Distiller: Westland. ABV: 58.4%. Age: 4 years.
One of the things I love about Seattle-based Westland (which recently won the World Craft Producer of the year award by Whisky Magazine) is their unwavering commitment to innovation and experimentation. This has been evident in the depth of variety we’ve seen in their single cask releases, but the recent Inferno release really defines what it means to push the envelope in making whisky.
Released on April Fool’s Day 2016, this four-year-old American single malt was matured in a cask that previously contained chili pepper sauce. On the nose, there is a hint of fresh peppers and sea salt, and no clear warning of the intensity to follow. For the first few seconds on the palate, there are interesting notes of chile peppers and salted diced tomatoes marinated in single malt–but then the heat begins to envelop your mouth.
I was intrigued at first by the combination of warmth from the high ABV and the chili pepper cask, but the intensity quickly turned into insanity. The spiciness was unrelenting and borderline painful. Welcome relief came in the form of numbness that set in during the long finish.
Although clearly not a “daily sipper,” I’m looking forward to trying this in a Bloody Mary, and to future experimental releases from Westland. Their unashamed approach to this one is refreshing, and I particularly agree with the quote they selected from Dante’s Inferno: “Through me you pass into the city of woe: through me you pass into eternal pain.”
Cheers! – JTR