American Whiskey

Review: Mister Sam Tribute Whisky (Sazerac) by Jason Hambrey

Image courtesy of Sazerac.

Image courtesy of Sazerac.

ABV
66.9%
Aging
N/A
Recipe
A blend of Canadian and American whiskies
Producer Sazerac

Sazerac, the parent company of Buffalo Trace, has been developing a presence in Canada for some years now particularly with the Royal Canadian and Caribou Crossing brands. Diageo also recently sold a number of Canadian whisky brands, including Seagram’s VO, to Sazerac in 2018. The whiskies, thus far, have been from stock which has been sourced from other distilleries in Canada. However, that is set to change with the construction of the Old Montreal Distillery which started to distill whisky in 2018. Tours are set to begin at the distillery in 2019.

Now, Sazerac is releasing a whisky as a tribute to Sam Bronfman, one of the most ominous and greatest figures in the history of the liquor industry. Bronfman initially came to Canada shortly after his birth, the son of immigrant parents, from an area which is now part of the country of Moldova between Romania and Ukraine. He became involved in the family hotel business, which grew, relatively quickly, into a small empire in Saskatchewan with the income driven more by the bars that the family owned than the hotels.

As the temperance movement grew, Saskatchewan implemented prohibition and closed the bars. The family, in clever response, got a hold of one of the rare licenses to sell medicinal alcohol and started to develop a distribution business without much competition. Medicinal alcohol was an extremely popular “remedy” during prohibition. The company soon got into the distilling business, building the (now closed) LaSalle distillery in Quebec from stills acquired in the US. The LaSalle distillery became known for quantity, which lead to Sam Bronfman’s partnership with the Scottish DCL, a massive producer of Scotch which controlled brands like Johnny Walker, Dewar’s, and Buchanon’s . This partnership, formed in the late 1920s, catapulted Bronfman ahead of Harry Hatch as the head of the biggest whisky empire in Canada. Bronfman also obtained the ever-important Seagram’s line of brands. Among these brands was Seagram’s VO, Bronfman’s drink of choice, diluted with water. With the brands came the company’s namesake, Seagram’s.

The company stockpiled stock and assets through prohibition. Despite supplying the bootlegging business, prohibition was a challenging environment to operate in due to the challenges of the supply chain. The boom of the company came when the American market opened up: Seagram’s took control of the American market. Indeed, in the 1930s three out of five bottles of blended whisky sold in the United States were from Seagram’s. The company’s success accelerated - in 1946 Seagram’s controlled 14 distilleries, 60 warehouses, and 10 bottling plants - putting out 25 million litres a year (Source: The Bronfman’s, Nicholas Faith). To this, the company added the Chivas Regal brand and grew to become the largest liquor company in the world before it’s collapse, out of which arose Daigeo and Pernod Ricard which are now the two largest liquor companies in the world.

“Mister Sam” was not only a remarkable businessman, he was also a master blender with a remarkable understanding of the importance and technique of blending. He taught his sons the “art” of blending and ensured that he and his family could always assess the quality of his brands. To honour the legacy, Sazerac has released a whisky containing a blend of American and Canadian whiskies. It was blended by Drew Mayville, who worked at Seagram’s for 22 years and was the last master blender before the company’s collapse. The whisky is bottled at 66.9% ABV, and will be sold in the United States and Canada for about 250 USD. 1,200 bottles were produced, and the whisky is slated to be an annual release.

If you want to learn more on the subject, there are a number of good books lying about. I recommend The Bronfman’s by Nicholas Faith, Booze, Boats and Billions by C.W. Hunt. De Kergommeaux’s Canadian Whisky gives a nice broad overview as well. To better understand the ever-important context of the time and the ever-important American liquor market, Bourbon Empire by Mitenbuler is a great read too.

