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Monday, December 30, 2019

Westland Garryana 3|1

In 2016, Westland began releasing annual small batches of single malt partially aged in Quercus garryana garryana, an oak native to the Pacific Northwest. Because it's a new avenue for whisk(e)y, and the trees are in limited supply, the amount of Garryana casks used vary from batch to batch. The company offers a lot of detail about this process, including nicely-shot pleasantly-scored videos, here, here and here. The releases have been in high demand, even with their substantial price tags, so I'm curious to see how (or if) these batches will scale up.

Batch 3|1 (2018's release) is a bit more of a blending feat than its predecessors. Five cask types and a bundle of barley varietals were involved in its production. Though it may not be all PNW, I'm still thankful to have the opportunity to experience this new whiskey frontier.

Distillery: Westland
Region: Seattle, Washington
Age: minimum 51 months
Mashbill: the five-malt mix, Washington Select Pale Malt and Heavily Peated Malt
Yeast: Belgian Saison Brewer’s Yeast
Fermentation: 144 hours
Maturation: Garryana Oak casks, New American (non-Garryana) Oak casks, 1st Fill Bourbon casks, 1st Fill Port casks, refill Ex-Westland casks
Release: September 2018
Outturn: 1638 bottles
Alcohol by volume: 56%
(from a bottle split)

The nose begins with freshly hewn lumber and old rye, then hints of mossy smoke and Play-Doh. Toffee, melted dark chocolate and saline. Vinyl siding in the summer heat. It has a very thick mouthfeel. Sweet malt and honey-roasted nuts ride up front in the palate. Tart lemons and a brisk herbal bite in the midground. Plasticky smoke and a little bit of mocha in the background. Thankfully the finish is mostly tannin free. Larger notes of toasted almonds, ginger and mocha are met with quieter moments of pepper and herbal bitterness.

DILUTED TO ~46%abv, or 1¼ tsp of water per 30mL whiskey
Cinnamon rolls, toasted almonds and wood smoke make up most of the gentler nose. Milk chocolate and coastal notes linger in the background. The palate becomes less sweet, more savory. Pan-heated dried herbs, sea salt and coastal peat. A hint of mocha. The finish matches the palate with maybe a little more nuttiness.

A very enjoyable single malt with a great mouthfeel, Garryana 3|1 feels well-assembled throughout. It seems like one piece with the port casks nowhere to be found and the peat serving as a gentle seasoning. This batch does read a little different than the regular releases and single casks I've tried, but I'm not sure if that's the Garryana or blending at work. And while I understand the reasoning behind the premium pricing, the Garrayana batches are a bit dear for my wallet.

Whether or not this is the future of single malts, I can't say. Whisky's destiny will be determined by producer-swallowing corporations and tariff-spewing governments. While the consumer will foot the bill for both elements, hopefully something good emerges for quality distillers like Westland.

Availability - probably sold out
Pricing - $140-$180, it's cheaper in Washington though the state liquor tax makes up for the difference
Rating - 87