Showing posts with label American Single Malt. Show all posts
Showing posts with label American Single Malt. Show all posts

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Whiskey Del Bac "Classic" American Single Malt Review & Tasting Notes

When you think Arizona, you may think tequila. What doesn’t come to mind, at least to me, is whiskey. So when a friend approached me with a bottle from Whiskey Del Bac and asked me to review it, I couldn’t think of a single whiskey I’d even tried from the state.


Whiskey Del Bac is distilled at Hamilton Distillery in Tucscon. Stephen Paul founded the distillery in 2006.


“[W]hile drinking Scotch and barbecuing with mesquite scraps from our custom furniture company, Arroyo Design, we had a thought. Why couldn’t we malt barley over mesquite instead of peat, as they do in Scotland, for a single-malt whiskey with a flavor distinctive to the American Southwest?” – Whiskey Del Bac


He started with a 5-gallon copper pot still. In 2011, he and his daughter Amanda acquired a 40-gallon copper pot still, and in 2014, a 500-gallon copper pot still was installed.


It is not uncommon for Tucson to experience 40-degree temperature variances from morning to evening. That allows for significant interactions between liquid and wood, quickening the aging process. Add to that 15-gallon barrels (versus 53-gallon), and it sends aging into hyperdrive.  


The distillery distills three core whiskeys:  Classic, Dorado (mesquite-smoked), and Old Pueblo (unaged). Today I’m sipping on Classic.


Classic begins simply enough: 100% malted barley is distilled on-site and aged 12-14 months in medium charred, medium toasted oak. It carries no age statement, and here’s where things get confusing. Legally, for a whiskey to be sold in the United States, it is a minimum of four years old if it bears no age statement. But both the front and back mention nothing.

The label suggests 45% ABV (90°). However, when I visit Whiskey Del Bac’s website, its Classic is bottled at 92°. I performed a web search and found some old references at 84° and then recently the 92°.

I assume they’ve slowly increased the alcohol content over the years. I did reach out to Whiskey Del Bac but hadn’t heard back from them when the review was published (and, if they respond, I will provide an addendum).


The Classic is non-chill filtered, and everything from mashing to distilling to aging and bottling is performed in-house. There are three sizes available:  100ml for $12.00, 200ml for $21.00, and 750ml for $56.00. 


Appearance: Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, this Single Malt presented as a definitive amber. A wide, heavy rim released long, wavy legs that crawled back to the pool.


Nose: The first aroma was herbal, which made me immediately wonder how this would fare. It was tamed by orange peel, fresh-cut apple, cinnamon, and charred oak. When I inhaled through my mouth, that apple carried through.


Palate:  A soft, oily texture greeted my tongue. The front tasted cocoa and vanilla cream, and the middle featured caramel and apple pie filling. The back consisted of oak and mesquite, albeit faint.


Finish:  On the finish, the mesquite became more pronounced. Once it subsided, cocoa, oak, and dark chocolate took over. In all, the duration was medium-to-long.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Whiskey Del Bac Classic is a prime example of why I #DrinkCurious. It is utterly atypical of whiskey aged in a smaller cooperage. My bias crept in from the nose onward. I expected sawdust on the nose and sharp oak on the palate. Neither happened. Instead, I sipped a lovely, youthful whiskey that can compete with several other American Single Malts. There have been talks of moving to 53-gallon barrels, and I can’t wait to taste what comes out of those should it happen. I’m good with a Bottle rating in its current form. Cheers!   


My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System

  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try It
  • Bust = Leave It


Whiskeyfellow encourages you to enjoy your whiskey as you see fit but begs you do so responsibly.




Monday, May 23, 2022

Westland Distillery American Single Malt Collection Reviews & Tastings Notes

Nestled somewhere in the realm of Seattle lies the Westland Distillery. One of the cool things about Westland is how transparent the distillery is about its whiskeys and, well, everything. Go to the website, and you can geek out over the distillery, cooperage, grains, water source, and anything else you can think of.


