&

“Distilled in Washington: A History” and Westland Solum Edition 2

Greetings from your resident booze bibliophile.

America is rich with distilling tradition, but that story usually gets told through the lens of Kentucky and Tennessee. While it’s true that Kentucky and Tennessee have most of the lore, other regions of America have a rich history as well. I always find it fascinating to get more of the full picture by learning about other regions of the country, such as the Pacific Northwest.

Washington State is quickly becoming a hotbed for American single malt whiskey, but plenty of other styles of whiskey are made there as well. Becky Garrison’s “Distilled in Washington: A History” is set to be released on March 18, 2024. Garrison takes us through the early history of distilling in Washington up through today.

The origins of distilling in Washington date back to 1811 and John Jacob Astor’s Pacific Fur Company. Not long after, the Hudson Bay Company acquired the property owned by the Pacific Fur Company and Fort Vancouver was built. In 1833, the Hudson Bay Company built a distillery in Vancouver along the Columbia River. We don’t have historical records that tell us exactly what spirits were made, but we know what raw materials they had at their disposal. The Vancouver distillers had fruit for brandy, Hawaiian molasses for rum, and grain for whiskey. Sadly, the Vancouver distillery would cease operations three years after starting.

The next known account of a Washington distillery comes in 1859, as Martin Sombier opened a brewery and distillery in Steilacoom. Records show that other distilleries soon followed, but they were short-lived as well. By 1877, the Washington Territory claimed fourteen breweries, but no distilleries. In 1899, the Washington Territory became a state and distilleries started being built again, such as Spokane Distilling and the Distilling Company at Grant’s. Records show that during this time period, Washingtonians did most of their drinking in saloons as compared to buying at apothecaries.

America has seemingly always dealt with illicit distilling, also known as moonshining. The stories that are frequently told revolve around the American South. However, illicit distilling readily existed all across America, including Washington. Jacob M. Woodring has the honor of being the first moonshiner brought before a federal court in Seattle in 1899.

During the early days of Washington statehood, the Temperance Movement was sweeping the United States and Washington was included. The conditions – social and religious – conditions regarding alcohol and the saloon that were driving people to oppose alcohol equally existed in Washington. Garrison goes into detail regarding the Temperance Movement and Prohibition in Washington. The author gives specific anecdotes that are local to Washington, but it’s essential to realize that those same anecdotes applied to every state in America at the time. The Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WTCU) and local option laws were popular in Washington just as they were throughout much of the United States. On November 3, 1914, Washington voted to go legally dry, years before federal Prohibition.

Prohibition is full of rousing stories of speakeasies, moonshiners, bootleggers, and federal agents. Most of the Prohibition “celebrities” we know existed in the Midwest and South. However, Washington had its own cast of characters. The proximity to Boeing made it easy to get parts for airplanes to smuggle booze by air from Canada to Washington.

Arguably the biggest name to locals in Washington Prohibition lore was Frank Gatt. However, the most important name on a national scale was the crooked police officer and bootlegger Roy Olmstead. Olmstead allegedly used public radio programming to communicate his bootlegging logistics to his network. Olmstead is of national importance due to the fact that law enforcement busted him by wiretapping his phones. Via Olmstead v. the United States, the Supreme Court determined that wiretapping was legal and did not violate the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution. The bust made based on wiretapping was allowed to stand. Olmstead vs the United States would be overturned by SCOTUS in 1967 with Katz v. United States.

On November 8, 1932, Washington voters repealed all of Washington’s liquor laws except for the prohibition on the sale of alcohol to minors. National Prohibition was still in effect until December 5, 1933. Washington State ratified the 21stAmendment on October 3, 1933. In January 1934, the first post-Prohibition distillery in Washington opened in Seattle. Northwest Distillery appears to have closed around 1943. Of note, Northwest Distillery distilled a whiskey known as Mello Morn Straight Bourbon. In 1934, Washington State also went into the liquor business by opening a bottling plant. In 1943, Washington State purchased Kentucky’s Shawahan Distillery and Waterfill & Frazier in an effort to meet the growing demand for legal liquor, but then resold the distilleries to the original owners.

Washington State whiskey is synonymous with American single malt. The story of single malt begins with Westland. Westland launched in Seattle in 2010 as the second American distillery dedicated solely to producing single malt, behind Stranahan’s in Denver. Westland seeks to bring terroir to their whiskey by using local resources such as a grain, peat, and oak such as Garryana. Westland is located is B Corp Certified.

The final portion of Garrison’s book introduces readers to the modern distilleries that call Washington State home. When reading this chapter, you’ll recognize several names that are currently known in the craft distilling scene. You’ll also encounter names that you don’t yet recognize, but could perhaps be the next big name in craft distilling. Among the distillers you’ll read about are Copperworks, Bainbridge Organic Distillers, and Woodinville. Garrison also details a young Quartz Mountain Distillers, with whom I’m quite familiar. You’ve likely not yet heard of Quartz Mountain Distillers, yet I’ve been fortunate to try several of their bourbons and whiskeys. I like Quartz Mountain, but they’ll likely be a new name to you. Likewise, the book is filled with other small craft distillers that might be your future favorite whiskey… and this book will be your introduction.

