Review: Westland Is Rebuilding American Whiskey From the Ground Up
The Seattle distillery’s new range focuses on never-before-used barrels and grains
What we’re drinking: Westland Garryana 5th Edition and Colere, two very unique American single malts
Where it’s from: Westland is a Seattle-based distillery (currently celebrating 10 years) that’s been crafting interesting single malts utilizing roasted malts, a Belgian Saison brewers’ yeast strain and virgin American oak casks.
But they’re also willing to get a little wild.
For their new Outpost Range, Westland continues to work with wood outside of the traditional species of white oak the whiskey industry typically favors, instead relying on a tree native to the Pacific Northwest: Garry Oak (which is hard to cultivate and only grows in the wild; the distillery only sources the wood from fallen trees). For the new range, they’re also playing around the barley itself, utilizing different varietals sourced from outside the commodity grain system; the distillery says it’s used 20 different varieties of barley overall in their range of releases, which they believe is more than “the entire Scottish whisky industry combined.”
Why we’re drinking this: “We are trying to represent the Pacific Northwest through the land, which provides the ingredients, whether it’s using our own peat or a local oak species,” says master distiller and co-founder Mat Hoffman. “And a lot of this is cutting edge and never been done before.”
Each of the Outpost releases explores the raw ingredients in a single-malt whiskey with a name inspired by terroir. Since most of the flavor of whiskey comes via the barrel — the grain used and the land it’s from are pretty damn important, too — the idea of deconstructing and reimagining a whiskey’s core components means you’ll never taste anything like these.
To accomplish these broad goals, Westland’s Outpost releases play around with an indigenous wood, an atypical barley and a local peat.
How it tastes: The Garryana (5th edition) is a peated malt placed into virgin Garry Oak casks for four years. To balance out that rather intense wood flavor, it’s also blended with pale malt aged in former Tennessee whiskey casks for six. You’ll get a lot of savory barbecue here (think Kansas City style) with chocolate notes. It’s sweet, spicy and savory all at once. Not for everyone, it’s something to come back to time and again just to decipher.
The Colere, meanwhile, is crafted from a six-row winter barley called Alba. Part of a new annual release that’ll highlight different varietals of barley, Colere is matured in used casks — a rarity for Westland. That’s because this isn’t about the wood at all, but almost entirely about the grain itself. This release is fruity, delicate and sweet, with dominant notes of ginger and pineapple. It’s a polar opposite of Garryana, but also just as unique.
Fun fact: The third release from the Outpost Range will be a peated whiskey called Solum, arriving in 2023. It’s the first whiskey to be made from barley malted with Washington State peat (side note: peated malt has never been produced in the U.S. until now). We didn’t taste it, because it hasn’t matured yet.
Where to buy it: You can find a local retailer of Westland here. And also check ReserveBar for the upcoming releases (Garryana is out later this fall, Colere is next spring and Solum will be winter 2023).
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