, they pooled together on a Prius V (affectionately dubbed “Priuscilla”), quit their jobs and began crisscrossing the United States to discover the best distilleries in the land. 

Activate the mythical “Great Whiskey Road Trip” so many dream about, yet very few do.  

“In both of our roles we saw that there was an increasing amount of unique and interesting whiskey being made by newer distilleries across the U.S., but these distilleries mostly didn’t have the reach or brand recognition to get widespread attention,” explains Polonski, who credits his partner’s finance and startup experience as critical for helping the duo build Lost Lantern from a bourbon-induced fantasy into an actual business case. 

“In addition some whiskey drinkers were skeptical of so-called ‘craft whiskey’ after early experiences, not realizing that the industry was changing and maturing very rapidly.”

Their method struck gold for Lost Lantern, unearthing amazing barrels along the way—some even better than the labels put out themselves. 

“One or both of us visit every single distillery that we buy whiskey from, a rule that arose out of our road trip,” Ganley-Roper tells us of their at-times years-long process. “These visits allow us to understand the people behind the whiskey, any unique aspects of their whiskey making process, and a bit more about the climate specific to the distillery. 

“We also taste the whiskey while we’re there, of course, to assess whether or not the distillery might be a fit for what we do.” 

(Lost Lantern)

If and when the decision is made to engage with a distillery on a Lost Lantern project, samples are then shipped to their production facility in Vergennes, Vermont where they’re sampled up to a dozen times. 

“We’re looking for whiskey that has a perspective—this can mean a sense of place or something unique about what the distillery team is doing in the process,” Ganley-Roper continues. “And, most importantly, that we’re finding it consistently delicious. Only after all of these tastings do we go through the process of buying the cask(s) that we’ve selected.”

After barrels arrive onsite the duo make the final decision if they will release the juice as a standalone single cask, or if it will be used as an ingredient in a larger whiskey release from their “blending pool.”

For their debut collection of 2024, Ganley-Roper and Polonski employed both of the above categories: six of the former and one of the latter. For the first time ever Lost Lantern also decided to focus entirely on a region of spirits, their Spring Collection 2024 strictly highlighting Midwestern whiskey-makers excelling in their craft. 

For the six single-distillery bottles, Lost Lantern tapped Indiana’s Starlight Distillery, Iowa’s Cedar Ridge, Ohio’s Tom’s Foolery and Middle West Spirits, Wisconsin’s Wollersheim Distillery and arguably the most acclaimed of the bunch, Illinois’ FEW Spirits.

However it is the seventh in the Spring Collection 2024, Far Flung Rye, that is our Spirit of the Week. This Goldilocks solution cherry-picks many of the above single-distillery’s best ryes, all aged between four to nine years, and blends them to perfection, creating a beautiful rye that we believe is better than the sum of its parts. The multi-distillery up-level rye consists of whiskeys from Cedar Ridge, Middle West, Starlight, Tom’s Foolery and Wollersheim.

“The flagship release of our Midwest Collection, Far-Flung Rye encapsulates why we at Lost Lantern are so very excited about Midwest whiskey—it showcases the depth and breadth of flavor that rye whiskey can have,” Ganley-Roper explains, noting how Midwest whiskey boasts a “structure that is both powerful and delicate at the same time, a profile that is a bit more cereal forward, and a finish that is incredibly creamy.” 

Lost Lantern credits the region’s cooler climates for its nuanced complexity, the lower temps allowing for a slower aging that builds a “delicacy” that’s harder to achieve in the hotter, more accelerated climates of Texas and the south—especially when barreling in virgin oak.

“This release has all of those things,” Ganley-Roper reveals. “Far-Flung rye has bright rye spice and fresh-cut grass on the nose. The palate is spicy, with rich oak and hints of dark chocolate and warm bread.”

The Midwest collection will be available for purchase at the new Lost Lantern Tasting Room in Vermont, and online at LostLanternWhiskey.com and Seelbachs.com beginning March 27th. Only 486 bottles of the 121.6-proof Far-Flung Rye will be available, so scoop it if you can for $100.

Follow Deputy Editor Nicolas Stecher on Instagram at @nickstecher and @boozeoftheday.