If you’re interested in American distilling as a whole, I think you’re going to appreciate “Distilled in Washington: A History.” The book does a fantastic job of detailing the current state of affairs as well as giving the history of how Washington came to be where it is today. You’ll find distilled spirts of all sorts in Washington, such as rum, vodka, brandy, bourbon, and single malt. There’s something for all spirit lovers in Washington.

When discussing a book on Washington distilling, it is necessary to review a spirit distilled in Washington. I’ve decided to review Westland Outpost Range Single Malt Solum Edition 2.
Let’s talk details!

Release: February 2024
Cask types:
Cooper’s Reserve New American Oak (43%)
Cooper’s Select New American Oak (14%)
First Fill ex-bourbon (43%)

Solum Edition 2 is aged at least 48 months, which is a nice increase from Solum Edition 1.

Solum is distilled from Skaggit Valley Malting peated malt. The peat is local to the Pacific Northwest. Solum is the first nationally available whiskey made from American peat.
Yeast: Belgian Saison Brewer’s Yeast

Length of fermentation: Primary finished in 72 hours, Secondary and cold-crash in 48 hours

Barrel entry proof: 110 for new oak cooperage and 125 for first-fill cooperage

Bottling proof: 100

Westland produced 5,212 bottles of Solum Edition 2. Suggested retail price is $183.58; this was a sample provided free of charge by Westland, for which they have our thanks.

Now that we’ve talked about the geeky specifications, let’s get to the good stuff. How does it taste?

Westland Solum Edition 2 – Review

On the nose: I’m immediately hit with sweet tobacco. The tobacco note is attributed to extra time in the barrel as compared to Edition 1. The malt shows up in the form of a buttermilk biscuit. There is no butter on the biscuit, but the simple biscuit works for me. I’m met with an Earthy aroma that is quite pleasing. The next familiar scent is lavender. The lavender isn’t overwhelming, and it meshes well with the tobacco. Hiding in the back is a twinge of eucalyptus. I wasn’t expecting eucalyptus, but there it is. All of the aroma notes blend together in the end with some slight barrel char. If you experienced Solum Edition 1, you likely accounted more dark fruit notes. It appears that the extra time in the barrel morphed the dark fruit notes into eucalyptus and lavender. I could smell this all day.

In the mouth: The first note to appear is buttercream frosting. It gives me memories of licking the frosting off of a cupcake. The malt is present, and it reminds me of a scone. The nose was more of a biscuit, but the taste is more of a scone profile. The next note is often familiar to me in American single malt: grapefruit zest. Without doubt, my favorite American single malt note to find is grapefruit zest. Next on stage is anise. The slightly bitter nature of the anise is a nice complement to the sweeter buttercream frosting and tangy grapefruit zest. Finally, to match the nose, the tobacco is also present on the palate. I don’t get any sign of dark fruits here. This is an absolutely beautiful palate. I don’t feel that any single note overwhelms another. The mouthfeel is dry, but not overly dry.

On the finish, I’m suddenly picking up a nutty quality that I assume is also from the malt. I feel like what I’m tasting is almond. I’m finally picking up some toffee. It’s not as sweet as what I normally associate with caramel. It’s definitely more English toffee. I’m getting a hint of coffee and barrel char. I really enjoy the slight bitter notes of the char and coffee to balance out the toffee. The finish is long in length. At first, I felt like the finish was fading at what I’d call medium, but then it found second-life and kept going.

Conclusions:

I’m excited about the future of American single malts. I’ve been fortunate to try a lot of really good American single malts… along with some bad ones and just average ones. In the last 12 months, my favorite American single malts were Lost Lantern’s St. George Spirits Mountain Meadow and Two Souls Spirits Watershed Apple Brandy Cask. After trying Solum Edition 2, this is arguably my new favorite in the past 12 months. If I can’t officially declare it my favorite in the past 12 months, it’s definitely in my Top 3.

I’m rating this an 8 out of 10. I’m completely confident in giving this whiskey a high rating… it’s deserved. I’m not a huge fan of peated whiskey, yet here I am loving this one. If you’re interested in single malt, but not necessarily a fan of traditional peated profiles, this one is for you.

Score: 8/10

Book and whiskey provided free of charge which, per Malt editorial policy, does not affect our reviews or scores.

CategoriesAmerican
Jacob Kiper

I’m your resident American booze history book nerd. I’m currently camping at 360+ completed books on booze history. I started reading on bourbon because I realized how little I knew… and then I realized I wanted to know it all.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *