Whiskey Review: Westward Whiskey High Desert to Klamath Basin

, | September 18, 2022

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

When people think of Oregon, they tend to automatically think of Portland and make assumptions based on how the media portrays our state. However, this large Pacific Northwest territory has a lot to offer. From the coast to the mountains, from the waterfalls to the desert, and the old coniferous trees to the farmlands, Oregon has it all. Westward Whiskey, in their latest Whiskey Club exclusive release, managed to capture Oregon in a bottle. 

As Head Distiller and Blender Miles Munroe describes the latest release, “It’s a deep dive into what’s going on here in Oregon.” The idea of terroir in whiskey has been debated since the early 2000s. The NW Elements Series from Westward is one hundred percent made from all things Oregon. All-in-all, the High Desert to Klamath Basin whiskey truly represents the heart of Oregon.

The two-row barley strain, Full Pint, was cultivated by Oregon State University (go Beavs!) and is grown in Klamath, Oregon. The yeast was created in Portland, Oregon. The distillation occurs on premise at Westward Whiskey, also in Portland. The Garryana (Oregon White Oak) oak barrels are made at Oregon Barrel Works in McMinnville, Oregon. Lastly, the water that gets the High Desert to Klamath Basin single malt to its final proof of 90 is from the Bull Run Watershed.

Westward’s Whiskey Club launched in 2019 as the distillery continued growing and expanding its whiskey offerings. Thirty states have access to the club, which is the only way to purchase the Northwest Elements Series: High Desert to Klamath Basin whiskey. The two-tiered program— Expedition Club and Founder’s Club levels— allows member access to one or three exclusive bottles per quarter. Members also have access to special events.

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If you want to see what Oregon is all about in a bottle, then sign up to be a Westward Whiskey Club member. Or come and visit!

Westward Whiskey High Desert to Klamath Basin review

Westward Whiskey American Northwest Elements Series: High Desert to Klamath Basin (image via Courtney Kristjana/The Whiskey Wash)

Tasting Notes: Westward American Single Malt NW Elements Series High Desert to Klamath Basin

Vital Stats: 45%ABV, 90 proof. 100% Oregon-made American single malt. Exclusive to Westward Whiskey Club members. 750ml $99.95.

Appearance: Coppery chestnut

Nose: The first thing I get is saline. Not just salt water, but the saltiness of cured meats on a charcuterie board. Still on the charcuterie board are juicy red grapes and fig jam. The malt is mellow throughout the nose and helps push everything forward. A stick of cinnamon and powdered sugar follows through near the end.

It has a familiarity to it; however, it is unlike any other Westward American Single Malt. Taking in all the aromas together, it begins to have the scent of stale pipe tobacco that you find in a pocket of your grandfather’s dusty cardigan in the cedar closet.    

Palate: After taking too big of a swig, there is a lot to unpack. There is so much depth and character to this whiskey it is hard to find the right words. At the beginning, dry cinnamon and oak hit the front of the tongue and the back of the throat. The dram then moves along to black peppercorn for a bit of extra spice. I do not find it sweet at all. In fact, the single malt is very savory and earthy.

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The main note I taste in the body is hazelnut— or filberts, as we call them here in Oregon. Again, it is calling back to charcuterie. Toward the end, there is full tobacco leaf. The finish is sooty like cigar ash, and it leaves a glowing ember of warmth in the belly and throat.

5

Summary

This Westward Whiskey Club exclusive single malt shines. The American NW Elements Series: High Desert to Klamath Basin is a great first bottle to this series. The layers and depth of flavor really display the best of Oregon. One of the first whiskeys in Oregon that really shows that terroir is real. It’s a standalone whiskey for sure, because no other whiskey compares.

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Courtney Kristjana

Courtney Kristjana is a leading whiskey taster in the country. She left a career in Gerontology after an article on Heather Greene inspired her to follow her passion for whiskey. She is studying to become a Master of Scotch and someday hopes she is nominated for the Keepers of the...