Westland is in the process of applying to be a Certified B-Corp company. There aren’t a lot of businesses, let alone distilleries, that are Certified B-Corp. If you think that means it is green-friendly, you’d be partially correct. B-Corp goes far beyond that. The other half is its social policies. Everything must be transparent and set up to do good globally, from accounting to labor, from recycling to low emissions, charitable giving, etc.


Westland does everything in-house. About 90% of its barley is harvested in Washington. It mashes, ferments distills, ages, and bottles American Single Malt whiskeys.


“American Single Malt Whiskey is, by its very nature and existence, innovative. That said, we don’t innovate for the sake of innovation. We remain committed to expressing our provenance, but recognize the opportunity to contribute new ideas to the landscape of single malt whiskey.” – Westland Distillery


Today I’m exploring four Single Malts:  its flagship American Single Malt Whiskey, American Oak, Redhook Brewlab Cask Exchange, and Garryana 6 from its Outpost Range. I appreciate Westland for providing me samples of each in exchange for no-strings-attached, honest reviews. Now, let’s #DrinkCurious and get to it.


American Single Malt Whiskey


The first player at the plate is Westland’s flagship American Single Malt. It is distilled from six different malted barley strains (Washington Select Pale Ale, Munich, Extra Special, Pale Chocolate, Brown, and Baird’s Heavily Peated) and then aged for at least 40 months in the following woods:

  • Cooper's Reserve New American Oak
  • Cooper's Reserve Used American Oak
  • First Fill Ex-Bourbon
  • First Fill Ex-Oloroso Hogsheads and Butts
  • Second Fill Ex-Oloroso Hogsheads and Butts

Westland then bottles it at 46% ABV (92°), with a 750ml retailing at $60.00.


Appearance: The brassy-gold liquid offered a medium rim with thick, sticky tears in my Glencairn glass.


Nose: Aromas of peach, strawberry, orange peel, biscuits, and a kiss of peat filled my nostrils. I found strawberries when I took the air in through my lips.


Palate:  The mouthfeel was silky and full-bodied. Vanilla, nougat, and apple were on the front of my palate, with malted barley on the middle. The back gave up light peat and oak.


Finish:  With a medium-long duration, clove and a drop of smoke embraced the light peat and oak.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  In a word, this whiskey is superb. While reasonably uncomplicated, it also didn’t need to be. The cost edges on the high side, but that’s direct from the distillery, and you may be able to acquire it for less. Regardless, it earns my Bottle rating.




American Oak Single Malt


The second player on deck is called American Oak. Until recently, it was the flagship single malt for Westland. It is discontinued, so what you find on the shelf is the end of the run. It, too, was priced at $60.00 for a 750ml package.


What’s the difference between the two?  American Oak is distilled from the same mash, sans Baird’s Heavily Peated Malt, and only first-fill ex-Bourbon and new, charred American oak barrels were used. It is also slightly younger, aging for three years.


Appearance:  The same brassy-gold color filled my Glencairn glass while forming a medium rim, which released slow, husky legs.


Nose: A bouquet of apricot, peach, apple, lemon, and toasted oak filled the air. As I inhaled through my mouth, a wave of vanilla rolled through.  


Palate:  An oily texture with a medium body led to caramel, vanilla, and orange zest on the front of my palate. Dark chocolate, roasted coffee, and almond were next, with charred oak, clove, and black pepper on the back.


Finish:  Flavors of charred oak, black pepper, clove, and coffee remained for a very long finish.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  American Oak is good but nowhere near its replacement. On its own, it would be on the higher end of average for an American Single Malt. However, compared to the newer flagship, there isn’t a contest. Considering both are similarly priced, I’d give American Oak a Bar rating.




