American Single Malt

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 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.


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.

Review: Westland Garryana American Single Malt Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

Image courtesy of Westland Distillery.

Image courtesy of Westland Distillery.

ABV
56%
Aging
American Oak and Garry Oak; 4 years old
Recipe
100% Malted Barley (5 malts)
Distiller Westland (Seattle, Washington)

Westland is obsessed with portraying the land they live on - the pacific northwest, and part of their journey to being authentic to their landscape was to investigate the local Garry oak, a rich and rarely used style of oak which was first used for wine but was too powerful. Rather than release single Garryana casks, Westland decided to blend around the powerful wood to showcase different elements it displays. At first I was dissapointed, wanting to taste the unique wood directly - but as soon as I did, I understood, and now I can taste it come out differently in all of the Garryana blends.

When I visited Westland, I asked Matt Hoffman, the master distiller, and Steve Hawley, marketing director what was in Garryana 3.1. They both laughed, said it was complicated, and wouldn't give me an answer. Shane, their blender, finally let me in, and I understood why the others skirted the question...

It is a blend of 7 casks, with a bit less than 1700 bottles produced. It is Shane's version of the original vatting of Garryana, blended by Matt Hoffman, which was never released. The original recipe had been vatted with about 20% Garry oak amidst other cask types, but rather than being released, it was put back into the barrels that they came from. Of these 10 or 11 casks, 4 were pulled out for this blend - 2 Garry oak and 2 ex-bourbon. These were then vatted with 1 washington malt ex-bourbon cask, 1 peated new oak, and 1 five-malt recipe matured in new oak. The youngest whisky in the blend is 51 months (4.25 yrs) and the oldest is 58 months (4.8 yrs).

Bottled non-chill filtered and without caramel colouring.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: 3.1

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

Garry oak is so intense – and I like intense whiskies – so I was always curious why they blended this until I tasted a straight garry oak whisky. It is intense. If you water this down, you can taste the garry oak – it is quite central – rich toffee, buckwheat soba noodles, molasses, and a deep spiciness – that’s the garry oak. It is very balanced, and broader than the first two releases – the first which was focused more on the phenolic, smoky elements of garryana and the second on dried fruit. This does it all - wood, smoke, malt, roasted malt, and a complex finish.

The nose brings together a lot - white grape, white oak, dried cherry, dried apricot, toffee, burning conifers, and an umami characteristic like a subtle soy sauce. The palate has light licorice, hickory smoke, roasted lemon, toffee, an incredible woodiness, clove, and jam too – quince, apricot, peach. The finish is drying, spicy, smoky, and still full of stone fruit jams. Cacao, too – and a nice flash of garry oak!

This is complex, awesome stuff. One of my favourite American whiskies I’ve tasted of late, both delicious and extremely interesting.

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

Value: Low - $200 is a decent clip to pay for a whisky, and, from a value perspective, you can do better.


Review: Westland Garryana Single Cask American Single Malt Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

ABV
N/A
Aging
New Garry Oak
Recipe
100% Malted Barley (5 malts)
Distiller Westland (Seattle, Washington)

Here is a rarity - Westland matures a lot of their whiskey in Garry oak, but blends it into their limited releases rather than release it straight. I understand why - this is intense! However, I graciously was able to try this. It may well get blended into a future garryana release.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: Cask 2951

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: N/A

Now this is quite something! While I have heard that garryana oak is quite unique, I’ve never been able to taste a straight garry oak whisky! It is rich and thickly woody – sweet wood, caramel, toffee, nutmeg, almond, and a rubbery sort of phenolic character. It’s not smoky, to me, but it’s like smoke. Dried orange, dried papaya, dried mango, candied mandarin, buckwheat – it’s still a bit young, but this is very complex and very interesting! It’s no wonder garry oak didn’t work well for wine – you’d need a massive wine to tame this beast!

The finish is also fascinating – it is woody, but very different than what I’ve tasted before – as if the vanilla has been replaced with toffee, or perhaps dulce de leche, and the clove notes are more along the lines of the smoky elements of brown cardamom. I was also expecting it to be more tannic – but perhaps the good dose of seasoning has dealt with that!

I love nosing this stuff...wow. This is amazing rich stuff, but not quite complete on its own – it’s no wonder that they blend it! It would be marvellous as part of a blend.

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

Value: N/A


Review: Westland Amaretto Cask American Single Malt Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

ABV
50%
Aging
Amaretto Cask
Recipe
100% Malted Barley (5 malts)
Distiller Westland (Seattle, Washington)

I got a sample of this while I was at the distillery and was astounded. I tasted lots at the distillery, but this was my favourite, and I would never have thought it would work so well. The Amaretto comes from the Sons of Vancouver distillery.

