By Debbie Shocair26%
With the prolific explosion of craft whiskey production in the United States, it’s lovely to run across one that genuinely tries to stand apart, exploring new horizons in search for ways that whiskey can be made more interesting. Such is the latest work of Westland Distillery’s Master Distiller Matt Hoffman in their Native Oak series.
Using species of oak specific to the Pacific Northwest, the Quercus Garryana, and the traditional Quercus Alba (white oak), Hoffman has produced a whiskey in which he allows the new choice of oak to take center stage, leacing its unique signature on the finished product. The grain bill draws on six types of malted barley, including 26% peated malt. This practice of using multiple malts is typical at Westland, where the standard whiskies all draw on five or six malts each.
These malt whiskeys were then aged in overlapping choices of wood. Much of the malt whiskey was matured in new white oak (69%) and used white oak (10%), but 21% was drawn from pale malt aged in the new and unfamiliar Garryana casks.
On the nose, Westland Garryana was heavy on the smoke, but in a pleasant way and by no means overwhelming, as hints of cotton candy, dark honey and clover hover amid the smoke.
Breaking it with a ½ teaspoon of water allowed the sweetness to pop to the front and also revealed hints of dark berries.
The mouthfeel was all over the palate, but the finish was long and lovely. Think the best of tobacco and smoke, mild candy sweetness, and a strong bitter chocolate. Interestingly, there was no burn, even at 112.4 proof (56.2% ABV)!
I have been a strong believer in the merits of the craft whiskey movement, especially where distillers tiptoe outside the proverbial bottle, er, box. This expression from Westland represents why I support the movement so: everything I like about good whiskey, plus something interesting to boot. I will be watching out for forthcoming expressions to come from Westland.
A limited release, the Garryana 2016 will retail at about $125, a fair price for the whiskey lover/collector.