Updated May 6, 2016
By Father John Rayls
Westland Distilling’s mission is to create an American version of a Scottish style whisky, and one of the most famous kinds of Scotch is peated whisky, so any serious effort to follow the Scottish style must necessarily tackle the peat. Westland Peated American Single Malt Whiskey was the result.
It is built on a variation of their standard house style whiskey, Westland American Single Malt Whiskey, at least two years old and bottled at 92 proof. That strength isn’t high enough to remove paint, but it’s enough to keep things interesting. The peaty side comes from a peated malt mash billed as the smokiest in the New World. The remainder of the whiskey comes from spirits made from 100% Washington (state) grown pale malt. That blend of new make is then aged in American oak and first fill ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks. The distillery’s aim was to achieve a well balanced whiskey that is, at the same time, multidimensional.
This American whiskey has a light golden color to it in the glass, so much so it must be what the movie On Golden Pond was all about. The light shimmers in and around it. Its legs are long; although, droplets form around the glass at the apex of the whiskey as you swirl it indicating less viscosity.
I am compelled to draw attention to how Westland’s Peated does not nose like I would expect from a smoky, Scotch type whiskey. You immediately notice the fruit instead, on top of a light smokiness. The fruit aromas morph into a “honey on a biscuit” as you continue to inhale. Good luck with your salivary glands once that connection is made. Eventually, a warm leather makes its presence known. You will particularly notice it when you spend some time nosing the empty glass after consuming your drink. If you haven’t done this, give it a try. You may be really surprised.
The smoke is much more noticeable in the flavor. Much of the activity happens on the roof of the mouth near the back and a softer activity near mid-tongue. Flavors of pistachio and the Oloroso sherry lead to the finish. You can certainly get some sense of a Scotch style with the smoke influencing all of the other dimensions.
It is an easy drinking whiskey, but remember it’s still a young one. The finish is short to medium in length. The smoke does not overwhelm, but instead invites, so this might be a good introduction to people who might believe they don’t like a smokey whiskey.
Addendum By Elizabeth Emmons
Westland Peated is a pale gold in the glass. When swished, it quickly forms distinct and fast moving legs, hinting at a thinner mouthfeel.
The nose has fruit and floral base notes including pear and flavored marzipan. It perfectly embodies one of those chocolates with a marzipan-filled middle. The top notes include a candy bar quality milk chocolate and charred brown sugar (think the top of a crème brûlée). There is a slight saltiness to the nose as well. The smell of sun-dried clothes that have experienced a dip in the Atlantic would achieve this. The nose overall, however, is light.
The mouthfeel is surprisingly punchy at first and did not follow through from the nose (not a judgement). There is a slight oiliness that is short-lived, and once swallowed, a fast approaching dryness ensues, beginning at the throat and eventually taking over the entirety of the mouth. The finish is slightly tinny and dull.
It is interesting that Westland calls this peated, as to me, it tastes more of lightly charred oak than peat. Caveat: I do love a heavy peat. If one were to place this whiskey in a peat spectrum, it would be more on the sweet peat side. To be clear: if you are a peated Scotch lover and want to try a peated whiskey with a similar kick and taste profile (even in a wide Scotch peat range), this is not what you get here. That being said, its taste profile is what distinguishes Westland Peated. It would also make a great start for a beginner peat drinker.
For the record, I much prefer this Westland Peated version to the Sherry Wood expression. While of course, the taste profiles are like comparing apples to oranges, as a whole, this whiskey’s notes better harmonize. Additionally, I agree with John’s assessment of warm leather pleasantly wafting from the dregs in the glass–an olfactory lullaby post nightcap.
Westland Distillery and Anchor Distilling Company are now shipping all over the country. You should be able to find their Peated American Single Malt Whiskey for the suggested retail of $69.99. Be warned, however, for I have seen it listed higher on several websites.