Bottled non-chill filtered and without caramel colouring.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: Cask N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: N/A

What a nose! Lightly smoky, with dried cherries, charred oak, pencil shavings, chili, and a slight almost rubbery note. I really like this stuff – it’s a fascinating nose – unique and not at all what I was expecing, which was a whisky that was loaded with almond. I discovered after the fact that this is in part due to the fact that Sons of Vancouver’s amaretto isn’t loaded with almond – it’s made with apricots, bourbon vanilla beans, orange peel, and demerrera and blackberry honey. The palate follows from the nose, with a light dry-ness to it and some very nice smoke integrated in, along with a growing earthiness. This is fantastic! The finish has cherries, apricot, oak, spice, and candied orange. The smoke/earthiness that is integrated in so well to the fruit (quite rare) is so intriguing and works so beautifully – this is one of my favourite whiskies tasted this year. The smoke battling the apricot on the eventual end of the whisky is amazing.

The finish is nice, but not long enough – and it is, perhaps, a touch too sweet – but I expect this could easily be eased with a bit of blending.

I would buy a few of these, and there aren’t many whiskies in the world which I’ll commit to like that.

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

Value: N/A


Review: Westland Eureka Cask American Single Malt Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

ABV
56%
Aging
34 Months; PX Sherry Cask
Recipe
100% Malted Barley (5 malts)
Distiller Westland (Seattle, Washington)

I tried this bottle and really liked it, because it is so deeply sherried. The flavour is mostly from the cask, but this is a nice sherry cask! It was bottled exclusively for Eureka burger.

Bottled non-chill filtered and without caramel colouring.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: Cask 311

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2015

I really liked this cask, just because it is so deeply sherried. Loads of sweet rancio, dried fruit, baking spices, and honey. It’s quite cask driven, but there is some roasted rice and soy notes too – when you dig deeper into these you start to see the grain bill of westland poking through nicely. It seems very asian-style to me, with buckwheat noodles and five-spice coming in beside the rice and soy. The palate follows on from the nose, with rich sherry notes. It doesn’t vary much from the nose, except a bit more defined spice character and pronounced sugar caramel. It’s quite cask driven, but it’s nice sherry, and a nice cask, and sometimes that’s just what I’m in the mood for.

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

Value: N/A


Review: Westland Distillery Sherry Wood American Single Malt Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

Image courtesy of Westland Distillery.

Image courtesy of Westland Distillery.

ABV
46%
Aging
New American Oak, PX Sherry, and Oloroso Sherry Casks
Recipe
100% Malted Barley (5 malts)
Distiller Westland (Seattle, Washington)

I originally didn't go for a bottle of this because I suspected it was something I'd seen too often before - a micro-distillery trying to replicate a Scottish style of single malt - I was wrong. This doesn't taste like Scotch - it is driven by a unique and flavorful barley mash alongside a brewer's yeast and a maturation regime that pairs new american oak with sherry casks! Westland takes the painstaking labour of shipping the sherry casks whole from Spain - they believe this extra effort, which limits them to 10 casks per container, imparts extra vibrancy to the spirit.

Bottled non-chill filtered and without caramel colouring.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2018

Very much in the Westland style, with the roasted malts coming through with nice roasted grain and toasty notes, yet with the sherry influence – dried orange, clove, nutmeg, rancio, sugar caramel...and a nice spiciness. The palate is sweet, with more of that orange and rancio coming in alongside toasted bread, malt loaf, pumperknickel bread, toasted macadamia nuts, . Dried fruits, smoke, and tannic oak on the finish. A sweet, woody, spicy, and fruity finish – all in equal parts, seemingly. Nice balance!

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher). If you like sherried Scotch, this is a must. It’s sherried malt in a very different way.

Value: Average.


Review: Westland Distillery Peated American Single Malt Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

Image courtesy of Westland Distillery.

Image courtesy of Westland Distillery.

ABV
46%
Aging
First Fill Ex-Bourbon & New American Oak
Recipe
100% Malted Barley (6 malts)
Distiller Westland (Seattle, Washington)

This is Westland's peated whiskey - made with Saison yeast and a mixture of 6 malts, one of which is a heavily peated malt. It's peaty, but they also make a massively peaty Peat Week limited release each year. Bottled non-chill filtered and without caramel colouring.


Review (2017)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2017

Here is some peat! Banana, pear, sharp and mineral-laden peat, clove, moss, prunes, sandalwood, and celery seed. Caramel and fennel grow in the glass. The palate is full of pear, smoke, caramel, toffee, and white pepper – all with a really nice body. The finish has some roasted lemon, celery, toffee, sea salt, and cacao.  I really like it – increasingly as I continue to drink it.

It’s nice – this tastes peated, but not in the style of a Scottish single malt.  

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

Value: Average.