When we think of American spirits, our minds often turn to bourbon or perhaps Tennessee whiskey. But have you ever stopped to consider the potential of an American distillery producing a single malt whiskey? That’s precisely the goal of Westland, whose American Single Malt Whiskey is, by its very nature, a ground-breaking and innovative spirit. It’s precisely this kind of bold experimentation that makes Westland’s endeavour so fascinating and worthy of further exploration. Join me as we dive deeper into the world of American Single Malt Whiskey and discover what makes Westland’s approach so unique.
While American Single Malt Whiskey has gained popularity among whiskey enthusiasts, it stands apart from other types of whiskey in that the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) has not yet provided a concrete definition for what constitutes American Single Malt. This could be seen as both a blessing and a curse for distillers. On the one hand, it grants them the freedom to explore and innovate in their craft, resulting in some truly exceptional products. On the other hand, this lack of definition also allows for less creative distillers to market their products as American Single Malt, thereby diluting the authenticity of the label. This creates a complex challenge that the industry must address.
The American Single Malt Whiskey Commission (ASMWC) strides in with a resolute mission: to establish, promote, and safeguard the distinctive category of American Single Malt Whiskey, just as Brendan Carty of Killowen described in our interview with him last year about the Irish Whiskey Guild, it appears that the production of whiskey inspires both unwavering resistance and fervent dedication. Strikingly reminiscent of the ongoing legislative limitations imposed on Irish distillers for their pot still whiskey and poitìn, ASMWC aims to foster the growth of ASMW by defining, proposing, and ensuring a Standard of Identity for the category. With a staunch commitment to transparency in their labels, marketing, communications, and practices, the ASMWC champions the cause of American Single Malt Whiskey relentlessly.
Turning our attention back to Westland, amidst all the chatter and hype, they quietly continue to craft some truly exceptional whiskey. They strongly emphasise the concept of ‘provenance’ and are dedicated to expressing it in their products as much as possible. While this may initially suggest strict adherence to tradition, Westland is also highly innovative and open to new ideas when it comes to single malt whiskey. But what sets them apart, in my opinion, is their commitment to transparency. It’s truly refreshing to see a distillery proudly display all the details of its process, from still height to fermentation length, leaving nothing to the imagination.
With this review, I aim to provide readers with a comprehensive review of Westland’s whiskies by exploring two from their core range and two single-cask offerings. The core whiskies I’ll be reviewing are the American Oak Cask and the Sherry Cask finishes, while the single casks under scrutiny are the ex-Moscatel finished 7-year-old single malt and Cask 437, an ex-bourbon cask finished 7-year-old single malt from Single Cask Nation.
Westland American Single Malt American Oak Cask
Price: £48.95 on Amazon
Nose: A prominent sweet honey note sets the tone, complemented by a nuanced blend of spiced vanilla and a tantalizing sprinkle of cinnamon and nutmeg. The presence of toasted oak is unmistakable, infusing it with a rich, wood-heavy aroma that’s reminiscent of antique furniture polish.
Palate: A decadent combination of vanilla, caramel, and fudge tantalises the taste buds, accompanied by the subtle yet delightful effervescence of cream soda. The oak is ever-present, adding a layer of complexity and depth to the whiskey’s profile. More honey makes an appearance, alongside a gentle heat from the pepper, while subtle hints of smoke start to emerge, adding a hint of intrigue to the already exquisite flavour profile.
Finish: Perhaps a tad short but undeniably satisfying, with the pepper’s heat taking centre stage before giving way to a gentle fade. Despite its brevity, the finish leaves a lasting impression, leaving behind a warm and comforting sensation that lingers long after the last sip.
