Editor’s Note: This whiskey was provided to us as a review sample by Westland. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review.
American Single Malt is about exploration. And when it comes to that exploration, Westland Distillery of Seattle, Washington is a foundational driver of excellence in the category. If you’ve read this fine profile of them, or any reviews of their whiskey, or visited, you know that imbuing their spirits with a sense of place is part of what they do best. Westland has been at the forefront of deciding legal definitions of the American Single Malt space, and they’ve helped enshrine a very American value: permission to experiment.
On the other end of this continuum is Scotch. Some types of Scotch are blended to a known standard every time; all choices are made to achieve that end goal. Westland’s Reverie series is about letting a blender’s palate chart the course – blue-sky blending, if you will. I spoke with Shane Armstrong, the very blender responsible for this whiskey I’m reviewing – Reverie Fig. 1 – about this.
“We have a lot going on in our rack house, so [we have] casks that are pretty open ended with no destination.” This iteration was worked on by Armstrong on-and-off for two years, and he was given liberty to bring his distinctive vision to life: “Approaching [the various blends] to be good in that moment, putting [them] away and seeing what happens though time.” It’s refreshing to know that post-acquisition by Rémy Cointreau the craftspeople at Westland still have latitude.
Rather than weigh down the whiskey with tasting notes and predictions of what the drinker will experience, Reverie’s story is illustrated with a schematic detailing all the casks that were vatted and then aged in further casks to become the final blend. It’s a fascinating graphic that can absorb your attention, as you decipher what each code means.
Much like Westland’s Garryana whiskies highlight the choice of wood, Reverie is meant to spark an exploration of what blending does and can mean. “We wanted to open up the conversation. The labeling, the artwork, everything breaks away from Westland’s standard branding. We wanted to create a discussion.”
The series will continue for the forseeable future. “What’s Interesting about this one is these [casks] still exist in the rack house, so we might see a callback to this first edition in a later part of the series,” noted Armstrong.
Westland Distillery Reverie Fig. 1 (image via Westland)
Tasting Notes: Westland Whiskey – Reverie Fig. 1
Vital Stats: Limited run – 900 bottles produced; $125; minimum age: 49 Months; distinct spirits distilled from Five Malt, Washington Malt, Peated Malt; aged in new American oak of various char levels and Moscatel casks.
Appearance: Reverie, Fig 1 shows a pale honey in the glass; the high alcohol content sheeting rather than forming tears.
Nose: Gorgeous: perfumes of apricot and hay, followed by the barest hint of smoke. After resting in the glass, sweet almond leads with backing vocals by cigar box and nutmeg.
Palate: A first blush of significant heat opens to burnt sugar and allspice, with toast on the mid-palate and a medium-length finish of plum. (My suspicion is all this stone fruit comes from the Saison yeast used for fermentation. It’s a very nice touch.)
A glass of this would pair well with roasted almonds, a nutty dessert and a roaring fire. A little fat would go a long way to highlighting its strengths. Please enjoy this whiskey in a Glencairn glass to take full advantage of its nose.
Westland continues to innovate: whiskey made from unique barley varietals is currently maturing. They also continue to cooperate, with their thriving cask exchange with Seattle-area breweries. Expect to see a kriek-style beer from Black Raven on tap in March 2019.
In 2014 I founded Portland Bitters Project with the vision to create the best bitters on the market. Now our bitters are enjoyed around the country and internationally to make expressive, delicious cocktails. I teach at two Portland colleges and visit private groups, distilleries and maker's spaces to spread the...