A special all-American peated single malt has just arrived at Master of Malt. It’s Westland Solum 1st Edition Outpost Range!
Say the word ‘Seattle’ to people and they will probably think of Nirvana, Frasier or coffee but for us we immediately reply ‘Westland’! This small American whiskey distillery is unusual in that right from the beginning in 2010, the founders Matt Hofmann and Emerson Lamb decided to concentrate on single malt whisky. In the past 13 years, they’ve become rather good at it. You might even call them the masters of malt. Arrff arrff!
American barley, American peat
Westland’s big thing is getting flavour in at the fermentation stage through use of brewer’s yeast and different types of malted barley. This latest release called Solum, from the Latin for soil, is particularly special as it’s made from 100% American peated malt. Previous peated releases from this distillery have used imported Scottish peated malt but this uses both American barley and American peat.
Putting the two together was not as straightforward as it might sound as there were no local maltsters capable of using peat – it has never been widely used in American malting. But there is peat in the US, over 50,000 acres of the stuff in Washington State though harvesting it has not been easy as the only one that they were allowed to use was under a lake. So they had to dig it up from the bottom.
The Westland team were lucky in meeting a new innovative firm of maltsters which was willing to experiment. Rather than just dry and burn the peat in big sods as is normal in Scotland, the maltsters dried it into pellets so they could precisely gauge the level of peat they were using. Very clever, these Americans. This produces a much more subtle level of peating, only peated to 15ppm, and flavour.
Tasting Westland Solum
Westland used a Belgian brewer’s yeast and the fermentation took 96-144 hours. This was then double-distilled in pot still before ageing in a mixture of new American oak and first-fill ex-bourbon casks. The final whisky is a mixture of 2016 and 2019 distillates. Just 15 casks were filled working out at just over 4,000 bottles at 50% ABV with no chill-filtering or colour added.
You can really taste the subtle peating process in the glass, the nose is smoky but it’s not phenolic. Ardbeg this ain’t. Then the palate is sweet with toffee, chocolate, vanilla and plum jam with big spices like cloves and other spices, and subtle woodfire notes in the background. The overall effect is like a lightly-peated Scotch whisky but with the sweetness turned up a few notches. It’s a lovely sipper but the roundness and smoothness makes me think it’ll be a great mixer too in simple cocktails. It’s already been quite a hit winning Best American Single Malt at the 2023 World Whiskies Awards so it’s unlikely to hang around for long.
Westland Solum 1st Edition Outpost Range Whiskey is available from Master of Malt. Click on links for price and to buy.
Tasting Note from The Chaps at Master of Malt
Nose: Spiced apple and toasted oak lead the way, with cinnamon snaps, hints of cranberry, charred herbs, and smoked hickory.
Palate: Vibrant peat and those smoky charred herbs carry through, joined by earthen coffee grounds and oaken vanilla.
Finish: There are notes of honey and floral tea, though vegetal peat, buttered rye bread, and savoury woody spices linger.