We make whiskey in the heart of the Pacific Northwest. In our region of the United States, the climate is ideally suited for the production of single malt whiskey. We have two of the best barley-growing regions in the world, a remarkable water source fed to us from the Cascade Mountains, and a cultural heritage that encourages us to question long-standing conventional thinking. So although it had never been done before, and many people suggested we simply bourbon like everyone else, the path forward was clear to us: we needed to make single malt whiskey because our region is meant to make single malt whiskey.
Westland sits at the end edge of the world. Our ancestors, restless spirits, settled here when they could explore no further. Descended from these pioneers, this spirit exists in us as well. This spirit of looking out into the west and seeing the possibilities before us. But the cities have been established, the roads built, the wilderness explored. Our west, now, is whiskey.
We began in 2010 when the Distillery was founded. Three years in we released our first whiskey and quickly formed the core of our portfolio that includes our flagship American Oak, Peated and Sherry Wood expressions which we’ll talk to you about in detail. In the Spring we were named World Craft Producer of the Year at the prestigious World Whiskies Awards in London, hosted by Whisky Magazine. Some wonder why a distillery that doesn’t consider itself craft are proud of the award. In truth, it served as early validation for our work but also for the category of American Single Malt Whiskey as a whole. It also gave us a platform to open the conversation about what it is we actually do at Westland and how we approach our work. Lastly, as you all know, we joined the Remy family in January of this year. We are thrilled to be joining a company that holds the same values ethos that we do. It is a great opportunity to take this brand to the next level and live up to our true potential.
We’re still a young company. We’re on on journey, and we certainly haven’t mastered anything. Frankly, we don’t believe we ever truly will. We work on a core set on values and a belief that great possibilities have yet to be explored in single malt whiskey. This is our vision.
Thoughtfully Made is our mantra. For us, it is more than a tagline. It is both a standard to live up to and an ideal to strive for.
Everything we do is purposeful and is done with steadfast attention to the details, and when applied in the course of our daily work, helps advance our people, our partners, our region and the whiskey industry as a whole.
We respect tradition, but we are not bound by it.
We use these same fundamental four ingredients and the same processes used for generation in the whiskey-making of the old world.
But we work to contribute something new to the world of single malt whiskey as well—something that reflects our unique time, place and culture.
So what are the defining elements of our house style?
Just as a quick refresher, there are traditionally 4 ingredients needed to make single malt whiskey—barley, water, yeast and wood. One fundamental belief we hold here at Westland is that all 4 of these ingredients actually impact flavor. It seems obvious, but frankly it’s not a perspective shared by most in the industry. So instead of blindly accepting the commoditized, formulaic approach, we consider alternatives available to us in the sourcing of each ingredient. We don’t have to work very hard to find something special in our water. It is, in and of itself, unique to us. With the other 3 ingredients, we are mostly limited to working within established systems (with a few interesting exceptions). But what we can consider are different systems altogether. Instead of confining ourselves to conventional single malt conventions, we borrow from food, from beer, even from bourbon traditions to explore how unique perspectives on these raw ingredients can ultimately result in a whiskey with a distinctly American character.
We have good, clean water that we don’t need to treat or manipulate for use in making whiskey.
With the exception of one whiskey, roasted malts aren’t at all used in Scotch whisky. Instead, they all start with the same commoditized grain, grown in the same handful of regions in Europe, sourced from the same handful of suppliers. Just like toasting a piece of bread, roasted the barley during the malting process creates new flavors that we ultimately get to express in our whiskies.
-Big Scotland says barley doesn't matter! -Bruichladdich joins us in the fight!
-Brewers have used these malts for centuries, why not in whiskey?
Our 5-malt barley bill is a signature recipe that is found in each of our core expressions. The majority of this barley—80%— is grown in WA State, but the system here is limiting. While we would love to source the other three malts from Washington, it simply isn’t commercially available. We want to be local as often as we can. But we won’t make concessions just so we can say we are local.
This in all three of our core expressions This is our flag in the ground, malt flavor matters!