Westland American Single Malt Sherry Wood
Price: £49.50 on Amazon
Nose: The nose is full of rich and decadent aromas, with a prominent rum and raisin ice cream note taking centre stage. Syrupy prunes, juicy apricots, and succulent figs offer a medley of stoned fruits, while the subtle hint of burnt pineapple adds a touch of tropical flair. The presence of fruit cake is also unmistakable, adding yet another layer of depth to the already complex aroma. The sweetness is both varied and abundant, with notes of fruit salad sweets and vanilla fudge providing a delightful contrast to the fruitier tones.
Palate: There’s a subtle but prickly heat that comes from the black pepper, slowly giving way to the delicious syrupy prunes and figs that dominated the nose. The vanilla notes are also present, but this time, they take on a spicier, Madagascan quality. The texture is nothing short of impressive, with a creamy, luxurious mouthfeel and hints of honey that add a luscious sweetness to the whiskey.
Finish: Medium to long in length, leaving behind a subtle but enduring heat that lingers on the tongue. The malty yumminess is undeniable, perfectly complemented by the sweet honey notes that round off the experience on a deliciously satisfying note.
Westland American Single Malt Single Cask 7-Year-Old Ex Bourbon First Fill
Price: $125 however sold out everywhere.
Nose: Notes of freshly baked coffee cake and creamy vanilla intermingle with hints of burnt toffee and milky coffee. The sweetness is perfectly balanced, with delightful hints of custard cream biscuits, fizzy cherries, and maple syrup.
Palate: This whiskey opens with mouth-watering notes of banoffee and creamy creme brûlée, while an array of spices dance on the palate. Cinnamon and nutmeg lead the charge, followed by a subtle kick of pepper and a touch of aniseed for added complexity.
Finish: The finish is warm and spicy, leaving a lasting impression that you won’t soon forget. Notes of coffee beans, liquorice, and ginger snaps mingle together, creating a memorable flavour profile that lingers on the palate.
Westland American Single Malt Single Cask 7-Year-Old Ex-Moscatel Cask
Price: $125however sold out everywhere.
Nose: A delightful sweetness that immediately captures your senses. Notes of peanut butter brittle, burnt caramel and honey intermingle seamlessly, creating a truly irresistible aroma. The fruit sweetness is equally impressive, with stewed apples and pears drizzled in cinnamon sugar, adding a touch of complexity and depth.
Palate: A beautiful warmth that gradually intensifies with each sip. The initial flavour profile is reminiscent of Jamaican cake with ginger snaps, followed by a subtle hint of cinnamon spice. The texture is beautiful, with a creamy and viscous mouthfeel that is reminiscent of smooth milk chocolate.
Finish: Although somewhat short, the finish is still delightful, with a gentle warmth that lingers on the palate. The cinnamon notes continue to shine, along with a dash of clove that adds a touch of depth and complexity to the overall experience. While age may be a factor in the finish, the overall quality of this whiskey is very good.
Westland’s range of whiskies is a true testament to the craft of whiskey-making. It is a captivating and diverse line-up, boasting a good array of flavour profiles and cask finishes. Although the two core releases might not be considered particularly ground-breaking, their range of flavours and profiles can definitely hold their own against some of the single malts from around the world.
My personal favourite was the American Oak cask, which had a slight edge over the sherry cask. I’ve tried many sherry cask-finished whiskies lately such as the Two Stacks PX Sherry cask, and I believe that when it comes to this style, it must be executed flawlessly. Perhaps my expectations were heightened because of my experience with Dunville’s Dark series. Nevertheless, these two core releases are reasonably priced and offer great value for money, making them an ideal choice for whiskey enthusiasts on a budget. There’s nothing to complain about here.
The two single-cask offerings are a shining example of expertly distilled and matured cask-strength whiskey. They demonstrate how even younger whiskies can rival their more seasoned 15+-year-old counterparts. These two releases offer an impressive array of flavours and showcase the art of whiskey-making at its finest. However, what truly stands out is the remarkable strength of flavour, which is irresistible.
Having only recently been introduced to Westlands American single malt whiskey, I can attest that they are seriously worthy of the hype, and I will certainly be delving back into their range shortly.
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