Sunday, April 29, 2018

Distillery Visit - Westland

The Westland distillery is located in the SoDo district of Seattle in the west coast American state of Washington. It was established by Matt Hoffman in 2010, who wanted to set up a craft distillery near to his home town of Tacoma following a period of studying brewing and distilling at Herriott Watt University in Edinburgh. Westland has recently been taken over by drinks company Remy Cointreau.

Washington has a vibrant craft brewing and distilling community. Washington and neighbouring Oregon are two of the major barley and hop growing areas in the world, which has driven this growth and vibrancy. The state also has a temperate climate and this is perfect for whiskey maturation.

Our welcome dram.

Unlike many craft American whiskey distilleries, Westland only produces single malt. They are the only one to do this – others produce a variety of whiskey styles including bourbon, wheat and rye in addition to single malt. At Westland they use a combination of different specialist malted barleys as their raw ingredient in production.

There are six specialist malts used – Washington Select Pale Malt, Munich Malt, Extra Special Malt, Brown Malt, Pale Chocolate Malt and Peated Malt (this is sourced from Scotland currently and is peated using peat cut from the Speyside region). They are also working with local farmers on a number of side projects using heirloom and heritage barley varieties.

The basis of all recipes include at least five of these grains combined in a secret ratio – the classic single malt contains all except the Peated Malt, while the peated spirit contains all six. These are then milled through a two-roller mill before being mashed with Seattle tap water, which is said to be the cleanest municipal water in the USA with a good PH level and mineral content for distilling.

The washbacks with mashtun at the rear.

Each mash is 5,000 litres and two mashes go in to each fermentation washback. There are five washbacks in total and these are made from stainless steel. The mash tun is also made from stainless steel. Westland do not use a regular distillers yeast for fermentation but a Belgian Saison yeast that is more common in the brewing industry. This gives a lower conversion rate that traditional distillers yeast but offer an increased flavour profile. The final wash is around the 9% ABV mark.

The stills at Westland are a copper pot and column hybrid. These produce 350,000 litres of new make spirit per year. Each 10,000 litre batch of wash is split in half and distilled through the wash still to produce the low wines. These are then put through the column still with the heads from the previous distillation, before distilled for the final time in the spirit still.

The wash still (left) and the spirit still (right).

All spirit is filled and matured by Westland at a site a couple of hours south of Seattle. The new make is collected once a week by six tankers and then transported there. They have two large 20,000 square feet warehouses, which currently have over 5,000 casks maturing in them. The oldest whiskey currently in the warehouse is six and a half years old.

They use a variety of casks to mature the whiskey. These are predominantly ex-bourbon casks from the Buffalo Trace and Wild Turkey brands and new American oak hogsheads, plus ex-sherry barrels and butts that have previously held the Oloroso and Pedro Ximenez styles of sherry. The whiskeys are matured for an average of 3-4 years before being bottled as Westland single malt.

The post-tour tasting line-up.

The tour, which began with a welcoming glass of the American Single Malt, was then concluded with a tasting of the core range - another measure of American Single Malt, plus the Sherry Wood and Peated expressions. These were followed by a taste of a couple of limited editions - the Peat Week 2017 Edition, nicknamed 'The Spinther', which had just been announced as the winner of Best American Single Malt at the World Whisky Awards 2018, and a cask strength single ex-Moscatel wine cask that is only available at the distillery via hand-filling and . A full review with tasting notes for these will follow shortly.

Matt filling our own bottle of Westland.

Westland is an impressive distillery and one that has an incredible attention to detail. They are concentrating on making a unique whiskey that reflects their surroundings. They have also just secured legal access to a local peat bog to the south of Seattle that will supply their peat in future. We like every aspect of what they are doing. Exciting things are happening there and the future looks vibrant and great.

We would like to thank Patrick, the guide for our tour, and those others on the tour that made our day so much fun. If you are a whiskey fan and ever in Seattle, then you simply must visit. We will be back next time we are there for sure.

Patrick, who works at the distillery.

For further information on Westland, their products and their philosophy - please visit


JasonO said...

Fantastic! I've been following your site and blog for years, always enjoying your descriptions of distillery visits and events, and of course your reviews and tastes. Glad you were able to make it out here to our corner of the world in the Pacific Northwest and enjoy some of our excellent local whiskeys. And welcome (belatedly) to Seattle :)

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