On the nose — Absolutely amazing smelling. It noses a bit like a heavily sherried whisky.
Good oaky backbone with hints of menthol floating above notes of buckwheat syrup, crushed black peppercorns, toasted almond and coconut, damp autumn leaves, burnt pie crusts, toasted raw grain sprouted bread.
Magnificent. A perfect nose.
In the mouth — Dry on the palate and intensely rich front to mid palate with lightening fast tones of fresh black grapes, oak chests you’ve inherited from your great-great grand father, coconut milk, treacle, licorice nibs and a mere hint of coal dust.
The mouthfeel is lightly oiled. Kaffir (lime) leaves are noted on the 2nd sip and now I’m discovering just how salty this sherry is.
Building umami, chocolate covered raisins.
Finish — Rich and salty with lasting notes of menthol and mixed, roasted nuts.
In sum — As mentioned above, I’ve been dabbling in sherries for the past 10 years or more and this is easily the best sherry of it’s style I’ve ever had. Worth seeking out and shelling out a few shekels.
Region – Speyside – ABV – 53.4% ABV – Cask 1962 – First Fill Sherry Puncheon – This was around $150
It wasn’t long ago that I had a chance to sit down with my good friend Jonathan Bray to review this Balblair.
Actually, yes, it was quite some time ago…. back in May/June based on my tasting notes and the published date of Jonathan’s review. Ugh.
♬ Ti-i-i-ime is not on my side, no it isn’t! ♬ Where does the time go?!
My apologies to you, dear reader, and my apologies to Jonathan, for not getting this review up sooner.
On the nose — A host of notes you’d come to expect from a heavily sherried whisky: pickled walnuts, cherry pits, German brown bread, cola syrup, and dark bitter chocolate.
What you’d not expect (or maybe you would) is a quite present phenolic component giving off notes of a fireworks finale, burning cardboard, and what I can only assume is the scent of the Heaven’s Gate cult compound living quarters. They kept quite clean, as I understand.You know, before the end…
A-a-a-a-a-nyway, I’m also detecting sulphured figs and dried papaya, too.
In the mouth — Chewy, unctuous, moreish, dare I say massive.
Tasting notes aside, my initial reaction is “damn, this is good tasting juice!”
Deep and dark fruits (insert Landry list here) which is countered by Balblair’s natural tropical fruit notes but they’re dried (more papaya, candied medjool dates, black currant, and interestingly some raw coconut flesh).
In sum — While the nose presented some slightly off/sulphuric notes, the palate delivered in a way that few heavily sherried whiskies do. Stunning delivery of flavors and a finish that makes you want to sip more. Without getting into too much detail, the addition of water turns this into a vorpal +4 whisky of drinking. You basically roll a natural 20 on a d20 when adding water and the fruits just multiply.
Oy, Oi, Oy, this is a cracking good dram and if you can still find a bottle, you could consider yourself *very* lucky. Not convinced? Be sure to check out Jonathan’s review of this gem.
Westland’s new Garryana single malt is a deep dive into the exploration of a new type of oak that few have used before. That oak is conveniently named after the whisky at hand (or is that vice versa? I think it’s vice versa. I’m sure of it. Yup, vice versa).
All single malt producing countries have access to oak casks for maturing their whisk(e)y. The good bulk of those oak casks comes from right here in the US of A. The oak used to make said casks is called American White Oak.
(There’s a fancy schmancy Latin name for it, too, but I’m not that fancy schmancy so I’ll just stick with “American White Oak.” Plus, I failed Latin in my senior year of high school – Mrs. Whatsherface had it out for me. I didn’t want to fish for Carpe in that Diem pond, I told her!)
European Oak casks are quite common, too. You’ll find those are more widely used in whiskies that were matured using sherry casks (though there’s a lot of sherry matured in American White Oak, too).
Now, Japan is lucky. They have their very own Mizunara Oak which is quite loverly but who the heck can afford Japanese whiskies these days, not to mention Japanese whiskies matured in Mizunara Oak which is VERY leaky.
The French have their oak, too. That’s called French Oak. How convenient. That oak offers up nice, spicy flavors to whiskies.
Because we’re America, and apparently the winningest (or so we like to say over and over and over again) we’ve got another type of oak that grows specifically in the Pacific Northwest that is suitable for maturing whisk(e)y.
This oak is called Garry Oak, or, Garryana.
Having visited the Westland distillery a few times, and having once been in their warehouse, I had the luxury of tasting some single cask Garry Oak matured Westland. It was intense, for sure, but damn unique and quite delicious. Westland has now been maturing single malt in a good number of Garryana casks and this release is the result.
Given the intense flavor profile of Garryana matured single malt, it makes sense that the use of this component makes up 21% of the over all mixture. The malt used in the Garryana casks, btw, is Washington Pale Malt. The rest is:
26% Peated Malt (New Charred American White Oak)
10% Washington Pale Malt (used American White Oak)
43% Five Malt blend (New Charred American White Oak)
If you want to learn more about this wonderful single malt whiskey and the process of Garryana discovery, be sure to check out this Podcast:
Also, if you have a few minutes, be sure to watch this video (it’s beautifully shot, cool, informative, and fun):
Finally, without any further ado, my review of this new whisky from Westland Distillery. ***Spoiler Alert — it’s fantstic through and through***
On the nose — Chocolate, to be sure, but I expect that note given Westland’s use of Chocolate malt in their Five Malt mashbill.
Deep sweet notes of burnt sun dried tomatoes, crushed raisin with sugar and balsamic, sticky smoke, and herb rubs – like cleaning the BBQ sauce off your grill at the start of Grilling season.
Back to the more chocolatey notes, hints of mocha or cappuccino with a side of red velvet cake. Newly opened tin of oil paint tubes.
Also a swirl of melting and toasted, yet milky caramel.
In the mouth — We’ll begin with the smoke but that’s immediately followed up with German brown bread and a side of carrot cake, cream cheese frosting and all.
Sweet meets ashy meets savory meets sweet again. The mouthfeel is oily verging on succulent – it’s big.
On to the spices of ginger, nutmeg, and clove. I want to say smoked paprika but I wont. Forget I typed that, forget you read it. No, put it back in there. Smoked paprika.
White pepper, too.
As we near the finish, that German brown bread makes it self be known again. This time with a raisiny fervor!
Finish — Long with a sweet yet smoky – like BBQ sauce with an umami-esque goodness.
In sum — This is one of the finest single malts I’ve had this year, hands down. Top 5 for sure. This is not only ticking all of the boxes as far as what I long for in a single malt, this has created new boxes I never even thought to look for.
**Special thanks to the good folks at Westland Distillery for the sample!!