Malt Mileage Rating:
Type: Single malt whiskey
Origin: Seattle, United States
The Westland peated malt is targeted at 55 ppm (parts per million), which is a measure of the level of peat in a whisk(e)y (the higher the ppm, the higher the “peatiness” of whisk(e)y). Matt Hofmann, Westland’s Master Distiller, had this to say to me about the distillery’s peated malt:
“We get peated malt from Scotland at Baird’s Maltings and from Washington State at Skagit Valley Malting. Washington State has many peat bogs and we’ve been working on a local peated malt for years now. Only recently has this been made possible with Skagit Valley Malting. The peat we source for our Washington State peated malt comes from about 60 miles south of Seattle. This is another aspect of our belief that the Pacific Northwest is ideally suited to the production of single malt whiskey.”
The peated malt is aged in new American oak and 1st-fill used American oak barrels for a minimum of two years.
Nose: There is a fusion of licorice, vanilla, and smoke sitting over a foundation of chocolaty and nutty malt with cereals. The malt is fragrant and dominates over the oak, and the barley dominates over the peat influence. The peat smoke is soft, integrated as a part of the whiskey’s profile rather than leaping out as what we might recognise as “peat” (as it would present itself in most Scottish malts).
Taste: There is something about the malt that I love. It has a base of licorice and a sweet sugary profile. There are plumes of smoke and flavours of soot/embers that satisfy my craving for peat; but not as a Coal Ila or Lagavulin would satisfy my cravings for peat. The peat smoke is a large part of this whiskey, but it struggles to outshine the characterful malt. That is where the adventure begins as we venture beyond Scotch, or Irish, or Taiwanese, or even Australian whisky. Westland, clearly, aims to be different. It is robust and grain-led, like a good Chinese Baijju. There is an earthiness about it; coffee, dark chocolate. And the spice from the wood is very nice. I get lots of cinnamon and warming spices. This may be young whiskey, but it is delicious whiskey.
Finish: Ash and soot remain with some sugary sweetness. Cedar joins the lingering caramels, and there is a curious fusion of vanillas and the tarry butt of a smoking cigar with hints of herbal notes.
Overall: I get the feeling that some people may hate, while others will love, this whiskey. It floats my boat. The flavours may be cluttered and jumbled up. The whiskey may be young. The malt may dominate over the wood. But, for me, Westland’s peated whiskey is a well crafted malt that hits the spot.