Redhook Brewlab Cask Exchange

The third one at the plate is a Washington-state-only release called Redhook Brewlab Cask Exchange. The distillate is the same as American Oak. It aged 39 months in new American oak barrels, then transferred for 48 months to former Bourbon barrels that subsequently held Redhook Brewlab’s Stratosphere Barley Wine with Strata hops. The total aging time is 87 months. The yield from the four casks was 900 50% ABV (100°) 750ml bottles, which sell for $99.99.  


Appearance: Redhook Brewlab showed off a raw honey color in my Glencairn glass. A medium rim released medium-wide legs.


Nose:  A blast of banana bread, vanilla custard, cherry, strawberry, and green apple slammed my olfactory sense. The air in my mouth grabbed vanilla.


Palate: A light-bodied and creamy sensation generated apple, pear, vanilla, and honey on the front of my palate. Date and apricot were next, followed by gingerbread and biscuits.


Finish:  Tangerine, vanilla, white pepper, and smoked oak rounded things out with a medium-length finish.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  I am not a beer drinker. I’ve never cared for it. For me, there was significant beerness to this whiskey. It wasn’t bad, but it also wasn’t my thing. I can appreciate the work and age that went into this American Single Malt, and it should come at a premium price. My rating is a Bar.  




Outpost Range: Garryana 6 


Batting cleanup is Outpost Range: Garryana 6. The Outpost Range is Westland’s experimental line, intending to go where whiskey has not gone before. In the case of Garryana, it utilizes 25% of its cooperage made from Garry oak, which is native to the Pacific Northwest region. The mash is the same as the American Oak; the woods used are:

  • Second Fill Ex-Pedro Ximénez Butt (65%)
  • Virgin Quercus garryana (25%)
  • First Fill Ex-Calvados (5%)
  • First Fill Ex-American Grape Brandy (2%)
  • First Fill Ex-Washington Apple Brandy (3%)

This is the sixth edition of Garryana offered. Packaged at 50% ABV (100°), it will set you back $175.00, and there were only 5922 700ml bottles produced. The whiskey ranges from 41 to 75 months, depending on the cask.


Appearance: Served neat in my Glencairn glass, Garryana presented as amber, with a thicker rim and slow, sticky droplets.


Nose: I smelled sherry, raisin, dark chocolate, cherry juice, and pineapple. When I inhaled the vapor in my mouth, I found raisin.


Palate:  An oily texture introduced the front of my palate to apple, apricot, and pear, while the middle suggested Mexican mole sauce (I have never used that descriptor before, but that’s what it tasted like). On the back were brown sugar, molasses, and ancho chiles.


Finish: Long and warming, the finish consisted of raisin, cherry, nuts, oak, and ancho chiles. It had a meaty quality to it, similar to burnt ends.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  If I thought the flagship Single Malt was superb, then Garryana would be spectacular. That mole sauce took this whiskey over, above, and beyond the others. There was absolutely nothing to dislike, and while I swallow hard when we get into $175.00 whiskeys, in my opinion, Garryana 6 is worth every penny. A Bottle rating for sure, cheers!


My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System

  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try It
  • Bust = Leave It


Whiskeyfellow encourages you to enjoy your whiskey as you see fit but begs you do so responsibly.



Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Westward Whiskey American Single Malt Reviews & Tasting Notes


Portland, Oregon, is the home of Westward Whiskey.  Founded two decades ago as House Spirits Distillery by Master Distiller Christian Krogstad, Westward Whiskey calls Portland, Oregon home. Christian’s background was as a brewer before turning to distilling.


Westward is known for its American Single Malt whiskeys and is a category pioneer. Its philosophy is to brew like a pale ale, distill like an American Single Malt, and age whiskey as a Bourbon. That whiskey is born of locally-grown Metcalf and Copeland two-row barley strains and ale yeasts that spent six days fermenting. Once that’s done, it is distilled twice through 3100-gallon, low-flux copper pot stills.  


