A new chapter for Westland and American single malt
Westland Distillery’s latest Garryana edition comes with the expectation that American single malt will soon be recognised as an official whiskey style.
For the average whisky drinker, American single malt is still a fairly new concept. Unlike Bourbon or Scotch, it lacks a formal definition, at least for now, and the general awareness that comes with decades of production.
Founded in 2010, Westland Distillery has been at the forefront of the American single malt movement, educating consumers and advocating for legal guidelines. While they have led that charge for years now, it also comes with some drawbacks.
“Sometimes being early to the party isn’t helpful,” said Erik Bennett, head of marketing.
Westland was adamant from the outset that American single malt be its own style and not lumped into the ‘generic category’ of American whiskey. It has taken time though, as the The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), the US governmental agency that oversees alcohol, has been slow in recognising and ratifying parameters for the style. The American Single Malt Whiskey Commision, which Westland helped found, has been anticipating a decision for more than a year now.
“That meant we’ve had this awkward waiting period,” Bennett added. “We’re not exciting because we’re not new. But the thing that we believe in hasn’t happened yet. And in the meantime, the competition’s grown. I do think it’s shifting in this moment where it is pretty crucial that we don’t lose focus.”
In the past year, Jack Daniel’s and Jim Beam have released American single malts of their own, lending further credibility to the growing category. Distillery manager Tyler Pederson said he’s hopeful that these new entrants will raise the profile for American single malt worldwide.
“When they release a five- and six-year-old whiskey, and we’ve been doing it for 10 years, you know, they’ve been taking notes,” he said. “It’s kind of a humbling thing, but also very empowering. They’re going to bring a lot of money and a lot of advertisement dollars to this category.”
The growing excitement for American single malt means that Westland has a lot to offer for the adventurous drinker, including the latest edition in its Garryana series, to be released in November.
Each Garryana release uses Quercus garryana, a rare oak indigenous to the Pacific Northwest. The eighth edition is bottled at 50% ABV and priced at US$150. It includes the following cask types: 45% Pedro Ximénez, 38% virgin Garryana oak, 12% Washington State red wine, and 5% first fill ex-Bourbon.
Garryana is a part of Westland’s Outpost range which also includes Colere and Solum, all three whiskeys being available for the first time this year.
Elevating the team
Bennett said that Westland has been a team effort since the beginning, with the eighth edition of Garryana marking the first Westland release since co-founder and master distiller Matt Hofmann left the brand in June.
Pederson has been working there for more than 10 years, getting his start on the production side, making the mash for six months before stepping into a distillers role, while master blender Shane Armstrong has likewise been there for more than a decade, and blended the first Garryana expression, released in 2016.
“We had a founder who knew the production side, but was also very intelligent about the philosophical side and can talk about the brand in a really compelling way. And so it just made sense for Matt to keep being the face,” Bennett said. “It’s sort of the natural progression of the same people who have been there just now taking new roles that are more public.”
In addition to the Outpost range, Westland offers a flagship single malt, bottled at 46% ABV and priced at US$60.
Rémy Cointreau purchased Westland in late 2016.