Garry Oak

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