Whiskey Review: Westland Distillery Cask Exchange – Black Raven Brewing Co. - The Whiskey Wash

Whiskey Review: Westland Distillery Cask Exchange – Black Raven Brewing Co.

Editor’s Note: This whiskey was provided to us as a review sample by Westland Distillery. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review.

While plenty of distilleries throughout the country and world embrace their location for inspiration and branding, I can think of few that have as fully and prolifically as the Seattle-based Westland Distillery.

Founded in 2010 in a small warehouse by a group of friends from high school, according to our previous reporting, Westland has produced a seemingly countless series of American single malt whiskeys – apparently their primary focus – since then, many of them part of locally-focused series and partnerships.

As somewhat anecdotal evidence, this will be our fourth review in the span of a year of  separate, limited-release Westland whiskeys that don’t include their mainstays.These include last summer’s iteration of Oregon-oak aged Garryana series, a single malt-focused series debut called Reverie Fig. 1, and last year’s annual Peat Week release.

In this case, we’re focusing on yet another iteration of another series released in March: the Westland Cask Exchange with Black Raven Brewing Co., a growing Seattle-area brewery with a taproom in Redmond and another on the way in Woodinville.

The second release in the series, this cask exchange is a single malt where – as is probably obvious – the cooperage is the primary focus. Specifically, Black Raven used two ex-Westland and two ex-bourbon casks to age a coffee stout and Kriek style beers, respectively, and gave those back to Westland to age this single malt, according to a brief description provided by the distillery.

Aging the whiskey in these casks for somewhere between 4.5 and 6.5 years, Westland produced about 952 bottles that are – or perhaps were – only available in Washington. I only found one online retailer with a posted price that put it at about $100 per bottle.

Westland Distillery Cask Exchange – Black Raven Brewing Co. (image via Westland)

Tasting Notes: Westland Distillery Cask Exchange – Black Raven Brewing Co.

Vital stats: American single malt with a mash bill of about 70% Washington Select Pale Malt and about 30% Pale Chocolate Malt. Aged in four casks – two ex-Westland, ex-Black Raven coffee stout and two ex-bourbon, ex-Black Raven Kriek style – for up to 80 months (6.67 years) before being divided into about 952 bottles at about 50% ABV.

Appearance: In the sample bottle I received as well as in a glass, this Cask Exchange comes off as a rich golden amber – pretty typical color of a whiskey and maybe a touch darker in tint than the average.

Nose: The first whiff brings a strong aroma of mellow vanilla – rich and creamy with an element of fried plantain that augments those attributes. A tart, spiciness makes starts in the background and eventually surges past the sweet character, dominated by oak, ginger, and tangerine with touches of coconut, grass, flowers.

Palate: The first sip hits the tongue with a vanilla flavor – this time more airy and vibrant than the mellow nose. After a moment, that sweetness begins to develop an earthier, spicier edge, with dose of nutmeg tingling the tongue and dragging the flavor profile toward strong coffee (like a dark roast espresso shot) with a dash of creamy condensed milk and distant notes of cocoa and fig. The nutmeg in particular – with a bit of ginger – builds to a moderate roar until it’s swallowed, which sends wave a of the spice over the tongue and rippling throughout the mouth. That eventually fades into tingly, slightly smoky ginger bread that sweetly fades into the background.

The Takeaway

Summary

This partnership between Westland Distillery and Black Raven Brewing certainly created an impressive whiskey. I was particularly struck by how this distillate seemed to hearken back to the coffee stout that previously occupied at least some of the barrels in which it was aged. While this was a bit harsh for me to drink every day – surprisingly so for an ABV of 50% – this cask exchange makes for unique, tasty whiskey.

4.5
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