The Future of American Whiskey
I had the pleasure of dining with Westland's head distiller and whiskey creator Matt Hofmann this past Monday and talking in depth about not only the Garryana project, but also the future of whisky-making for the Seattle distillery. These guys are just on another level, and now that they've partnered with Bruichladdich under the Remy umbrella, I think the sky is the limit. There's something about not having to worry about where your next check is coming from that allows some people to flourish. It can definitely make a lazy person even lazier, but in Matt's case his ambition and creativity is only being fueled by the additional time he can now spend on shaping his vision.
Case in point: the new edition of Westland Garryana. Not only is it the best single malt made in America, it's quickly becoming one of the best American whiskies—period. For those of you who don't know the story, you can click here and get the full scoop, but the short version is that Matt and company decided to make barrels out of a type of oak native to the Pacific Northwest and use that whiskey as an ingredient in their terroir-driven expressions. Much like Suntory uses Japanese mizunara oak to create an exotic flavor in its Yamazaki expressions, Westland is creating its own unique calling card and I happen to find that spicy, intense, and heady Garryana flavor quite intoxicating. I'm a big fan.
The second release of Garryana is a more restrained and focused expression of what Matt originally hoped to showcase with the native oak project. Whereas the initial release was a big, bold, and brash expression, full of spice and a bit of smoke, this year's edition dials back the peat and lets the oak have center stage. With 21% of the blend coming from Oregon Garryana barrels, the impact of that influence is allowed to better integrate into harmony with the remaining 52% of ex-Bourbon-aged malt, along with the 27% virgin oak matured whisky. Still present is the BBQ smoke, the molasses, the coffee bean, and robust flavor that highlighted last year's release, but this time around its under complete control, bent and shaped into precisely the right proportions. Many of us here at K&L thought the 2016 Garryana was one of the best whiskies of last year, and seeing that this year's total production was a measly 2600 bottles, we recommend jumping on the one bottle we're allowing customers to buy. Westland has proven again and again that they are America's premier single malt distillery. The 2017 release of Garryana should put any last doubts to bed.
The future is now.