Westland Peated American Single Malt Whiskey

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Westland Peated American Single Malt Whiskey

I have read a little about this American single malt whiskey and I found it all the more interesting in that it comes from one of my favorite places to visit – Seattle.

This particular variation of Westland whiskey comes from the mix of a peated malt mash and a 100% Washington state pale malt.   The whiskey is aged for a minimum of two years in a combination of 1st-filled ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks.   It is bottled at 46% ABV, non-chill filtered, and no coloring added.

I did not find as much of a peat influence as I anticipated on the nose.  It has more of a floral presence with a bit of fruit sweetness.  There is smoke, but it is not pronounced.  But, on first sip I did find the smoke coming more forward, balanced well with floral dimensions and a little dry white wine.  On mid-palate I find something more like sherry-influenced sweetness intertwined with light peat.  The finish is relatively short.

I really like this whiskey.  For being as young as it is, it has an impressive balance and smoothness.   While I have tasted other American single malts that I have also liked, none have been as close to the flavor profile of Scotch whisky as the Westland Peated American Single Malt Whiskey.  It does not have an Islay-level peat.  I think the parallel might be more in the character of a lightly peated whisky from Campbeltown.

I can see why this whiskey has earned so much recognition and several awards.  I certainly plan to keep a bottle in my cabinet. It is a very good single malt whiskey at a very reasonable price level.

I hope that I can arrange a visit to the Westland distillery on my next trip to Seattle.  It would be a nice addition to the usual detours to Canon and the Whisky Bar.

Stranahan’s Diamond Peak

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Stranahan’s Diamond Peak

I decided to sample another American single malt whiskey before returning to tasting notes from my scotch cabinet.  Stranahan’s is a small batch whiskey distilled in a neighboring state, Colorado.  Stranahan’s Diamond Peak is a special bottling that is aged for at least 4 years in new charred White American Oak barrels.  It is made with local barley and water from the Rocky Mountains.

This whiskey is 47% ABV and non-chill filtered.  My tasting notes are from a Lot # 9 bottle.

On the nose, I find sweetness, primarily honey.  On second pass, I find a scent akin to lightly smoked pear.  There is also a damp oak forest element.  On the palate, the first sip is immediately sweet, with a bit of a spice prickling of the tongue.  In mid-palate, I find banana, and a little charcoal, with the spice lingering.  The finish is relatively short, pleasantly warm, and ends with a raspberry note.

This is a good young whiskey.  Similar to my recent tasting of another American single malt, there is something about it that makes it unlike most scotch, possibly the influences of the bourbon-like approach of finishing in new charred barrels?   But, do not read that comment as suggesting that I would find Stranahan’s Diamond Peak to have a profile like the Cut Spike whiskey I recently sampled.   Fundamentally, I like both of these single malt whiskeys, but I would not mistake one for the other.

The only drawback to my assessment of Stranahan’s Diamond Peak is that it costs more, around $70, than I think may be warranted for a young whiskey in a market where there are similarly young whiskeys for less, and more aged scotches for no more.

Cut Spike Single Malt Whiskey

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Cut Spike Single Malt Whiskey

I am taking a little detour of late, to explore some single malt whisky that is not scotch.  I have recently put together tasting notes on a mesquite smoked single malt whiskey from Arizona, and another from India.  Today, I am venturing very close to home, tasting a single malt whiskey from right here in Nebraska, Cut Spike Single Malt Whiskey.

I had become intrigued with tasting this single malt after I heard that it had won some awards.  In particular, this whiskey won the 2014 Double Gold Award at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition.  In 2016, Cut Spike Single Malt Whiskey was awarded a Gold Award at the same competition.  Given that I live within 50 miles of the distillery, it was not difficult to obtain a bottle.

There is a lot that I found unique about this whiskey as I started reading.  It is made from malted barley and limestone-filtered water from the sandhills of Nebraska.  The whiskey is distilled in copper pot stills imported from Scotland.  The finish takes a bourbon-like turn as they age the whiskey for two years in new charred American oak barrels.