If you get a bottle of this, there is a small booklet, containing a history of the Seagram’s company written by Samuel Bronfman for his 80th birthday, …from little acorns…. There are a few great nuggets and it gives a nice picture of pieces of how the organization functioned - highlighting specifically Bronfman’s bullishness about marketing, quality control and his penchant for blending. He often tested the blends personally and interacted with the quality control executives. The company had a library of hundreds of whiskies and 240 different yeasts! As Bronfman wrote, “Nothing is more important in our business than the quality of our products”. He also speaks of how he became convinced that US prohibition would end 5 years before it did, and started to ramp up production and build warehouses to get aged whiskies ready in advance. Even once the US market opened up, he made everyone wait until the US spirits had sufficient maturation in wood: “No matter, I waited. Quality in the bottle, and our reputation for quality, were much more important to me than immediate profits.”

Notably, he also discusses being disturbed when he saw drinking culture grow again after prohibition which lead him to release an advertisement: “We who make whiskey say: ‘Drink Moderately’”.

This whisky is available in the United States (already available) and shortly to Canada: BC, Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: 2019

  • Bottling Code: L19011331608E

  • Bottling Date: 2019

What a nose! What a nose! I’ll do my best not to be too wordy, but even at first whiff I know that will be difficult.

Sweet oaky caramel, rich deep oak (mossy, old, but very sweet like a damp bourbon warehouse), spicy rye, but it’s balanced with the nicest set of light fruit like white grapes and white mulberries. It is very reminiscent of good, cask strength Buffalo Trace compared to a cask strength blended Canadian whisky with less of a focus on oak. It reminds me, of course, of the Buffalo Trace antique collection.

But, back to the nose. It shines through incredibly with water – it seems to transition from an American style to a bit more of an oaky Canadian style with water (without too much rye). Fruits emerge – candied, dried – but also rich baking spice, fresh strawberries, cherries, praline (hazelnut and almond), dried chanterelle mushrooms, wintergreen, and the corn/rye grain character comes out richly. It has a really nice “dusty” rye characteristic, which I love. The nose really evolves, with more and more dried fruit (prunes, then dried apricots, then dried peaches) with time. This is all tempered by massive oak.

The palate is quite oaky, but surrounded at the edges by rich dried fruits, white pepper, and grapefruit skin (including pith). We also have cherry, dried ginger, dried apricot, dried peach, fresh plum, sweet creamy corn, mixed baking spices, and tobacco. These notes converge into a complex dose of baking spices and creeping tannins. The finish is dry, with toasted baking spices, sweet oak, cherry, dried apricot, corn husks, caramel, and tobacco. The finish is deep and long.

Heavier, oakier, richer, and much deeper than Little Book Chapter 02 (can you believe it?), which has a very different presentation of rye and has a light, vibrant fruit characteristic not present in Mister Sam (similar to the Jim-Beam-owned Alberta-distilled Canadian Club 100% rye). I love that Little Book whisky too.  A better comparison is the William Larue Weller I have in my cabinet from 2015. That one is sweeter, with more almond, maple, and a heavier portrayal of corn – the Weller is a bit lighter, and less complex than this stuff which is focused more on deep fruits, nuts, spice. The Weller, notably, has a bigger finish.  If the Weller is a peach galette with some slivered almonds on top, this is a spiced blackberry+plum+peach cobbler, sprinked with baking spices and baked a deep brown. Some, no doubt, will prefer the style of the Weller. But I like this stuff more.

This is extremely pleasant at 53.5%, the nose is best a bit lower ABV, but it is still awesome for its sheer power at 66.9%. It’s one of the most dynamic whiskies I’ve ever encountered in terms of how it changes with ABV. If you have one of these and find it too hot, just keep adding distilled water until it’s to your taste. The drinking experience does not suffer.

I wonder if Mister Sam would have liked the whisky. His typical tipple was Seagram’s VO, a much lighter whisky rather than this oak bomb. Nonetheless, masterfully blended!

This is in the top 6 whiskies I’ve ever tasted.

Exceptional (4% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date receive this, my highest recommendation).

Value: Average, even at $250!


Review: American Rockies Small Batch Bourbon Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

Picture courtesy of the Fountana Beverage Corp..

Picture courtesy of the Fountana Beverage Corp..

