There came a moment midway through our Las Vegas holiday where I had to escape the hustle and bustle of the Strip. Not for entertainment or sanity reasons, but rather to seek out new whiskies. My liquid diet of bourbons had reached a dead end and there was a sense that America could offer more besides the limited portfolio of flavours and aromas.
The actual journey itself is laid out in my Fearing 7 Whiskies in Las Vegas piece that in liquid form took us from Wyoming to High West and various places in-between. More fruitful ground was established at the Oak & Ivy which is housed in an old shipping container. Sitting comfortably by the bar armed with knowledgeable staff, I truly discovered what North America can offer beyond the big names and several left a lasting impression – none more so than Westland. Yes, it’s taken me a while to put pen to paper about Westland. Certain whiskies from Europe and the onslaught of the Cadenhead’s 175th Anniversary celebrations put a hold on most things throughout 2017.
My trusty companion throughout my travels, whether its across Scotland or further afield is a small journal. Here amongst its pages I can scribble down tasting notes, thoughts and opinions to harness at a later date. Over the years I’ve completed several tasting journals complete with scribbles and random observations for future reference. Along with a mobile phone and a camera its an essential piece of Malt kit. So much so, I’ve joked with Mark that whenever we launch the Malt merchandise range of pins and glassware we should include a bespoke hand-bound notebook. It could be a rather classy item!
As a resource I find it invaluable hence these Westland recollections. The distillery itself hit the headlines in 2017 when it was purchased by Rémy Cointreau for an undisclosed fee also underlining the growth and potential of the American single malt market. Based in the Pacific Northwest it seems like the other side of the world for any Scotch enthusiast. An environment of lumberjacks, Starbucks and grunge it’s full of stereotypical images and none associated with whisky. However, the great thing about whisky is it’s without boundaries and any country with the right set of ingredients, dedication and skill can create memorable releases. Hopefully, as a regular visitor to Malt, this is something you can appreciate now given our 2018 focus outside of Scotland.
The barman lined up a couple of Westland’s for me to explore further. It was a bizarre scene with a warm Vegas December day outside and most of the clientele – having participated in the Santa walk – wearing a variety of Santa costumes and hats. Surreal almost, but this did not distract from the whiskies at hand. The core Westland single malt range comprises of the American Oak, the Peated and Sherry Wood. These do have distribution within the UK and tend to sell for around £65 a bottle, or there’s the option of a convenient trio tasting pack.
We’ll come to our review duo in a moment but what I found quite compelling is the transparency and information offered online by Westland. Take for instance the Peated whiskey official page – a key dynamic we’ve seen from European distilleries such as the Box distillery. You can see the list of grains utilised and minimum maturation time – 24 months – the cask types utilised (1st fill ex-bourbon, Cooper’s Select New American oak and Cooper’s Reserve New American oak), a fermentation time of 144 hours and Belgian brewer’s yeast. The Sherry Wood page features the same level of information. It’s liberating compared to the secrecy that surrounds may Scottish whiskies…
Westland Peated Whiskey – Review
Colour: 8-carat gold.
On the nose: a lovely sugary sweetness matched by an earthiness. Elements of moss and smoked almonds followed by a touch of iodine. It’s not a huge presentation overall but nicely judged and inviting.
In the mouth: there’s a very enjoyable peat balance that isn’t hugely vegetative instead its more pure smoke with a light, airy nature. More flavours arrive with black liquorice, pine cones and a sugary sweetness into the finish.
Westland Sherry Wood Whiskey – Review
Colour: cinder toffee.
On the nose: a very sweet arrival with subtle spicing featuring black pepper and nutmeg. There’s an obvious vanilla element but creamy and restrained that moves into bananas followed by butterscotch. Also present is rhubarb and liquorice.
In the mouth: rich luscious flavours here with dark chocolate, treacle, raisins and ripe prunes. More of that black pepper followed by cinnamon and nutmeg mixing effortlessly to give a refreshing buttery rye sherry hybrid.
Both of these whiskies set an impressive standard for what are youthful ages. The balance displayed from both and the craftsmanship suggest that we’re going to see a lot more from Westland in the coming years.
Images kindly supplied by Abbey Whisky as are the commission links but these do not influence our reviews.