In the unlikely event that you’ve been living in a swamp for the past few years, let me tell you about single malt whiskey. Single malt whiskey is made entirely from barley, water and yeast in a single location: a “single” malt. The others, including blended maltes (which is most) contain other grains, spirits and impurities.
Then there’s the whiskey that’s not only distilled in a single location, but aged in a single barrel or in “sherry” for several years. This is what happens when a Scottish distillery decides to make a whiskey late in the game using a barrel of wine instead of water (which is what they do with the first run of the distillation).
What it means is that you are getting a barrel, and not a vat, of whiskey that has matured for several years, soaking up the wood impurities, tannins and wine-like flavors from the barrel. The real bonus is that you get a whiskey with these flavors and a kick that comes from the high alcohol content, but no bitter oak, no harshness and no yeasty overtones.
At $100, a hefty price for a whiskey that’s yet to be released, the Westland Sherry Wood might just be a (somewhat) worth every penny. This whiskey is wooden, alive and flavorful; a combination that few whiskeys can claim. It has a rich, deep, sherry quality that seems to nourish the nose, tongue and memory.
The sherry notes are rich and complex. They wrap around the nose and coat the tongue. There are no harsh notes, no sharp edges and no burn.
The whiskey itself has the rich, golden, color of Creme Brulee and it appears like a rich syrup in the glass.
On the palate, it is almost like water, leaving the mouth feeling smooth and clean. The taste of the sherry starts out thick, but then it leaves the tongue with the faintest trace of salt and smoke. There’s a warmth of alcohol in the throat, but it’s not as intense as I expected it to be. You taste the grain in the whiskey, but it’s well hidden, like a book, by the rich sherry notes. The sherry tones are never harsh and just when you think the whiskey is perfect, it gets wilder.
Unlike other single malts that you can find on the market, this drink take a couple of sips to appreciate. It’s not the kind of drink that you slug down in three minutes, or one that blows your head off with flavor, it’s the kind of whiskey that, after taking a few sips, you put down and walk away with a smile on your face. It’s good thinking whiskey.
The complexity that this whiskey brings to your senses is hard to explain, especially in a short review. But that’s not my point. The Westland Sherry Wood is the kind of whiskey you want to savor and enjoy, in the quiet of your whiskey den. It’s also not the kind of whiskey you would pair with a greaseball sandwich or a steak – it’s too light and thin for that.
According to the information I’ve gathered over the years, this is the kind of whiskey that you smoke a cigar with (or drink with a cigar, not the other way around). This is the whiskey that you drink on special occassions. This is the whiskey you share with special friends. This is the whiskey that comes to mind when you think of life. Rich, savory and elegant, this is a finely packaged, complex and delicious sipper.
The thing that makes this whiskey so delicious is that it’s hidden beneath layers of color, smoke and sherry. It’s a great deal of fun to draw out the various qualities of this whiskey. For those of you who are really serious about single malt whiskeys, you’ll be interested in knowing that it is made with 100% Scottish Barley, matured in 1st and 2nd Fill (ex quay & ex bodega) Oloroso Sherry Casks and bottled at 46.3% ABV.
Rich, smooth and flavorful, this is the kind of whiskey you might want to save for one of your ultra-special occasions. Then again, who are we kidding, do what you like with it. Drink it every day, mix it with cola, toss it back in shot glasses or just enjoy it on its own and see what you find.