Well, it’s not every day that you get to try a whiskey that represents an entirely new category of spirits. Lost Lantern may very well be the first company to blend (or “vat”) together American single malt whiskies, making one of the first American Vatted Malt Whiskeys.
These days there are certainly many American single malts around to choose from. I remember back when I reviewed Cut Spike that I wasn’t even sure what to call the category. Now, with heavy-hitters like Balcones, Westward, and especially Westland on the scene, it’s hard to imagine a diverse whisky cabinet without at least one American single malt in it. To date, one of my favorite whiskies of all time is an American single malt.
So Lost Lantern, a self-styled independent bottler out of Vermont, got its start by bottling single barrels of American whiskey under its independent bottling label. This is a very familiar story to anyone who drinks single malt scotch. The company then released their first vatted malt (Edition 1) in 2020. It’s a vatting of 6 American single malts (2 barrels of each), and the website boasts the absolute best information I’ve ever seen from any blended product, ever. Like, seriously, if you’re at all curious what went into this blend, click that link and it will explain it much better than I could. The short version is that the whisky is a blend of American single malts from Balcones, Copperworks, Santa Fe, Triple Eight, Virginia Distillery Co., and Westward. These malts were aged in predominantly ex-bourbon casks and new oak casks, but also with a smattering of sherry, apple brandy, and other wine casks. The youngest component at 30 months makes this, officially speaking, a 2 year-old whisky. If you average the ages of all of the casks it comes out to around 3.3 years, for what that’s worth. The vatting was bottled at 52.5% ABV without chill filtration or added color.
Official retail price for Edition 1 is a whopping $120. I’ve seen it regularly for $110, and I got one bottle at that price.
Nose: Assertive. Solid sweet notes of butterscotch, honeycomb, graham cracker, vanilla buttercream, and mild oak. There is a significant nose tickle. Deeper in, I find ripe banana, sweetened coconut, and breakfast cereal. There’s a lot going on – in no particular order: dry cocoa, roasted plantain, gingersnap cookie, freshly grated nutmeg, and caramel. Whew. Oddly, very few fruit notes.
Palate: Medium bodied, not quite syrupy. After a very hot tongue burn (ouch), a lot of the “bakery sweets” flavors emerge, along with black licorice, Jordan almonds, peppermint oil, and mildly bitter oak. Complex, but doesn’t diverge much from the aroma notes.
Finish: Medium length. The sweet train continues, now with malty marshmallows, milk chocolate, and a tannic mouth-drying vanilla extract. Fades slowly, without much evolution. There might be an echo of peppermint.
With Water: Several drops of water release some interesting notes that I’m having trouble placing. Maybe nougat, saltwater taffy, and cardamom? Try without water first, and then add some to see how it changes for you.
Overall: As you might expect of something vatted from six disparate components, there’s a lot going on in the glass. To its credit, Lost Lantern is able to corral those six profiles and maintain a fairly consistent note of “sweet cereal” throughout. One imagines something like this could dissolve into chaos. I definitely wish that there had been a better balance between “sweet cereal” and fruit or some other high note… as-is, this comes across like a choral ensemble without any sopranos or altos.
So about the price. I grant that we, as consumers, are expected to pay a premium for the effort involved in sourcing and blending something like this. Compass Box, for example, charges very similar prices for arguably similar work. However. The final product tastes, to me, like an average of six $40 to $60 bottles rather than something greater than the sum of its parts. Heavy malt, heavily toasted, aged in a heavy proportion of heavily charred new oak barrels. I can get something very equivalent from Cut Spike or Westward or Balcones without paying north of $110. I can get something significantly better from Westland and still pay less.
If you see it on sale (or if the company decides to lower its asking price) and you already have a taste for the category of American Single Malt, then you will probably be satisfied. I can’t imagine anyone being happy paying $110 for this. Thus, a very price-dependent rating. Not Recommended at $110, but would be Recommended at – oh, pick a number – $65.