Editor’s Note: This whiskey was provided to us as a review sample by the party behind it. 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 in this review our site receives a small referral payment which helps to support, but not influence, our editorial and other costs.
Portland, Oregon’s Westward Whiskey recently released a Club exclusive to their memberships with a rather unique pedigree. Partnering with James Beard award-winning baker Ken Forkish Westward introduced “Westward x Ken’s Artisan Sourdough Whiskey – 2023 Vintage Blend.
A statement from the Portland whiskey maker notes that this 2023 vintage blend marks Westward’s second edition of Sourdough. Westward partnered with Forkish to incorporate his heralded French Sourdough Levain yeast in the place of the whiskey’s usual pale ale yeast.
The distiller noted that the goal was to remain faithful to Westward’s trademark style in all other aspects, from double pot distillation to aging in new, heavily toasted and lightly charred American oak barrels.
Then, a two-week fermentation process yielded a host of new flavors.
Master Blender Miles Munroe said at the time of its release, “At Westward, we are dedicated to our Sourdough lineage, and this whiskey is a proud addition to our Club release library. We have kept our members waiting for three years now, but we are confident this second edition was worth the wait.”
He explained that this creative whiskey reflects a mingling of four different vintages from across the years, which builds on the success of Westward’s inaugural 2020 Sourdough release.
Tasting notes from the distillery describe a nose of rye spice, vanilla wafer, peppermint, heather honey. A palate of creamy butterscotch, minty spice, that is earthy and herbaceous before a finish of stone fruit, chocolate, and vanilla bean.
Sourdough is a unique yeast strain that can survive for decades if properly fed. Mixing the sourdough yeast and the complex sugars of malted grain could result in some very fascinating outcomes in the whiskey. With that we turn to the glass.
We review Westward x Ken’s Artisan Sourdough Whiskey 2023 Vintage Blend, incorporating a special sourdough yeast in place of the whiskey’s usual pale ale yeast. (image via Westward Whiskey)
Vital Stats: 90 proof or 45% abv; SRP $99.95 exclusively via Westward Whiskey Club.
Appearance: Light straw
Nose: Very light and aromatic with a malt forward profile giving way to citrus, and bread undertones.
Taste: The mouthfeel is watery but very smooth as it covers the palate. The flavors here are under stated and take a moment to flush out. The profile starts with a light wood char and green apples with white sugar. Successive sips open up some dark chocolate and sourdough bread.
The finish is long with a tingle to the back of the mouth. It is dry overall after such a watery mouthfeel, with hints of char and yeast.
After sipping on this for a minute, I found myself appreciating it more and more. It doesn’t blow your doors off on first impression, but it is going to open nicely. I think this whiskey in particular would have benefited from more time in oak. Everything is too muted for me to really get behind choosing a sourdough yeast over a conventional one.
I think I found those notes, but it could have been because I know what makes this whiskey special. It’s a fine whiskey and a beautiful bottle, but needed a bit more time to develop.
Charles Steele is a Portland area attorney, born and raised in the Pacific Northwest. His legal education affords him an analytical approach to understanding whiskey and other aged spirits. Traditionally a legal writer, freelancing for The Whiskey Wash will prove a unique opportunity to flex his writing skills. Although he...