Cut Spike Single Malt Whiskey is bottled at 43% ABV, non-chill filtered, with no coloring added.  The bottle I sampled is from Batch #4.

On the nose, I immediately get sweetness.  I sense honey element, probably because it seems to have a little floral base.  But, overall, the nose is not easy for me to capture.  In time, I get some orange in the sweetness along with oak and just a bit of charcoal.

The first sip brings a bit of a sweet-spicy light burn, that quickly fades.  Then, I get vanilla, some floral, orange, and some oak on the back.  It is sweet throughout.  But, more of a mix and balance of flavors than I would expect in this young a whiskey.  The finish is rich and relatively short.

I really like this whiskey.  It is a fun dram with a unique profile.  I would not think that many would mistake this for a scotch in a blind tasting. But I think that many scotch drinkers would enjoy this whiskey, particularly if they have preferences that lean toward the sherry influenced single malts.

Lest you think I am too effusive because it is a local whiskey, I did a quick look and found a couple other reviews online that give Cut Spike Single Malt Whiskey a positive assessment.

http://scotchnoob.com/2015/02/02/cut-spike-nebraska-single-malt-2-year/

https://thewhiskeywash.com/american-whiskey/whiskey-review-cut-spike-single-malt-nebraska/

 

A bit of reflection on my Scotch journey

After reading a humorous blog post about stereotypes and taste by Gentlemangrimm, I thought a bit about tastes and preferences for whisky.  More to the point, I thought about how my tastes for Scotch whisky have evolved over time.

Reflecting on my particular interest in single malt Scotch, I can still recall my initial introduction, at the bar in the Capital Hotel, in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1999.   I was on a work trip, having a quiet meal at the bar, and asked the bartender for something different than the usual bourbon.

A current photo of the bar, pretty much as I recall it, right where I was sitting.

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That first taste, of a Glenmorangie, was enough to make me curious to discover more.  As I read about single malt Scotch, I was curious about the variety, and the highly variable opinions about what was good, or not.  My journey started with some early explorations of Glenmorangie casking variations.  Then I started branching out a bit, to others, as best I reacall initially to Glenfarclas, Highland Park and Macallan.

Relatively early in this journey, I had read somewhere that Islay single malts were particularly good.  I was in New Orleans for a conference, and found my way to a bar that had a decent selection of single malt Scotches.  I asked the bartender for a recommendation for a good Islay single malt.   I ended up with a Laphroaig.  It was quite a surprise, as I had not done much reading to fully anticipate the taste profile, and my initial reaction was that I would stay away from Islay single malts.

Over the years, I started to branch out from the Highland and Speyside distilleries.  I recall my first exposure to Talisker, and how I enjoyed the discovery of more smoke on my Scotch.  I recall that around that time I also learned about Campbeltown single malts, particularly a very nice Springbank.

Eventually, I am not exactly sure when, I once again wondered into the world of Islay single malts.  But, by this time, my tastes had evolved.  I now count various Ardbeg, Lagavulin, and Laphroaig, Caol Ila, Bruichladdich single malts as some of my favorites.

Just as my initial response to Laphroaig is very divergent from my current perception, I am also enjoying going back and re-discovering some early favorites.   The experiences of my 17 year journey have helped shape my appreciation of nuances in these whiskies.  I find that my early favorites, for example Glenfarclas 17, are still one’s that I really like.  However, if I had written earlier tasting notes, I suspect that they would vary in meaningful ways from what I would write now.   My perceptions have been conditioned by the path I have walked.

I am not exactly sure where I am going with all of this, other than perhaps reflecting on part of what intrigues me about single malt Scotch.   Within the criteria that define what can be labeled as ‘Scotch’, there is an amazing diversity of styles that produce a wide range of tastes.   Moreover, they keep evolving in ways that I anticipate will keep me returning to find out what lies around the next bend.

Whiskey Del Bac, Dorado

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Whiskey Del Bac, Dorado.  45% ABV.  Non-chill filtered.