It’s important to us that we fill a variety of casks to provide us with a diverse stock of whiskey to work with. But our emphasis on virgin oak distinguishes our whiskies stylistically from old world single malt which relies almost exclusively on used oak. Quality is also paramount to us here at Westland and, like our friends in the wine industry, we insist that our new oak casks are made from slow-growth, air-dried staves. This, surprisingly, is not something Scotch whiskey distilleries concern themselves with. The majority of the oak in their wood programs has been kiln dried which results in unpleasant chemical compounds (most notably sulfur) that has to be mitigated with longer maturation times.
We use virgin oak as both a nod to American whiskey-making tradition, but also to balance the malt flavor Scotland says 60-70% of flavor comes from maturation, yet they can’t be bothered to invest in quality oak. We actually shoot for less than 40% of our flavor to come from the cask
The impact our Belgian Brewer’s yeast has on Westland whiskies cannot be overstated. This is one of the defining characteristics of our house style and something you will not find in Scotland. In all truth, we do it because we can. It’s another example of seizing the freedom we have from convention and considering new possibilities. In the old world they’re compelled to use a traditional distiller’s yeast—bred for efficiency and yield. Again, we looked to our friends in the brewing world around Washington for inspiration. Because of the brewer’s yeasts, our fermentations take more than twice the time as our Scottish counterparts. But what it gives us in flavor is absolutely worth the sacrifice.
- Scotland says yeast doesn’t matter! - Brewer’s yeast actually used to be standard until 60 years ago.
We need only look to the great culinary cultures of the world for inspiration, where a reliance on local ingredients along with the stewardship and creativity gave rise to world renowned cuisines. We’re working with like-minded people in the Skagit Valley—farmers, maltsters and academics—to develop unique strains of barley bred for variety and flavor instead of simply yield. Not just for us, but for everyone—distillers, brewers, chefs. To achieve this takes resolve and a commitment to developing the partnerships and resources necessary to provide what is one of only four ingredients in our whiskey. Our early explorations are already proving fruitful and delivering completely new flavor profiles in our whiskies. And as a bi-product, we’re creating a system that is benefitting the people and agricultural community of our region. We’re still about a year out from some of our first releases using these new varieties of barley. But we’re used to being patient. This is a long-term vision—one that takes persistence and resolve.
One example of the new malts we’re using is Purple Obsidian, or a barley varietal sometimes called Purple Egyptian. It is hundreds of years old, and as you might guess, of Egyptian descent. It looks completely different from the commoditized barley used across the industry. And not surprisingly it tastes completely different as well. This is just one of many new malts we’re exploring on a small scale to see what works, how it performs and what it can do to produce unique flavors in whiskey.
Garryana has been incredibly well-received by both consumers and the trade. This year’s second edition, released on June 10th, has been a highly-anticipated follow up to last year’s bottling which sold out quickly. Each release of Garryana comes with a mix of content and promotion that tells the story of our exploration with Garry Oak. This year’s film, articles and podcasts chronicle our work to hunt down new sources of this rare oak and, with partners from around the region, build an economy where there has never been one.
American Single Malt Whiskey opportunity roundup.
Westland was founded with the goal of making the most authentic whiskey possible.
Our intention is to make American single malt whiskey, not a replica of Scottish malt whiskey in the United States.
In our whiskey we work to reflect the distinct qualities of its region; of the place where it is made and character of those who make it. With each expression we endeavor to create something that both honors the traditions of distilling that we admire and adds something worthwhile at the same time. Something new and distinctly American.
Westland has founded and funded an organization designed to establish, promote and protect the category of American Single Malt Whiskey as a whole. The American Single Malt Whiskey Commission is rooted in consumer education. Today, it counts over 80 Member Producers and an equal number of trade supporters. We’re actively developing trade programs to advance the mission and are working with several other organization to earn a formal definition with our Federal Government.
-We wrote this!
American Terroir: Discovering Whiskey's Sense of Place
“I discovered that my own little postage stamp of native
soil was worth writing about and that I would never live
long enough to exhaust it.” - William Faulkner
• Continued seed increases tested for genetic integrity
• Additional studies testing soil samples against kernel and flavor analysis
• Using data to naturally enhance favorable flavor characteristics in whiskey
• Exploring ways to responsibly introduce seed stocks into wider distribution
• Protecting integrity of seed stocks post-distribution through certification
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