ABV
44%
Aging
N/A
Recipe
N/A
Producer Wyoming (Kirby, Wyoming)

This is produced by the Fountana group, alongside their terrific Canadian Rockies whiskies. This is sourced from the mountains of Wyoming, so in all likelihood it is from the well-reputed Wyoming Distillery.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

The nose has some sharp wood – almost with sharp pine-like notes. Orange peel, bean sprouts, cream of wheat, anise, corn grits, clove, dill, and prunes. Some nice candied notes too – Reisen and Toffifee. And with time, some berry notes. The palate is very well integrated, with a very nice thread of dried corn, light spice, mixed dried Italian herbs, and very pleasing vanilla and toffee. The balance between the fruit, grain, and oak is terrific. The finish is sweet, lightly oaky, lightly grainy. This is good! It’s quite a lighter style of bourbon, but it has some nice elegance to it.

Recommended (81% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher). This is a really nice complex bourbon that isn’t too big. It’s a bit different, too, to its credit – with more herbal and unique fruit notes than in many bourbons.

Value: Average. It’s not a bad buy, but you could do better with different bourbons for $71.


Review: Westland Celebrious American Single Malt Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

Image courtesy of Westland Distillery.

Image courtesy of Westland Distillery.

ABV
52.7%
Aging
American Oak (47 months) + tequila barrel ( months)
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Westland (Seattle, Washington)

Westland releases an April Fool’s day bottling of single malt every year, joining the likes of the esteemed “Boldsmooth” and “Sport Dram”. This year is a parody of social media - with whiskey swag alongside “Celebrious” branded mirrors, tacky “celebrious status” badges with the invitation to “everything awesome” and pro-tips on maintaining celebrity status.

“In the age of celebrities

and the spirits that celebrate them,

In a world where everyone can have their moment in the spotlight,

there is a new star rising….

Any celebrity worth 15 minutes of fame,

deserves their own whiskey.

A whiskey that says, ‘I’ve made it'!’

Now you can count yourself among the echelon of the elite.

You are one of the rare few to have the adoration of thousands,

and the whiskey to prove it”.

More seriously though, how often do we see Tequila finishes? They are becoming more popular, but are still not commonplace yet.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2019

The nose has a nice mix of dried red berries and dried fruit, roasted jalapeno, soursop, white pepper, light smoke, baking bread, vanilla, and hard caramel sugar candies. The palate has tequila spices and dried fruit notes which fade to spice and oak, with a nice kick of roasted grain leading into the finish. The finish has a rich dried fruitiness, spice, light oak, and a touch of minerality and earth. Lots of dry tequila spice on the finish.

Quite good and reasonably balanced, but it doesn’t quite come together in terms of both depth and breadth like some of the other Westlands – but maybe that is the point. It’s a bit sweet, too. Still, quite nice - and 52.7% is quite nice.

Recommended (81% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: N/A.


Review: Westland Distillery Peat Week American Single Malt Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

Image courtesy of Westland Distillery.

Image courtesy of Westland Distillery.

ABV
~50%
Aging
Various (See Below)
Recipe
100% Heavily Peated Malted Barley
Distiller Westland (Seattle, Washington)

Westland has a peat festival every year where they release a special, limited edition peated whisky focused more heavily on peat than their standard Westland Peated bottling. It is based on a variety of casks, and changes year to year.


Review (2017)

  • Batch: N/A (54.4%; 1500 bottles)

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2017

Westland released this limited edition, created from peated Scottish barley, in three different labels, at cask strength of 54.4%, representing the best of big, peated whisky from Westland. It's a blend of distillate 36-56 months old, and a blend of two first-fill ex-bourbon casks and five new american oak barrels. 1500 bottles produced.

Big and smoky – with lots of dry peat, charcoal, vanilla, and a bit funky. Caramel, smoke, banana chips, hay, roasted stem tea, almonds, dark chocolate, beets – leading into a caramel-laden, smoky, oaky, and rich palate including many hints of dried tropical fruit. Pear, The finish has lots of cacao, fruit, caramel, and spices which emerge – clove and white pepper.

I quite like the proof. It’s flavorful and rich without being overpowering. I quite like this, but it’s hard to beat their wonderful single malt.

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Low. It isn’t far from “average”.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: Fifth Annual (50%; 1083 Bottles)

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

This is another peat week bottling, made from 5 casks - 2 first fill ex-bourbon, 2 ex-westland American oak, and 1 new american oak (Westland’s cooper’s reserve cask). It is matured between 36 and 63 months. The malt is from Bairds in Scotland, peated to 55 PPM.