A dear friend gave me a unique gift during a visit this year.  A bottle of Wiskey Del Bac from Hamilton Distillers in Tucson, Arizona.  As I near the bottom of the bottle, I am overdue in writing my tasting notes.  The bottle notes state that they malt their barley “over a velvet Mesquite fire” and mature the whisky in small batch using American oak barrels.

On the nose, the smoke comes forward immediately.  In one sense, it is a bit like my first impression of the smoke on the nose of Talisker whisky.  Yet, it is not the same smoke, there is no ambiguity regarding the mesquite origins.  On first sip, it is certainly mesquite-dominant,  quickly bringing to mind a barbeque, and probably what influences my impression of the flavor of peppered sweet-jerky.  On subsequent sips, I find semi-sweet elements, mostly vanilla, perhaps a bit of carmelization.  The finish is medium length, warm, with the mesquite smoke enveloping the other flavors.  As the smoke retreats, I find a dried cherry flavor on the back of the finish.  It is a well balanced and smooth whisky.

This is a very fun, unique whisky.  I really enjoy it.  I would not attempt to compare it to any particular single malt scotch.  The parallel I would draw is one of a good quality young whisky.  I find that the mesquite smoke imparts a flavor profile that is unique, distinct from the peated expressions I typically enjoy.

It is a whisky that I like neat.  I suspect that some have found creative ways to use this distinctive flavor profile in cocktails, but that would not be my preference.   Either way, if you like whisky and can find a bottle, I recommend giving it a try.

Paul John Edited

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Paul John Edited, 46% ABV, non-chill filtered

Recently, I have been reading about single malt whisky from places other than Scotland.  The local shop where I buy my whisky has had some single malts from Japan and now has added some from India.  I decided it was time to take a personal look.   After scanning a few reviews, I decided to try one of the single malt whisky offerings from Paul John, a distillery in India.

Among the available choices, I was very interested in tasting Paul John Edited.  As with all of the Paul John offerings, this is a non-age statement single malt whisky.   All of the Paul John single malt whisky is aged a minimum of 4 years.  The Edited is unique in that the whisky is the product of blending Indian barley and Scottish peated barley.  I have read different accounts, but the most consistent summary is that the final barrel aging has about 15% of the whisky from the peated component.   The aging is in American Oak Barrels and the final expression is 46% ABV, non-chill filtered, and without coloring.

It is fun reading about the nuances of aging this whisky at the distillery on the west coast of India.   The heat and humidity variations, compared to those in Scotland, are argued to produce an accelerated aging process, and an increase in the “angel share” of the whisky lost to evaporation annually.

So, at many levels I was curious to explore this particular Paul John offering.

On the nose, I get sweet honey and pineapple mixed well with light peat and charcoal.  On second and third pass, I find a bit of spice added to the balance.  One the palate, I find it to be initially sweet.  I find flavors of spiced apricot and banana with gentle waves of peat following.  The finish is medium-long, smooth, a mix of sweet and spicy mint.  The smoke and peat first mingle with the spice and then persist as the sweet elements fade away.  At the end, there is a bit of peppery heat to remind your tongue of where you have been.

I do like this whisky.  I find it to be very well balanced, particularly for a young whisky.  And I would find it hard to distinguish from some of the single malt scotches that I have sampled.  The qualifier is, of course, that I do not pretend to have the palate nor expertise to detect finer distinctions that others may well find in such a comparison.

With that qualification in mind, in my tasting I find that something about the sweetness intermingled with light peat reminds me of an Islay whisky finished in sherry casks.   While I have not tried a side-by-side sampling, my initial perception is that the profile of Paul John Edited would be comparable to some of the Bruichladdich single malts I have tasted.

When you add a price comparison, the Paul John Edited is a very good buy – particularly if you are looking for a whisky with this sweet and peat profile.  It is certainly not going to be my last Paul John purchase (I do hope my local shop acquires more of their offerings).