Its entry proof is 125°, and Krogstad fills new, #2 char 53-gallon American oak barrels sourced from Kelvin Cooperage. The whiskeys carry no age statement but spend over four years in the barrel.  Blended in small batches, its whiskeys are non-chill filtered and naturally colored.


Last month, I had an opportunity to try four of Westward Whiskey’s expressions:  the flagship American Single Malt, its Cask Strength sister, the Pinot Noir Cask Finish, and the Stout Cask Finish.


Before I get to my tasting notes and ratings, I wish to thank Westward Whiskey for providing samples in exchange for no-strings-attached, honest reviews. Let’s #DrinkCurious and discover what these whiskeys are all about, shall we?

American Single Malt

This is the flagship expression from Westward. It is 45% ABV (90°), and a 750ml bottle is $65.99.


Appearance:  The caramel amber shined through my Glencairn glass. A thick rim released sticky droplets that were in no rush to fall back into the pool.


Nose: A fruity bouquet of cherry, apple, pear, and banana accompanied by sweet vanilla and caramel. When I drew the air into my mouth, the pear dominated.


Palate:  The medium-weighted, silky body offered pine, banana, and vanilla sugar cookies on the front, morphing to orange citrus, pear, and apple on the middle. The back had flavors of toasted oak, cinnamon, and nutmeg.


Finish:  Sweet vanilla, cherry pie filling, cinnamon sugar, and oak rounded things up in a medium-long finish.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  I found the fruity, sweet combination of Westward’s basic single malt enjoyable, and the price isn’t prohibitive, especially when you consider the time spent in the barrel and its stated proof. I have no qualms issuing my Bottle rating for it.




American Single Malt Cask Strength

The cask strength version of the flagship Single Malt isn’t truly cask strength. It is more full proof, as Westward sells all of its cask strength whiskeys at 62.5% ABV (125°), so it gets a touch of added water. A 750ml package will set you back $88.99.  


Appearance: Served neat in my Glencairn glass, this Single Malt appeared as burnt umber. A thin rim created a wavy curtain that fell quickly.


Nose: The banana aroma was more robust than the standard release, married with vanilla, apple, lemon, and nutmeg. I found lemon curd as I drew the air into my mouth.


Palate: Whereas the standard release was silky, the texture of the cask strength was oily and full-bodied. The front of my palate tasted lemon curd, date, and vanilla biscuits. Pear, cinnamon, and nutmeg took control of the middle, while black pepper, barrel char, and herbal notes hit the back.


Finish:  Black pepper, cinnamon spice, cocoa, and smoky char remained on the back for an extremely long, warm finish.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Westward’s Cask Strength is, in a word, dangerous. While spicy, it drank way under its stated proof. I found the transition between sweet and spicy enticing, and I could see myself losing control with how easy it went down. Cask Strength earns every bit of my Bottle rating.




American Single Malt Pinot Noir Cask Finish

Westward took the standard Single Malt, aged it for 4-1/4 years, and then aged it an additional two years in French oak that previously held Suzor Wines Oregon Pinot Noir. It is packaged at 45% ABV (90°) and costs $82.95.


Appearance: This Single Malt was the color of caramel. A massive rim hugged the wall of my Glencairn glass, only to collapse under its weight and let loose its big, long legs.


Nose: The wine influence came out with plum, cherry, strawberry, and toasted oak. Strawberry jam rolled across my tongue as I pulled the vapor past my lips.


Palate:  An oily, full-bodied mouthfeel released currant, plum, and cherry on the front of my palate. Date, almond, and nutmeg were next, with grape, clove, and toasted oak on the back.


Finish: A medium-to-long finish slowly built from plum and cherry to almond, then dry oak and black pepper.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust: The fruitiness was crazy with the Pinot Noir Cask Finish. I’ve had other Pinot Noir finished American whiskeys, and none have come close to Westward. The spice at the end sewed everything up nicely. Here’s the big problem:  I couldn’t even pick out the alcohol until it was too late and I was already lit.  If I thought the first two were lovely, this incarnation blew those away. A Bottle rating is well-deserved.




