Tag Archives: american single malt

Westland Sherry Wood American Single Malt Review

Distiller: Westland. 46% ABV. Age: 2+ years. Grain bill: 100% malted barley. Price: $70.

You know what I love more than almost anything? The “now I get it” moment. Never comes at the start of a bottle, even one that’s great from the first sip. It’s usually a few days/drams in.

Just had mine with the Westland Sherry Wood last night. This Seattle-made single malt is the third release in Westland’s core range, which includes their standard single malt and a peated version. The Sherry Wood comes from a grain bill that includes Washington, Munich, and pale chocolate malt, and is aged “at least” 26 months, first in new American oak and ex-bourbon casks, then in ex-Oloroso and Pedro Jimenez sherry butts.

Give this one time. The first impression was just pure, unadulterated sweet sherry. Not a finish, but a 50-50 whiskey-sherry mix. Two nights later, maple syrup, cookie dough, and raisins emerged. Then last night: wow. There’s the malt, rich and decadent. Cocoa. Ginger. Roasted nuts. And the other notes now beautifully integrated.

How soon can I make it up to Seattle? – BO

Stranahan’s Diamond Peak Colorado Whiskey Review

Distiller: Stranahan’s. 47% ABV. Age: 4 years. Mashbill: 100% malted barley. Price: $70-80. Reviewed: Batch 4.

My curiosity about the big doings in Colorado got the better of me recently, and I pulled the trigger on the Stranahan’s. Having heard about some batch-to-batch inconsistency with their standard 2-year offering (all but inevitable with a small craft distiller), I wanted to try it in its best light, so I paid the extra $20 for the Diamond Peak–at 4 years old, their most mature offering so far. I got Batch 004.

Stranahan’s has won a rabid following in its home state of Colorado since releasing its first bottle in 2006. (It’s currently owned by NJ-based Proximo Spirits, though production remains in Colorado.) The legend: volunteer firefighter Jess Graber came to put out a fire at the barn of George Stranahan, and the two got to talking amid the embers. They discovered a shared love for whiskey, and the idea for Stranahan’s was born. It’s a single malt, using only local Rocky Mountain barley and water, aged in new American oak. Their extremely limited, once-a-year Snowflake release adds cask finishings to the mix: cognac, sherry, cherry wine.

Let me cut to the chase: this may be the best American single malt I’ve ever tasted. As you make your way through the first few drams from a fresh bottle, the nose blooms in a fascinating way. At first it recalls a fresh, honeyed Irish pot still whiskey–say the Green Spot. Later, the coppery pot still sweetness is still there, but it’s become richer, darker, with just a touch of funk in the back. Old saddle leather. Stale beer. Pencil eraser. Odd. In another minute or two, those notes blew off, leaving a marvelously rich, winey, cognac-like bouquet. What a nose.

Palate: Sweet but not overly so. Roasted cocoa beans. A touch of youthful bite, but only on the first dram from the bottle, and even that resolves itself with a few drops of water and another few minutes in the glass. Molasses. Pumpernickel bread. Fresh dough–for oatmeal raisin cookies. Body’s a touch thinner than the rich nose leads you to expect, but still pleasantly substantial. Medium finish.

Hats off, Stranahan’s! Can’t wait to see what’s to come. – BO

Buy Stranahan’s Whiskey online at Mash + Grape

Lost Spirits Seascape Single Malt Review

Distiller: Lost Spirits. ABV: 65%(!) Age: 4 years. Price: $55

There are few distillers anywhere as wild and innovative as Lost Spirits’ Bryan Davis. The story, as I heard it, is that he and his wife Joanne were living in Spain and running a small absinthe distillery when they had their first taste of Bruichladdich’s Octomore. It was a revelation. Bryan had a thought: Why couldn’t there be an American Octomore? Not a copy, but something as wild, bold, and brawny, made with native ingredients on native soil — say that little scrap of family land they had waiting for them an hour south of San Francisco?

So goes the legend of the Mad Scientist of Monterey, CA.

Here’s one of his monsters. The Seacape may be, in its own way, the closest think I can imagine to an American Octomore. It’s a single malt from peated barley, aged four years in Lost Spirits’ own Navy Rum casks. An explosion of campfire, iodine, tons of salt — no surprise given the barley was fermented in Pacific Ocean water — and a certain patented Lost Spirits funk.

Best tried in small doses and side-by-side with others in their line. Even then, they’re only for the adventurous. But I’m awfully glad they’re out there. (When you can find them, that is — Lost Spirits has focused almost exclusively on making overproof rums in recent years, which are excellent in their own way.)

Hats off, Bryan. Please keep ’em coming! – BO