I guess in the light of the last couple of weeks, we’ve either timed this months offering impeccably, or atrociously. This month, an American! And lets get this out of the way right away – yes, this is single malt. Not Rye, not Tennessee, and not Bourbon. Malted barley, yeast and water. Single Malt. So Giddyup lil Dawgie and YEEHAA! let’s try an American single malt whiskey. The Westland American Oak Single Malt Whisky.
Westland Single Malt Whiskey is made in the state of Washington, near Seattle. It is a very young distillery, almost unbelievably so in fact – having only been in production since 2011. But, as we’ve heard so much this week, under-estimating an American under-dog is bound to lead to red faces. The awards started coming with their initial release, and have continued since. Scott Fell (Distillery Manager) said last year, “We want American single malt whiskey to be its own unique category with its own history. We’re not looking to replace a Scottish single malt on your shelf, we’re looking to create a new space.”
Even Jim Murray sounds blown away by Westland – our featured whisky this month was awarded 95 points by Jim in his 2015 Whisky Bible. According to him, it was “……just so salivating you don’t know whether to swallow or kiss it.”. That’s pretty big stuff for such a young distilling company – and that praise (and much more like it) has certainly made this a very much sought after ‘underground’ whisky lately. Accordingly, it’s been hard to source in any quantity so we’re very happy to have been able to get enough to supply the club for November.
Make no mistake – even though it’s single malt – being American, it is done a little differently. Firstly, this is made with 5 different types of malt. Washington Select Pale Malt (70% locally grown), Munich Malt, Extra Special Malt, Pale Chocolate Malt, Brown Malt. These last two tend to feature in Porters and Stouts. Secondly, Westland use a brewing yeast in their fermentation stage rather than a distilling yeast (check out Andy’s video for a more detailed explanation). Thirdly, the majority of the aging is in first fill heavy char American Oak (that’s right – completely virgin casks), with a small percentage in refill bourbon barrels for 24 months. Yes – only 24 months – à la the other American styles of whisky.
All this adds up to a whiskey that is a single malt, but is vastly different to the styles made in Scotland, or emulated in Japan and Australia. This is unique in the world of whiskey. The unique use of brewers barleys gives the spirit a deep bronze colour. No doubt from the chocolate and brown malts.
The nose is quite subdued for such a young whiskey, with some 70% Cocoa Lindt Chocolate, and vanilla and smoke.
The palate really impresses with a strong initial punch of rich maltiness, but it is quickly followed by molasses and treacle then a rich raspberry flavour. This dissipates to leave a charry smokiness, like bushfire on the palate.
This really is a completely different whiskey and absolutely worth trying. Very drinkable. Too drinkable.