American Single Malt Stout Cask Finish

Last but not least is the Stout Cask Finished Single Malt. Westward took its flagship whiskey and stuck it in a barrel for another full year that previously held its whiskey before housing aged stout. This one weighs 46% ABV (92°), and a 750ml package runs $82.99.


Appearance: Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, the Stout Finish looked copper. A medium rim yielded fat, heavy legs that fell back to the bowl.


Nose: Aromas of oatmeal, peanut, milk chocolate, vanilla, and melon tickled my nostrils while milk chocolate coated my hard palate.


Palate: The mouthfeel began soft and airy before becoming creamy on the second sip. Citrus, milk chocolate and coconut teased the front of my palate, while vanilla, nutmeg, and almond covered the middle. The back featured cinnamon, coffee, and oak.


Finish:  A dry, medium-length finish had citrus flavors, toasted oak, cinnamon, coffee, and chocolate.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust: I appreciate what Krogstad did with the Stout Cask Finish. However, I’m not a beer drinker, and this was very much beer-like. If you’re like me, you’ll want to try this one at a Bar first.


Final Thoughts:  My favorite was easily the Pinot Noir Cask Finish, followed by the Cask Strength, then the flagship Single Malt. That left the Stout Cask Finish to bring up the rear. Really, the Pinot was amazeballs. That’s not to discount the quality of Cask Strength; the two were just in different universes.


I’m impressed with what Westward has done and look forward to future tasting opportunities. Cheers!


My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System

  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try It
  • Bust = Leave It


Whiskeyfellow encourages you to enjoy your whiskey as you see fit but begs you do so responsibly.


Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Old Line Spirits American Single Malt Reviews: Cask Strength, Madeira Finish, and Port Finish

I have a ton of respect for our armed services and those who have served. So, when I learned about former US Navy Prowler pilots Arch Walkins’ and Mark McLaughlin’s stories, it garnered my attention. They both served in different squadrons at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island in Washington and found themselves neighbors in Baltimore post-retirement. The duo enjoyed whiskey and decided they wanted to own and operate their own distillery.


As luck would have it, two Vietnam veterans owned Golden Distillery in Puget Sound and were ready to sell. Arch and Mark learned how to distill American Single Malt whiskey and everything involved in the process at Golden. But, they didn’t want to call Washington home; they loved Baltimore. What they didn’t have, however, was a distillery.


While they were trying to work out all the behind-the-scenes red tape, financing, design, and construction of their distillery, they were introduced to the owners at Middle West Spirits in Columbus, Ohio. After discussing distilling and whiskey styles, the four decided to partner together, allowing Arch and Mark to distill Old Line Spirits at Middle West. Thus, the dream was born.


In 2016, Arch and Mark took possession of a former commercial laundry facility in Baltimore. They converted it to a distillery, and in 2017, the duo had opened for business. They have been going hard ever since.


Today I’m exploring three Old Line Spirits Single Malt whiskeys:  A Cask Strength, a Port-Finished, and a Madeira-Finished.  I drank these in the order of Madeira, Port, and Cask Strength under the assumption of a sweet to bold journey. The Cask Strength is also the base whiskey for the others.


I acquired the three samples from a friend curious about my opinion and asked if I’d put together reviews of each. So, let’s #DrinkCurious and get things started.


Cask Strength American Single Malt

(image from Old Line Spirits)

This whiskey starts with 100% malted barley distilled through a copper pot still.  It rested for two years in new, charred American oak using smaller barrels. Packaged at 124.4°, a 750ml bottle has a suggested retail price of $55.00.


Appearance: The Cask Strength whiskey presented as a reddish amber. It made a thinner rim on the wall of my Glencairn glass and released a wavy curtain of tears to fall back into the pool.


