When you think of American whiskey, it’s probably bourbon that comes to mind, not single malt.
The Thirsty Travellers were intrigued to be invited to a virtual masterclass with Westward Whiskey head distiller Miles Munroe recently, as he specialises in creating grain-to-glass single malt whiskey. Westward Whiskey is one of a growing band of ‘new world’ distillers to settle in the traditional craft brewing hub of Portland in Oregon. Everything from Westward’s water source — which consists of snowmelt and rain from Mount Hood — to its inclusion of locally malted barley, are all sourced from the region.
Westward has become one the largest independent distillers of American single malt whiskey and decided to kick off its international expansion plans by exporting to Australia last year.
The decision isn’t as random as it might sound – Australia is the second biggest market for Jim Beam outside of the United States. Aussies love their bourbon and Westward is counting on us developing a similar obsession with American single malt.
Munroe manages the Westward distilling production team and oversees all operations within the distiller’s warehouse, a 28,000 square foot facility that maintains an inventory of more than 3000 barrels of aging whiskey.
Munroe and his co-workers are all former brewers who use their knowledge to create unique whiskies that have carefully crafted unhopped beers as their wash.
It’s led to Westward becoming one of the largest breweries in Oregon, volume-wise, although the distiller doesn’t sell a single bottle of beer.
According to Munroe, the beers in the wash are delicious, but every drop that’s brewed goes towards making whiskey.
The reason for Munroe’s entertaining masterclass was to introduce Australia to Westward Whiskey Oregon Stout Cask Finish.
This new expression is rich and robust with notes of roasted grain, stone fruit, toasted pecan, milk chocolate and has a bold, dry finish. It recently received a Gold Medal at the 2020 San Francisco World Spirits Competition.
The expression uses a four-year Westward whiskey as its base, ageing it for about a year in stout barrels from craft breweries across Oregon.
While Munroe prefers sipping Westward Stout Cask straight, he said it also makes an amazing Mint Julep, as the chocolatey characteristics of the whiskey pairs well with the mint in the cocktail.
The Thirsty Travellers found Stout Cask to be strikingly different to any other whiskey – with or without an ‘e’ – that we’ve ever tried.
As we’re not stout fans, we’d probably choose Westward’s Single Malt over Stout Cask, but other attendees at the tasting were transfixed by its unique flavour, so it’s worth a taste if you enjoy trying interesting new drams.
We sipped the Single Malt during the class and found it to be balanced and bold, with luscious notes of brown sugar and vanilla.
Imported and distributed by Think Spirits in Australia, Westward Whiskey Stout Cask is available from May, 2020 in select retailers at $150 RRP.