There are all kinds of paths into the whiskey world, and one path is starting from the front lines of selling wine and spirits. Knowing about consumer trends, like American Single Malt whiskeys, is an important part of building any brand, and that’s exactly how Nora Ganley-Roper began her journey to becoming a co-Founder of Lost Lantern Whiskey.
BW: What was your time at Astor Wines like?
NGR: It was a true crash course in all things wine and spirits! Before my time at Astor, I was mostly a wine person, and while I spent a lot of time learning about (and selling!) really interesting wines, most of my time was spent falling in love with spirits. Astor understands that the best salespeople have a deep understanding and appreciation for what they are selling.
So, we spent a portion of every week speaking with producers of the different wines and spirits that the store stocks. This is when I started truly understanding appreciating the nuances of whiskey, and American craft whiskey in particular.
I also really loved the opportunity to talk to a wide array of people with an even more wide range of preferences. It is a unique challenge to fluidly move from a discussion of the best entry-level bourbons to what first-growth Bordeaux a customer should buy. But, it is one that I relished!
BW: What part of your experience as a Sales Manager and in startups made you feel like starting a whiskey brand?
NGR: When I left Astor, I knew that I wanted to start a company, or work for an early-stage company, in the wine and spirits industry but I was not quite sure what that company was going to be! So, I went and worked for startups for a few years. I figured this would allow me to learn how to build a business on someone else’s dime! And I was right. I also learned that I definitely wanted to start my own company and get the opportunity to build something from the ground up (rather than building someone else’s company).
While I was working at startups, my husband Adam, who was working at Whisky Advocate at the time, helped keep the door open to the wine and spirits industry. I’d tag along with him to every tasting I could! And, I’d get a chance to taste all of the cool new whiskeys emerging in the US.
When he came to me with the idea for Lost Lantern Whiskey, I knew pretty quickly that it was the perfect fit! I hadn’t necessarily planned on running a startup with my life partner, but between our skill sets and experience and the idea itself, it made perfect sense
BW: What is your favorite bottling of Lost Lantern Whiskey so far?
NGR: I’m going to cheat and give you two answers as two whiskies are tied for first place right now!
American Vatted Malt: I think our first blend is something really special. We made the whiskey collaboratively with all of the distillers and the blend in many ways is our love letter to American Single Malt. I love that my experience with it is different every time!
Our single cask of Ironroot Republic Corn Whiskey. This sold out in 20 minutes and for good reason! I feel like most people have preconceived notions about corn whiskey and this one totally shatters all of those. It’s big but delicate, sweet but floral. Truly a special cask.
BW: What advice do you have for women who want to work in the distilled spirits industry?
NGR: Be prepared for it to not always be easy. Your passion for what you’re doing needs to be able to carry you over the bumps in the road. And, find other women in the industry who can mentor you (or just be great friends!). It’s still a relatively small group of us but I’m always so impressed and pleased by how much everyone is excited to support and uplift each other. Tap into that as soon as you can!
BW: Tell me about your perfect whiskey weekend in Vermont.
NGR: It would start with a hike leading to a view of Lake Champlain and the Adirondacks beyond. Once we’ve worked up an appetite, we’d head back to our house for a late lunch of local cheese, charcuterie, freshly baked bread, and whiskey if we’re in the mood (either something from our Lost Lantern collection or from one of our present or hopefully future partner distilleries).
After that, head to Lake Champlain for a swim and sunbathing. On our way back home, pick up meat from a farm along the way and grill up a simple and delicious dinner. Finish out the night sipping whiskey on our back patio. Rinse and repeat!
Photos Courtesy of Lost Lantern Whiskey