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If you are a Scotch whisky aficionado, you have bought unique malts from independent bottlers. The idea is that an outside company finds a single interesting barrel at a distillery and bottles it under its own name.
In the American whiskey renaissance, new brands do something like this: they buy small lots from the giant MGP distillery in Indiana. But they don’t tout the distillery on the front label; in fact they try to hide the origin on the bottle. A true American independent bottler in the Scottish style didn’t really exist until recently.
Now, you can buy curated single-cask bottlings from distilleries in Ohio, California, Iowa and Colorado – and all thanks to the right cocktail order on a first date between two whiskey lovers seven years ago in Brooklyn.
The independent bottler is called Lost Lantern, and released its third batch of single casks recently. These whiskeys are so hard to get that you might not even be able to find them (yet) on Wine-Searcher. Each is labeled like a similar bottling might be in Scotland: with the name of the distillery prominent on the front label.
Lost Lantern is something new on the US whiskey scene, and it’s also of its time. In the year 2000 there were only 24 distilleries in the US; by 2011 that number was up to 234. But today, there are more than 2200. Now there should be enough hidden casks to bottle on their own.
The founders, and sole employees, of Lost Lantern are Adam Polonski, who was a senior whiskey specialist at Whiskey Advocate, and Nora Ganley-Roper, who was a sales manager at Astor Wine & Spirits in New York. Both are 35 years old. They met in November 2014; they matched on an online dating service, so they went to a cocktail bar in Brooklyn, Tooker Alley.
“I have a knack for picking the best cocktails on the menu,” Ganley-Roper said. “His cocktails were better than mine. That was impressive.”
Polonski said: “That’s how I got a second date.” (Unfortunately, despite its significance, neither of them remembers the ingredients of the auspicious cocktail.)
Wine geeks in New York are as commonplace as pizza slices, but whiskey geeks are more unusual. Ganley-Roper is effusive and outgoing, while Polonski is more reserved, but he says, “on the first few dates, we could talk about whiskey”.
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