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!!
Region – Distilled in Indiana, matured and extra matured in Utah – ABV – 46%
High West and her various sourced ryes were the first ryes I got into when I started getting serious about American spirits.
Back then, High West had some 16 & 21yo ryes which were all over store shelves and at pretty decent prices. A bit later on I discovered their Rendezvous Rye (which is a staple here at Chez Hatton), and then even further on I found a truly ballsy one: Double Rye!
David Perkins of High West is quite open about sourcing whiskey and blending it in house. In today’s day and age where stories of “grandpa’s famous recipe has been discovered” are built around sourced hooch, it’s good to know there are people like David Perkins who will not use smoke and mirrors. Rather, he ensures High West is transparent and focuses on the blending techniques and extra maturation processes to make his whiskeys stand out amongst the rest.
Today we’ve got a distillery only bottling called “Yippee Ki-Yay” in glass. The details (taken from highwest.com) are as follows:
• TTB designation: A Blend of Straight Whiskies • Proof: Bottled at 46 %ABV • Ratio of component whiskeys: top secret! • Not chill filtered •Marriage of two straight rye whiskies •The 2-year-old •95% rye •5% barley malt mashbill (LDI now MGP) •The older rye has a “barely legal” rye mashbill of: •53% rye •37% corn (Barton Distillery) •Barrel type: Oak barrel that previously held Vermouth Barrel (Vya, Madera, CA), Oak barrel that previously held Qupé Syrah (Qupé Santa maria, CA)
The extra maturation in Vermouth and Qupé Syrah casks is unique and sounds amazing to me.
Color — Somewhere between Rainwater Madeira and a 10+ yr Madeira
On the nose — The backbone is pure LDI/MGP Rye. Think pine cones and pickles.
Surrounding this are layers of cinnamon buns, strawberry sauce, melted butter on spelt bread toast, hints of dry vermouth and dill infused apple cider vinegar (if there were such a thing), dark chocolate, licorice all-sorts. Very herbaceous as well.
This is both very rye-like and very un-rye-like at the same time. A bit of a conundrum, if you will.
In the mouth — Massive spice and dark fruits such as prunes, blackberries, black maraschino cherries, and fresh red plums. Salted, chocolate covered caramels.
All this is sitting on a foundation of pickling spices (mustard seed, caraway, dill weed). The mouthfeel is lush and satisfying.
Finish — A long, vermouthy finish with hints of cracked black pepper.
In sum — This is like a port that used rye whiskey for fortification rather than brandy. This is the ultimate dessert dram. Not a rye for everyone as it’s a departure from the category, but if you have an open mind, you will LOVE this.