By: David Othenin-Girard
K&L Staff Member
I think it's safe to say that the Westland Distillery deserves its spot atop the Craft Distilling pyramid. The Craft Spirits category is dominated by distillers who are trying to do it all. That worked for St George because they started 30 years ago and CAN actually do everything well, but very few people will ever replicate that model. So instead distillers search for a way to do it different, to stand out, to change a category. The problem with changing a category like say Single Malt, is that it's been changing for hundreds of years. It's hard to argue that the Scottish haven't figured it out pretty well. SO the question shouldn't be, "how can we change this?" It should be, "how can we make it better?" And that's exactly what Westland have done. They've stayed dedicated and focused completely on producing exceptional and eclectic single malt. They examined closely every possible aspect of the process and adjusted subtle quality components to create a product that is uniquely theirs, yet falls well within the boundaries of acceptable/traditional Single Malt. The results are no less than astonishing than their rise to prominence. I've always appreciated what they were able to achieve within their core range, but having been to the distillery and tasted countless single cask versions, there's little doubt the true heights are only achieved with these singular expressions. So when Matt phoned up to say he'd be in town with samples I cleared my schedule. It's been YEARS since we've even been considered as a potential partner for their single cask program and the huge majority of single casks seems to sell in and around the distillery. It wasn't an easy choice. There were some big bold peaters in the bunch and some elegant aromatic American Oak barrles, but there was just no way that I could let this sweet little number walk away. This ultra concentrated Pedro Ximinez Sherry Hogshead is the total package. Dense nose full of dried fruit, deep malt and spiced cakes. The absolutely jaw-aching texture belies the youth of the whisky, which can't be very old, but packs a punch like Mike. With water this stuff builds intensity and some salinity, while staying sweet enough to keep from being astringent. I'm sort of loving this with only the tiniest drop added. IF more whisky came out of Westland like this, we might have to call it the Kavalan of Cascadia, but I think this one is a bit of an outlier. And that's just were we like 'em - off the charts.