Westland has been one of my favorite distilleries since I discovered it about two and a half years ago. I’ve actually been there in person twice (in Seattle) and may have more different varieties of Westland than any other single distillery in my collection. Westland was recently acquired by Remy Cointreau, which makes some nervous, but given their previous track record with the earlier acquisition of Bruichladdich, I hope that the Westland acquisition will follow a similar trajectory — the parent company will supply funding to allow them to take creation and distribution to the next level, while not mucking too much with the process that has made them great so far.
This is a delayed testament to Westland’s first quarterly seasonal release, issued at the end of 2016. Westland announced with this release that they were going to start a series of seasonal releases going into 2017. If this is any indication, these future releases should be something to look forward to.
Westland Distillery, Seattle
Winter 2016 – 34 months minimum, 50% ABV
Release # 082 – Blend of
6 1st fill ex-Bourbon cask
1 1st fill ex-Oloroso hogshead of peated malt
1 Cooper’s Reserve cask
1 1st fill ex-Westland cask
Color: a pale straw gold — light but crisp, with a tiny hint of rose if you hold it up to a bright white background.
Nose: Light fruit — apples and pear — a hint of cinnamon candy or perhaps the apples were stewed with cinnamon. Then a touch of wintergreen or pine. After a while, the smoke and a hint of phenols finally makes an appearance, but only after several minutes. If you don’t spend some definite time with it, you won’t find this last part in the nose. A solid cereal malt grain base resides underneath it all.
Palate: A light kiss of spice and a very un-telegraphed tobacco flavored smoke, with very mild stone fruit following after — the tobacco does not overwhelm the lightness or fruitiness.
Finish: Slightly oily mouthfeel, and a minty, long finish that fades to a cherry sweetness.
Balance: A fresh bottle is a masterpiece. The nose completely belies the smoke unless you spend a really long time teasing it out, and then on the palate, the smoke is there, but doesn’t overwhelm the rest of the composition of the whiskey.
The peated cask that did go into this must have been a monster. Even with the larger volume of the hogshead, it would still only make up about 1/5 of the volume of the total blend. This is a whiskey that airs out quickly, however, and the flavor definitely changes if a bottle is stored half consumed. The end of the bottle is definitely “mellower” — the definition of differences between aromas and flavors collapses in on itself. The nose is now just simply stewed apples with a hint of smoke, without the distinct threads able to be followed separately. The palate too is similarly muted — the tobacco is now just a hint in the background, easy to miss if you drink things with a lot of peat. The finish is more oily and coating, and not as pleasant as early in the bottle. The part that lingers is less sweet and more waxy.
This was a great start to what hopefully becomes a Westland seasonal tradition, and I look forward to what future seasons bring.