Whiskey Review: Westland Distillery Garryana Edition 6

, | April 26, 2022

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. It should also be noted that by clicking the buy link towards the bottom of this review our site receives a small referral payment which helps to support, but not influence, our editorial and other costs.

Westland Distillery from Seattle is one of the premier independent craft whiskey distilleries in United States. Westland Distillery has three ranges of products: their Flagship Single Malt, the Outpost Range that includes the Garryana series that we are reviewing today, and the Heritage Collection, the now discontinued original lineup consisting of the American Oak, Sherry Wood, and Peated editions.

According to Westland Distillery’s website, “Garryana American Single Malt Whiskey pursues true provenance with the introduction of an entirely new species of oak to the world of whiskey. In our work, we create a record of the oak’s distinctive characteristics and reveal unique expressions of Pacific Northwest terroir”.

Garryana Oak (aka Quercus Garryana or Oregon Oak), for those unfamiliar with the name, is an oak native to Pacific coast of North America. Its range stretches from southern California to southwestern British Columbia, according to Wikipedia. It is the only native oak species from Northern Oregon to British Columbia. It is also called Garry Oak in Canada. It is quite a different beast than the much more common Quercus Alba (American Oak)  used for most of the whiskies produced in United States in terms of handling and taste profile. Garryana Oak is both rare and hard to work with, which means it is not generally commercially sought after. Now growing at just 5% of its original range, it is also quite expensive. Garryana also has a profoundly phenolic aromatic profile and tannin levels that demand years of air seasoning to soften. It is a very assertive species of oak, in other words, and imparts very bold and complex flavors.

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The Garryana Native Oak Series from Westland Distillery is a very limited production run. Due to its bold and assertive nature and the rareness of the barrels, Westland Distillery has been blending Garryana oak finishes with other cask finishes. In this 6th edition, Garryana finished barrels “comingle with both Brandy and Sherry casks. The Brandy gives a bright filter to the savory spice of Garry Oak. The Pedro Ximénez, its classic darker fruits with muted sweetness. Both add something distinct while leaving enough space for the Garry Oak to shine,” according to the Westland Distillery website.

Westland Distillery, true to their Pacific Northwest roots, has been a good steward for Garryana oak. Not only they are replanting new saplings, but they are only using “naturally fallen or ‘hazard’ oak” for their barrels. Master Distiller Matt Hofmann says that they are also reusing every barrel.

Edition 5, the previous release, was similar to their Edition 1 release in that it used a very high percentage of virgin Garryana oak finished whiskey. Edition 6 is not a lightweight either in that sense. It uses more virgin Garryana oak than Edition 4, but supplements it with various brandy and PX cask finishes. It has a darker color than the standard Westland Single Malt. It is matured for 41 months (Batch 5 was 45 months) and interestingly, uses the 700ml bottle for this edition.

Westland Distillery Garryana Edition 6 review

Garryana American Single Malt 2021 (image via Westland)

Tasting Notes: Westland Garryana Edition 6

Vital Stats: 50% ABV, 100 proof. Distilled from Washington select pale malt, Munich malt, extra special malt, pale chocolate malt, and brown malt.  Cask Types: 2nd Fill Ex-Pedro Ximénez Butt (65%), Virgin Quercus garryana (25%), 1st Fill Ex-Calvados (5%), 1st Fill Ex-American Grape Brandy (2%),  1st Fill Ex-Washington Apple Brandy (3%). Kudos to Westland Distillery for providing the actual percentages of each cask finish! Maturation time: 41 months. 5,922 total bottles. Non chill filtered.

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Appearance: Light honey with hints of rose tint.

Nose:  Aromas of dried raisins, mild strawberry jam, sherry, and stone fruit (makes me think of apple pie with a tiny hint of cinnamon). It’s extremely pleasant, I can nose this for hours.

Palate: Sherry shines through at first. Oak follows but with no astringency – Garryana is very well balanced with well-controlled sherry sweetness. The palate compliments the nose, a characteristic that enhances the enjoyment. The Garryana oak spiceness (reminiscent of the burn you get from ginger, but gentler in some ways) starts coming through pretty quickly and lingers on while the sherry and brandy influence fades, but is still there to balance to oak. Medium to long finish. Very pleasant. Somewhat oily, in a good way. Coats the tongue. Classic beautiful single malt flavors also comes in towards the end.

4

Summary

A well balanced, unique, lovely single malt, bottled at a perfect ABV. Westland Distillery Garryana Oak Edition 6 is a joy to nose and drink – and if you can do it while sitting among the trees as I did in the beautiful Pacific Northwest, it might take you to a very peaceful pleasant journey. Each Westland Distillery Garryana Oak edition is a welcome and unique experience. This particular edition is a little less Garryana oak-forward with the PX sherry influence being a big factor; it is, however, a beautiful marriage and even though the oak influence is less than, say, editions 1 or 5, it is still there, tempered with the PX and brandy influence. Great nose, and a good introduction to Garryana oak, a capricious but lovely oak species.

If you are looking for a gift for a friend who loves single malts looking for something they have not had, or a bourbon drinker who also enjoys a single malt, this is a good option. The only downside is that it is a bit pricey–but unique, well executed whiskies often are.

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