Tuesday, June 20, 2023

Lost Lantern Celebrates "Summer of Bourbon"


Lost Lantern's 2023 Summer of Bourbon Collection.

The 21st century has witnessed two dramatic changes in the distilled spirits landscape. First is the revival of American straight whiskey, especially bourbon and rye. Second is the explosion of craft distilling.

Because of both trends bourbon, until recently produced almost exclusively in Kentucky, is now made across the United States, "from Nevada's arid deserts to Texas' sprawling plains, from the snowbelt of Ohio, to the rugged mountains of Colorado," according to the folks at Lost Lantern, the independent bottler of American Whiskey founded by Nora Ganley-Roper and Adam Polonski, who have declared this "The Summer of Bourbon."

"We have never devoted such a large release entirely to one single style of whiskey," commented Polonski. "We want to showcase the incredible quality and ingenuity coming from all over the country."

Lost Lantern’s Summer of Bourbon collection features eight bourbons across three product lines: the Blend Series (blends of whiskeys from multiple distilleries), the Single Distillery Series (blends of multiple casks from a single distillery that showcase a unique side of that distillery), and the Single Cask Series (whiskeys from a single barrel from a single distillery).

The blend is called Far-Flung Bourbon (582 Bottles | 136.8 Proof) SRP: $110

The single distillery bourbon is Soaring Spice Frey Ranch Distillery Nevada Straight Bourbon Whiskey (900 Btls | 127.6 Proof) SRP: $100

The bourbons from the single cask series are: 

Frey Ranch Distillery Nevada Straight Bourbon Single Cask (217 Btls | 137.2 Proof) SRP: $110

Boulder Spirits Colorado Straight Bourbon Single Cask (151 Btls | 142.6 Proof) SRP: $120

Ironroot Republic Texas Straight Bourbon Single Cask (167 Btls | 137.3 Proof) SRP: $120

Still Austin Texas Straight Bourbon Single Cask (167 Btls | 103.8 Proof) SRP: $80

Tom's Foolery Ohio Straight Bourbon Single Cask (171 Btls | 113.8 Proof) SRP: $120

New Riff Kentucky Straight Bourbon Single Cask (214 Btls | 114.2 Proof) SRP: $90

The Summer of Bourbon releases are non-chill-filtered, bottled at natural cask strength, and transparently labeled with the source distillery or distilleries on the label.

On the subject of dramatic changes in the American distilled spirits landscape, the recent emergence of independent blender-bottlers such as Lost Lantern is another one. You pay for curation, of course, but with nearly 3,000 distilleries operating in the USA right now, it's hard to know what to try. A curator can help. They research and taste a lot of stuff so you don't have to.

“The Summer of Bourbon shows that great bourbon can take many different forms,” says Ganley-Roper. “It can be made in many different ways in climates and aging conditions that are utterly different from each other, having a huge impact on flavor. This incredible diversity of styles and flavors is part of what makes the bourbon world so exciting.” 

Thursday, June 15, 2023

In the United States, We Take Our Whiskey Personally

"A conversation with Mr. Van Winkle."

The question was one of those clickbait things on social media. "To whom do you turn when the going gets rough?" More than one person answered, "Jack Daniel's."

Americans like that about our whiskey. In Scotland and Ireland, whiskies are named after places, with a few notable exceptions. (Yes, Mr. Walker. We see you.) In the U.S., the most popular whiskeys are mostly named after people.

We have Jack and Jim, of course, Elijah, Ezra, Evan, Elmer, Issac, Jimmy, Parker, George, Abraham, Augustus, Cyrus, and Pappy. I'm sure I missed a couple. Back in 1989, George Jones sang, "Last night, I broke the seal on a Jim Beam decanter that looks like Elvis. I soaked the label off a Flintstone Jelly Bean jar." I worked on the Jim Beam account at the time. Beam never made an Elvis decanter (that was McCormick), but the folks at Beam sure did love that song.

When the bourbon category was dying, it seemed like any brand with "Old" in its name was declining fastest, even though most of those were people's names too, e.g., Crow, Taylor, Fitzgerald, Weller, Pepper. If you had a round bottle with "Old" in the name, you were screwed. Square bottle with a full name on it, you were okay. I worked on Early Times. They couldn't change the name but did switch to a square bottle.

When sales are crashing, you try anything.

My dad, who enjoyed Van Winkle Rye, would say he looked forward to "a conversation with Mr. Van Winkle" after an especially taxing day.

Back then, it wasn't hard to get Van Winkle Rye, but it was one of the most expensive American whiskeys on the market. Dad and I would talk about whiskey from time to time and he said he remembered rye from his youth (the 1940s) tasting like rye bread, so I got in the habit of bringing him different ryes to try, to see if we could find one that scratched that itch for him.

I went through almost everything before I got to the Van Winkle, not so much because of the cost as because I thought it very bourbon-like, which was what I liked about it, but it certainly did not taste like a traditional rye. This was about 15 years ago, when there weren't as many ryes as there are now. After he'd had the Van Winkle a few times, he commented, "It doesn't taste like rye bread, but I sure do like it." 

That ended our quest for a rye-bread rye but I kept him supplied with Van Winkle Rye thereafter. When he died, there was about a third-of-a-bottle in his cabinet. I finished it for him.