American Single Cask, Single Malt
Back in July we focused our whole month on American whiskeys. Part of that exploration showcased spirits from two distilleries that are younger than a flagship Glenlivet single malt. As we noted, craft distilling has grown significantly in the last decade and we feel like we come across new companies every month. A couple months ago we came across a bottle from Westland and wanted to give an American single malt a try.
Westland Distillery has been producing American single malt whiskey since 2010. Located in Seattle, the company has a focus on provenance and transparency. On the distillery website you can find granular information about the company’s production process. In fact, the presentation reminded us a lot of Bruichladdich, one of our favorite distilleries from Islay. We weren’t surprised to learn that both brands are part of the Remy Cointreau portfolio.
Among the range of Westland offerings are single malts matured in different American and European oak, as well as peated and single cask bottlings. Most of the expressions use a mash bill made up of different barley varieties sourced from the Pacific northwest. The barley of this region is also popular for brewing beer, so there are a few crossovers between Westland and the craft brewing industry. Most of the expressions we found in the Westland range were on the younger side, and with so many single cask and limited edition releases we get the sense that Westland is willing to experiment.
Westland Distillery Cask #242
We admit we were drawn to this bottle because of personal family significance of the cask number. But we did our research and found the concept of Westland’s Cask series to fit perfectly with our recent reviews. The distillery has released a series compromising over 30 single cask bottlings in a span of four years labeled under different cask numbers. Cask #242 was matured in new, charred American oak that represents one of two main cask types Westland uses (along with Sherry and other limited edition varieties). Aged just over 2 years, Cask #242 uses five barley malts and was bottled in October of 2014.
On the Eyes: Cask #242 has the bright golden orange color of fresh apple juice. Despite the young age, the whiskey is viscous and leaves long legs in the glass.
On the Nose: The nose is potent and spirit heavy, but beneath the cask strength are aromas of wood, caramel and baked peach cobbler. With a few drops of water the nose transformed with the scent of cinnamon raisin bread and holiday spiced ale.
To the Taste: Out of the bottle the first sips were very intense, with dry oak flavor predominating, followed by hints of butterscotch and malted milkshakes. Water brought forth more sweetness, almost like tasting forest honey straight from the jar.
And the Finish: At cask strength, the finish is where No. 242 hides the best flavors. There are hints of vanilla, cereal grains, and flavors resembling a dark ale. Reduced with water, the finish carried lingering sweetness.
Cask No. 242 gave us a lot to think about. The prospect of American single malt whiskey is something we’ve been excited about, and having a cask strength example gave us the opportunity to taste the whiskey at full power. Westland has produced a whiskey that has a ton of flavor and a surprising amount of complexity given the young age and cask the company used for this bottling. The new charred American oak gives the whiskey a strong bourbon influence. At the same time, Cask No. 242 is not for the faint hearted. Out of the bottle the youthful spirit and strong oak flavor is almost overpowering. We suggest giving your pour a few minutes to rest and be ready to add some water to really turn this whiskey into an interesting dram. We look forward to trying more from Westland, especially if they are able to add some longer aged expressions to their lineup.