The nose is peaty, but also very fruity – peach, dried apricot, cranberry jelly – this, however, is more like an Islay whisky than the previous batch I tried. It has a very nice creaminess to the nose, with caramel and maple growing with time. The nose is very nicely balanced between the peat, earthiness, oak, and fruitiness. The mouthfeel is terrific. The palate is sharp and ashy, but then the fruitiness and roasted grain kicks in, in a very Westland-like fashion.  We also have custard, rich and rooty wet earth, macadamias, hazelnuts, cranberry chutney, whole grain porridge, toasted oats – and of course sharp smoke. The finish continues with nuttiness, rich grain character, peat, ripe pear, and light medicinal notes. Very nice!

This edition stands out to me much more than the previous one. It is amazing how much Westland malt character is brought in through the Westland casks. Delicious!

Very Highly Recommended (18% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average. $100 for this competes fairly well with the standard for something of this quality.


Review: Balcones Baby Blue Corn Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Balcones Baby Blue 2.jpg
ABV
46%
Aging
Used 5 Gallon Barrels
Recipe
Roasted Heirloom Blue Corn
Distiller Balcones (Waco, Texas)

This whiskey is made from double distilled heirloom blue corn, matured in used 5 gallon casks for a limited time. It is released young and youthful - intentionally - in order to display the character of the blue heirloom corn used to make the whiskey. The first whiskey released in Texas since prohibition, and perhaps the cornerstone whiskey which established Balcones as a leader in craft distilling.


Review (2017)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2017

The nose is sharp and young – oily, unripe pear, jalapeno, white pepper, but is full of lots of toffee, mixed roasted nuts, and lots of tropical fruit. But – it evolves, with cinnamon, sunflower oil, dried corn, and terrific roasted notes. The palate has lots of toffee, with some spice, tea, and light oak – and rich sunflower and corn oil (which does a nice trick!). The finish is lightly sour, with more toffee and some pear – but rich and spicy - the spices on the end are brilliant. Young, but very well crafted – the distillate comes through beautifully and it is creamy, rich, and spicy – and a bit candied. It is terrific!

I really like it. The youthfulness on the nose does detract the score, though. But, that being said – I do like whiskies that show good underlying distillate – and this has that.

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher). This really is unique, and shows the amazing depth that a young whisky can have, and, moreover, one made from the typically one-dimensional corn! This is rather unique in the world of whisky.

Value: Medium. At about 60$ USD, it’s a bit high in cost for what you get. I was between low and medium for this, but it gets the bump to medium for uniqueness.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: BB18-3

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

The nose is raw, rich, and so full of corn. It is awesome. Sweet, oily, and creamy – with vanilla, prunes, dried apricot, blood orange, clove, and baking cinnamon rolls. The palate is so creamy! What a wonderful mix of oak, berry notes, tobacco, cacao, and dried corn. The finish is slightly tannic, with lots of vanilla, oak, dried fruit, and light baking spice (nutmeg too). Awesome!

Highly Recommended. This really is unique, and shows the amazing depth that a young whisky can have, and, moreover, one made from the typically one-dimensional corn! This is rather unique in the world of whisky.

Value: Medium. At about 60$ USD, it’s a bit high in cost for what you get. I was between low and medium for this, but it gets the bump to medium for uniqueness.

Score: 87/100

Value: 63/100 (based on $93)


Review: Balcones Brimstone Scrub Oak Smoked Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Balcones+Brimstone+1.jpg
ABV
53%
Aging
>1 Day
Recipe
Roasted Heirloom Blue Corn
Distiller Balcones (Waco, Texas)

Scrub oak is a variety of small, shrubby oak present throughout the US. They are more shrubs than trees, so you wouldn’t make barrels from them, but Balcones found a use for this oak here! They smoke the distillate as part of a proprietary process, and it is aged for “at least one day” in accordance with whisky regulations in the USA (though I’m not sure how long it is actually aged, but it isn’t labeled a bourbon or straight bourbon, so it is presumably not aged that long).


Review (2019)

  • Batch: BRM18-2 (Bott. 3.28.18)

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

The nose is gorgeous. Rich woodiness and multifaceted oak, but this is offset by a light berry fruitiness and some rich dried fruit. Frying tomato paste, sandalwood, and rosewood. A home smoker at work…The palate has terrific mouthfeel and contains a terrific hit of smoke, black pepper, vanilla, and clean oak. There are terrific dried fruits throughout. The finish is smoky, rich, and woody. I do love this stuff!

Very Highly Recommended (18% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher). It’s the first non-peated smoky whisky I’ve really taken to. It has a rich woodiness, smokiness, and it’s distinctly smoky and non-Scottish.

Value: Average. It’s pretty good to get a unique, smoky whisky like this for about $70 US. It competes with some of the cheaper Scottish peated whiskies pretty well – but it really is in a category by itself. If you’re good to lay out 70 USD for a whisky, this is a decent pick, but it’s still 70 USD.


Review: Balcones 1 Texas Single Malt Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Balcones+Single+Malt+2.jpg
ABV
53%
Aging
19 Months
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Balcones (Waco, Texas)

This is another American Single Malt, but it is very American – it doesn’t taste Scottish. I appreciate distilleries that are forging their own paths, like American distilleries trying to create a different style, not just replicate Scottish single malts. It’s certainly seen a lot of oak, given the colour!


Review (2019)

  • Batch: SM18-3 (I think; hard to read; bottled 5.8.18)

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

The nose has strawberry jam, roasted grain, blanched tomatoes, and charred oak. There is a real rich woodiness present here. Loads of wood too – sandalwood, rosewood, and oak. The palate is loaded with strawberry jam, astringent oak, wood charcoal, chocolate malt, cacao, and pear. It’s still very woody, to great effect. The finish has lightly roasted grain and a light astringency.  

Recommended (81% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher). This is another great example of an American single malt – it’s unique and tasty, full of oak and grain.

Value: Low. You can certainly get better value products in the American market, or the Scottish market, for the price. However, it is on the cheaper and better side of American single malts.


Review: Balcones Texas Rye 100 Proof Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Balcones+Rye+1.jpg
ABV
50%
Aging
18 Months
Recipe
100% Elbon Rye
Distiller Balcones (Waco, Texas)

This was produced from 100% Texas Elbon rye for Balcones tenth anniversary celebration. There was a cask strength and a 100 proof version released. The rye was grown from farmers who were approached by Balcones to see if they would grow some rye for them as a cover crop, and harvest the grain for them, rather than just let them be eaten by cattle etc. as part of crop rotation. It is made from rye, roasted rye, crystal roasted rye, and chocolate roasted rye. I believe it’s the first roasted rye grain whisky I’ve had.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: RYE10018-2 (Bott. 6.7.18)

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

Loads of fruit – mandarins, pear, prunes – and loads of rye grain – roasted grain, wet grassy fields, and some dry marsh. Roasted nuts and roasted malt notes, too, and a touch of cauliflower. There is so much earthy grain packed into this! The palate is sweet, and full of a rich roasted character (think chocolate malt), chocolate, and dried apricot. The finish is full of deep dark chocolate, and a rich earthiness (damp, rich, earth). The finish is hot and spicy, too – I quite like it. With water added, it opens up well – especially the fruitiness. But you lose some of the dense grain character. Very nice!

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher). Not only is the flavour great, but the roasted character of this rye really comes out and is rather unique.

Value: High. A price of $44 USD for a rye like this, with its unique character and rich flavor, is pretty good.


Review: New Southern Revival 100% Jimmy Red Corn Straight Bourbon Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

High+Wire+Revival+Jimmy+Red.jpg
ABV
50%
Aging
Charred Virgin Oak; Aged 2 Years
Recipe
100% Jimmy Red Corn
Distiller High Wire (Charlestown, South Carolina)

If you talk to any chef in a critically acclaimed restaurant, they’ll always tell you that good food starts with quality ingredients. It’s odd, then, that

Anson Mills is a company which started as an endeavor to explore heirloom grains for the good of both land and flavour. Originally, it came out of a desire to resurrect old strains of rice used in southern cooking renowned for flavour. If you want to try some of the best oats of your life, order some from Anson Mills and cook according to their instructions. It’s a “wow” moment.

Anson Mills worked to resurrect one strain of corn, Jimmy Red, which was a red variety of corn which became popular among moonshiners. Originally, there was not even enough corn to make a batch, so High Wire partnered with Clemson University and Anson Mills to generate the seed stock and produce some corn. They describe it as the most flavourful corn they’ve ever distilled, with a rich 3 inch oil cap on top of the fermenter! The heirloom grains typically have deeper roots, which bring more trace minerals (and flavour) into the grain (as older vines would for wine). This whisky is similar to Balcones Baby Blue, similarly an heirloom corn with loads of flavour.

The bourbon was first released in November 2017.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: 5

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

The nose is rich and grain forward – very diverse – semi-dried tomatoes, rich spices, buttery polenta, thyme, caramel, vanilla, oaky spices, nut oils, apple sauce, and mixed grain porridge. Complex, interesting, and it doesn’t smell too youthful. It’s a whisky I would enjoy spending significant time with on the nose, which is a rare compliment. The palate is warm and rich, where a dense corn character unfolds with lots of mineral notes and a pleasant, fall marsh earthiness developing on the finish. The spiciness in the palate is subtle, but excellent in terms of where it sits. The finish has nice spices – nutmeg, hot cinnamon, and more semi-dried tomato and a light herbal character.

Perhaps the most flavorful 100% corn whisky that isn’t more than 15 years old, although Blacones Baby Blue is worth a shout too. This is a bit richer and has more oak, and it’s not quite as creamy, oily, or “raw” corn as the Baby Blue. I really appreciate the investment into quality corn – it does show. Also, this will get even better if it continues to sit in a barrel a few more years.

A great tasting besides Balcones Baby Blue, Westland Single Malt, and Glen Saanich Ancient Grains – all great, young, grain driven whiskies.

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher). On a taste level, this might drop down to “recommended” but it’s extremely worthwhile to try the complexity and uniqueness in a corn whisky like this. It’s rather fascinating.

Value: Low. On a value standpoint, paying north of $100 USD for a product like this - you are paying for something unique, local, and more expensive to make - but on a taste perspective, you can do better for flavour and complexity from some larger producers.


The Wonderful World of Westland's Single Barley New Makes by Jason Hambrey

Westland Barleys.jpg

Single malts exist all over the world in various shapes and sizes, and few scottish malt producers talk much about the flavour of the grain they use. Instead, it’s a lot of focus on yeast and maturation - perhaps because mostly they all use the same barley!

One of my “wow” moments in my whisky journey was visiting Westland distillery during the past year. I was able to taste new make distillates produced by Westland which are made from different varieties of barley. Westland is involved at the front end not only of whisky production, but also barley breeding, working closely with the grain genius Dr. Steve Jones (of Washington State University). Westland partners with Dr. Jones to breed barley varietals for flavour in whisky production. Successfully breeding a new strain of barley takes about ten years, if the strain is a success. What whisky producer wants to add ten years on the front end of an already long process!? I’m sure glad they do. Let me describe a few new makes from different varieties:

Copeland Barley

Copeland is the most commonly grown species of barley in the USA. This new make is the most like their whisky, with strong fruity notes and a rich grain base and slight spice. Rich, fruity, and clean.

NZ151 (Ricard) Barley

Sharply fruity, with lots of dried fruit notes. It’s also more earthy and definitely more spicy. Very unique – this is my second favourite of the distillates.

Talisman Barley

More “simply” grain – the grain comes forward more at the centre here than in any of the other new makes, with candied fruit still playing around in the background. This is nice – I quite like the grain forward nature. However, it isn’t as complex as the other distillates, and it is ever so slightly astringent.

Purple Obsidian Barley

Incredible – rich barley, pine –evolving over time. It is abundant in flavour: rose, rich rice, jasmine tea, licorice, clove, Campbell’s tomato soup, and green tea. This is absolutely phenomenal – rich, complex, balanced, textured. Excellent.

You can’t taste these, but the other stuff Westland makes is fantastic: I recommend the Westland American Oak, Sherry Wood, Peated, and Garryana.