Westland Whiskey, based in Seattle, Washington, makes excellent American Single Malt whiskeys. This new category is still gaining traction in the United States, as the average consumer isn’t quite sure what it means.
American Single Malt Whiskey is probably one of the fastest-growing categories of whiskey in the United States right now. Thanks to the craft distillery boom over the last 15 or so years, distilleries outside of Kentucky are looking to leave their mark on the American Whiskey landscape, and because they often love Bourbon but don’t want to try to compete with it, American Single Malt is typically their style of choice.
American Single Malt whiskey producers generally fall under two categories: regional styles and philosophical styles. Those who fall under the regional category tend to use a local flair in their ASM — anything from smoking barley malt with mesquite wood in the Southwest to smoking barley malt with peach or apple woods in the Southeast.
For the philosophical folks, following a beer malt style or peating malt gives them the product they most desire. Often ASM distillers come from a beer background, so it’s a natural segue to take the (usually unhopped) beer and turn it into a whiskey.
Westland Whiskey’s philosophy is a hybrid of these ideals, as they produce peated ASMs but also have expressions that use Garryana Oak, a species of oak tree that only grows in a small swath of Washington state.
Westland recently announced they will be conducting the “Judgement of Westland,” which plays on the Judgement of Paris that took place in the 1970s in which California wines outranked French wines in a blind tasting putting California on the map as a major world winemaking region.
Malt whiskeys have historically been made in America since before there were categories, but it has really only been in the last ten years or so that the category has solidified to the point of having its own TTB designation in the Standards of Identity.
Without revealing too much about the program, single malt whiskeys from different countries are blindly labeled and consumers are invited to try the whiskeys, rate them, and share ratings with Westland through the use of a QR code. The results will be published next year.
If you have the opportunity to participate in the Judgement of Westland, I definitely recommend it. There are great malt whiskeys coming from all over the world, not just Scotland. I am eager to learn the results of this experiment so that American Single Malt can finally get the respect it deserves.