Seattle, Washington-based Westland Distillery looks to grow awareness of the American single malt whiskey category and introduces three Westland whiskeys in Singapore.
When you hear the term single malt you almost always think about Scotch whiskies and those made in Japan, and increasingly even Taiwan or India. You certainly don’t think that United States would be home to single malt whiskies; after all, it’s corn-based bourbon that is America’s “native spirit”, right? But a number of American distilleries, especially those located in the Pacific Northwest such as Seattle, Washington-based Westland Distillery, look to prove that America can make single malt whiskey, and good ones at that.
One of the reasons attributed to the rise of single malt whiskey coming out of the US’s Pacific Northwest, shares Westland Distillery co-founder and master distiller Matthew Hofmann, is because the climate there is actually more suited to growing barley than corn. “We have two of the best barley-growing regions in the world,” says Hoffman.
“(While) many people suggested we simply bourbon like everyone else, we needed to make single malt whiskey because our region is meant to make single malt whiskey,” he explains.
From Beer to Westland Whiskey.
Another reason is partly due to the explosion of craft beer in that part of the world over the past couple of decades, with breweries in California, Oregon and Seattle leading the charge. Hofmann shares that he borrows many ideas from the beer world. For example, while the production of Scotch whisky predominantly uses the same commoditised malted barley, Westland actually uses a range of malts that’s been kilned to varying degrees – as is with the making of beer – to bring about a wider range of flavours in the final whiskey product. Specifically, its base mash bill is a 5-malt blend that includes pale malt, Munich malt, brown malt, and even pale chocolate malt.
“(While) many people suggested we simply bourbon like everyone else, we needed to make single malt whiskey because our region is meant to make single malt whiskey.” – Matthew Hofmann, co-founder and master distiller at Westland Distillery
It’s the same with yeast. Most whisky distilleries employ distiller’s yeast – mostly because of its shorter fermentation periods so as to speed up production and increase yield – Westland actually uses brewer’s yeast, and specifically Belgian saison beer yeast, which typically delivers fruity esters and spicy phenols in beer. And while fermentation time is longer compared to distiller’s yeast, the additional flavours that develop is worth the added time. In the case of Westland, Hofmann says the use of that particular Belgaian saison yeast strain contributes aromatic notes of citrus, clove, and red fruits, just from the fermentation alone.
Where Westland does borrow from its American bourbon counterparts is the use of virgin oak casks. While they do use a variety of used oak – conventional ex-bourbon or ex-sherry casks, for example – Westland employs mainly high-quality, virgin oak casks made from slow-growth wood that’s been air-dried for its signature Westland American Oak. The Westland Sherry Wood is expectedly aged ex-sherry casks to age, while the Westland Peated uses a combination of ex-bourbon casks and new American oak casks.
These factors, Hofmann tells, are what distinguishes his single malt whiskeys from Scottish-style whiskies and American bourbons or rye whiskies. “We work to create whiskies with a real sense of place,” says Hofmann, who was recently in Singapore to launch his single malt whiskey range. “Whiskies that reflect the distinct qualities of both the land and the culture of the Pacific Northwest.”
Since its founding in 2010 – with the first Westland single malt whiskey rolling off the assembly line late 2013 – the distillery has won multiple awards for its whiskies, including “World Craft Producer of the Year” by Whisky Magazine in 2016. That accolade attracted the attention of Rémy Cointreau, which acquired it in 2017.
Westland’s single malt whiskeys may not be the first American single malts to be available in Singapore, but it is certainly set to help expand and grow that category.
“We are thrilled to have Singapore included as one of our first export markets,” he adds.
The Westland American single malt whiskey range is now available at select retail bottle stores and bars around Singapore, including La Maison Du Whisky, The Secret Mermaid, and Manhattan. The Westland American Oak retails at a recommended retail price of S$135, while the Westland Sherry Wood and Westland Peated go for S$150.