The Westland Movement is Coming

There’s been a lot of talk about American craft distillation over the last few years. The industry has been abuzz concerning the potential for new voices in the whiskey game, the enthusiasm surrounding these small producers, and the fanaticism over the tiny allocations of their exciting new whiskies. Our friends over at St. George in Alameda have seen the demand for their rare and coveted single malt whiskey go through the roof. The Texas distillery Balcones has definitely seen its lone star rise. Even the madness surrounding our own little find—the Cut Spike single malt whiskey from Nebraska—completely took us by surprise. With all the new interest in American single malt whiskey, however, one producer is primed and ready to leave every other distillery in the dust. No “craft” single malt producer is as well-equipped, well-versed, well-stocked, and simply put—no American single malt producer’s whiskey tastes as good as the single malt hailing from Westland Distillery in Seattle, Washington. Most of you reading this blog have likely already tasted the American Single Malt that hit California last year. Like me, you probably thought it was pretty good when you tried it. Let me tell you, however: that was just the tip of the iceburg. That was just a tease; a small taste of greater things to come. The real movement is coming, and it's going to take everyone by complete surprise when it does.

If you haven't heard of Westland yet, or maybe only saw their table while wandering through your local WhiskyFest, Westland Distillery is the brain child of owner Emerson Lamb and master distiller Matt Hoffman, two young entrepreneurs (Hoffman was 21 at the time he joined up) who decided it would be better to do one thing and do it well, than try to make every spirit in the book. They didn’t make vodka or gin to pay the bills in the short term. They didn’t bother buying whiskey from other distilleries to sell while they waited for their own stock to age (a popular strategy in this current market). They decided early that if they were going to get into the whiskey gig, they had better do it the right way, so they invested in huge Scottish-style pot stills, quality cooperage, and the finest malted barley from day one. They bought a 5,000 liter mash tun and 10,000 liter fermenters. They built a Scottish-style warehouse to age their casks in the right conditions. Emerson and Matt did everything the way it should be done from day one. That was in 2010—five years ago. Today we get to start reaping the benefits of those investments. The difference between Westland and every other American single malt producer is in the details, and those details are apparent on each and every sip of their remarkable whiskies. Their products are polished, complex, and simply delicious. I always thought the American Single Malt was precocious, but the recent release of the Sherry Wood and Peated expressions has me jumping out of my seat. My co-workers feel the same way—we're all pretty pumped about these whiskies.

And then there's this little guy. If you're too cool to buy regular branded expressions these days, and you spend your time asking liquor stores, "Is this everything you have, or are there certain whiskies you only keep in the back?", then we've got you covered. I had to speed taste through the first available retail expressions, but I had first dibs and I chose well. Sample 300 was obviously the best bottle in my 45 second tasting that involved me dumping 50 mls into my mouth behind AT&T stadium and spitting into a nearby garbage can. However, it was only when Matt Hoffman came by the store last week to train the staff that I realized how lucky I had been: "You chose the only fino sherry cask in the bunch," he told me. If the Sherry Wood and Peated whiskies don't convince you that Westland is making real-deal single malt whiskey, this cask will drive that point home clearly and succinctly. Westland Fino Sherry Cask #300 will be making it's way to K&L later this Spring and will quickly put any doubts to bed about who's running the show state-side.

Get ready, whiskey drinkers. I was a fan of Westland before, but now—after tasting these new releases—I'm a true believer. I'm ready to stand on my chair and cheer for Emerson and Matt, and all of their future endevours. These guys did everything the right way and it shows in every sip I take of their new Sherry Wood and Peated expressions. I can't wait to see what's ahead for this Pacific Northwest operation. We've got all three selections in stock currently for those interested in grabbing a bottle:

Westland American Single Malt Whisky $69.99 - The flagship whiskey for Seattle's Westland Distillery is one of the first American single malts that actually tastes like Scottish single malt. At the core of this whiskey’s flavor profile is a grain bill comprised of five different roasted and kilned barley malts giving the malt a character that's Scotch-like, but still distinctly different. The base is a pale malt, grown in the state of Washington. To that they add specialty malts, a concept inspired by the vibrant craft brewing culture of the Pacific Northwest. Belgian brewer’s yeast further enhances flavor development, creating fruity esters during fermentation. And finally, maturing predominantly in the finest new American oak casks complements these choices with vanilla, caramel and coconut notes, leaving an approachable and mature whiskey that's shockingly mature despite its young age.

Westland Peated Single Malt Whisky $69.99- By distilling a highly-peated single malt whisky and marrying that with an entirely unpeated single malt whisky, Seattle's Westland Distillery has created something magically delicious, more akin to Talisker or Springbank, rather than Ardbeg or Lagavulin. The smoke and phenolic elements are definitely present, but never detract from the soft, oily fruit and the inherent creaminess of the spirit, which are definitely the stars of the show. Imagine everything you love about Longrow or Bunnahabhain, but in a different package distilled in the Pacific Northwest and that's the Westland Peated in a nutshell. A major accomplishment for North American distilling.

Westland Sherry Wood Single Malt Whisky $69.99- Seattle's single malt sensation Westland Distillery is back with a new expression aged in sherry that mimics some of the finest and most beloved Speyside malts from Scotland's Highland region. In the style of Macallan or Glenfarclas, the supple, soft, fudgy, cocoa flavors are more pronounced from the sherry maturation and the richness of the palate is enhanced beyond what we've seen in the standard Westland expression. It's a more decadent version of what we already love about America's top single malt distillery and an exciting glimpse into what's promising to be a very bright future.

-David Driscoll

David Driscoll