Nose:  An exciting combination of maple and strawberry was joined by cherry and leather. When I pulled the air past my lips, the strawberry continued.


Palate:  I discovered a creamy yet light-bodied texture. Nutmeg and cinnamon were on the front and led to caramel and maple on the middle. The back tasted of dry oak and rye spice.


Finish:  Ginger snaps, brown sugar, dry oak, and cinnamon Red Hots created a spice-building, long finish. It left a sizzling spot on the tip of my tongue.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  The Cask Strength is uncomplicated with some serious spice notes. That moisture-sucking oak is a telltale sign of smaller cooperage, which isn’t bad; it is something that happens when non-standard American oak is used. Is it worth $55.00? Perhaps. I recommend trying this at a Bar first, then deciding from there.


Madiera Cask Finished American Single Malt

(image from Old Line Spirits)


Next is the Madeira finish, part of the distillery’s Double Oak Series. This one rested at least four years in oak, then an additional six months in former Madeira casks. It is a limited-edition whiskey offered in the Fall of 2021. A 100°, 750ml bottle was priced at $64.99 but is not available for purchase through the distillery’s website.


Appearance: Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, this Single Malt was the color of mahogany. A thin rim unloaded heavy, thick tears.


Nose: Aromas of cinnamon, nutmeg, apple, raisin, and oak competed for attention. When I drew the air into my mouth, tobacco leaf rolled across my tongue.


Palate: An oily, medium-weighted mouthfeel offered fruity plum, cherry, and lemon on the front. Raisin took charge of the middle as it moved across my tongue, while leather and tobacco leaf controlled the back.


Finish:  Leather, tobacco leaf, plum, and raisin remained for a medium-length finish.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  When I taste whiskey, there is at least one quality that I expect to find, and with this Madeira finish, it is notably absent. I cleansed my palate and tried it again to make sure, but try as I might, there were no wood notes! What did that accomplish? It hid any evidence of smaller cooperage. I enjoyed this, and I would be comfortable spending the $64.99 for a Bottle of it (assuming I could find one).


Port Cask Finished American Single Malt

(image from Old Line Spirits)

Last up (and also part of the Double Oak series) is the Port finish. Old Line used tawny port barrels, but there isn’t an indication of age. In the same vein as the Madeira finish, the Port finish spent four years in oak before being transferred for its six-month finishing. It, too, was a Fall 2021 limited-edition release, bottled at 100° and formerly priced at $64.99.


Appearance: This Single Malt looked of burnt umber in my Glencairn glass. A thin rim reluctantly gave up fat, slow legs.


Nose: Fruit meshed to spice, beginning with strawberry and plum, then leather, oak, and sawdust. Strawberry dominated as I inhaled the vapor through my lips.


Palate:  A buttery mouthfeel had flavors of strawberry, plum, and apricot on the front, introducing and yanking away the fruit as the middle became coffee, tobacco, and cocoa. The back was black pepper and oak.


Finish:  The plum came back for an encore and, like the palate, was quickly subdued by black pepper and oak. Then the coffee returned and painted those two out of the picture in a very, very long finish.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  The Port finish was the most fun to sip of the three with the tug-of-war between sweet and spice. Unlike the Madeira, sawdust remained behind, which can also indicate smaller cooperage. I was a bit shocked the Port didn’t mask that. But, even with its fun factor, I’m not sold at $64.99, and my final recommendation is a Bar.  


Final Thoughts:  Of the three, my favorite was the Madeira finish, then the Cask Strength, and lastly, the Port finish. If you polled me before I started, I would have predicted a reverse of that order, as I enjoy Port-finished whiskeys. I do like what Old Line Spirits is doing; I believe using 53-gallon barrels could also do a lot of good for this distillery. Cheers!


My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System

  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try It
  • Bust = Leave It


Whiskeyfellow encourages you to enjoy your whiskey as you see fit but begs you do so responsibly.