Westland

Review: Sons of Vancouver "Cigarettes on a Leather Jacket" Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Sons of Vancouver Whisky 1.jpg
ABV
56.7%
Aging
3-5 yrs; ex-peated malt casks
Recipe
90% BC rye, 5% BC wheat, 5% BC malted barley
Distiller Sons of Vancouver (Vancouver, BC)

This whisky was made from a 5 year old rye whisky and three year old wheat and malt whiskies, all matured in an ex-Westland peated malt barrel. The distillery uses a rum yeast to ferment the rye, since the characteristics of the yeast play well off the grassiness in the rye .

The grains are all from northern BC. There are more whisky releases on the way - probably one release this year and five the next - some of them will be pretty unique (in a good way - some exciting ideas there).


Review (2021)

  • Batch: Release #1

  • Bottling Date: 2021

  • Bottling Code: N/A

The nose is quite spicy, in a similar way, in fact, to some of the classic spicy/dusty Canadian whiskies which are quite rye-influenced. It surprised me at first – it’s a note/profile that I don’t find often (if ever) with small producers. But, beyond that – what can I say- “cigarettes on a leather jacket” is appropriate! It’s lightly smoky and ashy, with leather, dried apricot, apple juice a light nuttiness, clove, orange peel, coconut, and dry earth.

The whisky comes to life on the palate – starting with smoke (odd, since whiskies often end in smoke), mixed dried fruit, before jumping into some distinct “Westland” notes with that vibrant fruitiness and jasmine that is in their malt. The finish closes with a good dose of “dustiness”, baking spice, clove, and orange peel.

I quite like the spiciness, and the cask influence is terrific. One of the better Vancouver whiskies I’ve had.

Recommended (81% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher). At the upper end of this category. Quite good.

Value: N/A. It is sold out and used variable pricing as part of a crowdfunded campaign


Review: Sons of Vancouver No. 82 Barrel-Aged Amaretto by Jason Hambrey

Sons of Vancouver Barrel Aged Amaretto 1.jpg
ABV
26%
Aging
Refill ex-sherry and ex-bourbon
Recipe
Wheat spirit, brandy, vanilla, apricot kernels, honey and demerera sugar
Distiller Sons of Vancouver (Vancouver, BC)

This is released once a year, around Christmas - it is the Amaretto from Sons of Vancouver that is aged in a mixture of Ex-2Bar Bourbon barrels and Ex-Westland casks, finished in a used oloroso sherry cask.


Review (2021)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2021

  • Bottling Code: N/A

This is similar to the regular Sons of Vancouver amaretto with the stone fruit, jam, vanilla, and light floral notes – but it is altogether different with the cask character. There is a rich, intense sherry note that surrounds the almond notes with all sorts of savoury and nutty characters. The body is richer with more of a custard-type character. The tannins from the oak add a lot of great structure. The end, once again, is almond and cherry but tannins amp up the structure and there are waves of creamy toffee, baking spice, and brown sugar.

Very Highly Recommended. This one really shows the potential depth that liquers can have.


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.

Bottled non-chill filtered and without caramel colouring.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: 3.1

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

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).

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 (2019)

  • Batch: 4.1

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2019

The focus here is looking at the effect of blending Garry Oak with whisky matured in sherry casks. The whisky is made from 29% first fill ex-rye barrels, 29% first fill ex-bourbon barrels, 19% new Garryana oak barrels, 16% pedro ximinez hogshead barrels, and 7% refill garryana oak barrels.

The nose and taste here is the closest to Garry oak that I can remember of the past Garryana releases. It’s very distinct – buttery, toffee, waxy, and slightly salty and phenolic – but it’s surrounded nicely with roasted grain notes, dried fruit, baking spices, orange, roasted brazil nuts, and beeswax. The dried fruit character is brilliant and plays very well with the Garry oak. Nicely done – beautiful nose!

The palate is lightly sweet, with a nice mix of oaky notes, toffee, caramel, baking spices, and dried fruit. A really nice waxy sort of woodiness to it. Very unique, very interesting – it really shows a nice character of the Garry oak and sherry is a great compliment to it. Nice spices, and more dried fruit – very nice! The finish is tannic, with orange, red pepper jelly, and a rich and deep complex malty character. Oddly, I find this one a bit salty.

My favourite Garryana to date, largely due to its uniqueness and the centrality of the Garry oak which is a very unique character. I would actually be very interested in seeing what happens to a very similar blend with a bit more age on it.

Very Highly Recommended (19% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Low. It’s very good, but quite expensive.


Review: Westland Reverie American Single Malt Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

Image courtesy of Westland Distillery.

Image courtesy of Westland Distillery.

ABV
50%
Aging
Multiple casks; 4-5 years old
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Westland (Seattle, Washington)

Reverie is a new brand of limited edition Westland whiskies, focused around innovation/experimentation. This has quite the mix, indeed - it’s a blend of Westland’s signature 5 malt distillate, their Washington malt distillate, and their peated malt distillate. It’s matured in ex-bourbon, cooper’s reserve, cooper’s select, refill cooper’s select, muscatel, and refill muscatel casks. And all that work for just 900 bottles! The whole blending process is diagrammed out quite well on Westland’s website, if you are really curious about what is going on.

Bottled non-chill filtered and without caramel colouring.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: Fig. 1 (900 bottles produced)

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

The nose has such beautiful grain notes – really nice bright, roasted maltiness. Smoke, grain, peaches, dried apricot, red pepper jelly, pineapple, real (not artificially flavoured) fruit leather, caramel, and baking spices. Very nice!

The palate continues with toffee and sweet fruit, lots of roasted malt, light smoke, apricot, and a really nice barley character. It has a really nice body – viscous, with a nice mix of sweetness, tannins, spiciness, and development of flavour. A good story, this one. The finish has lots of bright malt notes, white pepper and light tannins.

A very good and very different Westland. Very well done!

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher). It’s just a touch shy of very highly recommended.

Value: Low. This goes for about 125 USD, and, the way I view value – above $100 means you are really offering some of the best whisky on the planet. This stuff is still quite good, though, obviously.


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.