Review: Westward American Single Malt Whisky

It seems like production of malt whiskey in the United States has really taken off during the last decade or so, thanks in part to the massive surge of popularity of bourbon. Though some of the bigger distillers make malt whiskey, lots of what we see on shelves come from smaller craft distillers. One such distiller is Portland-based Westward Distillery. Founded in 2004 by Christian Krogstad, the goal from the start was to distill a “distinctive single malt inspired by the American Northwest.”

The distillery starts with fermenting locally malted barley with ale yeast that’s distilled twice in low-reflux pot stills, which then make their way to new, lightly charred American oak barrels. There’s no age statement listed on the label. If this were labeled as a straight malt whiskey, that would mean the whiskey is at least four years old. Though “American Single Malt” isn’t technically an official TTB designation, it’s safe to assume the distillery is following the Scots and Irish in that this whisky is made from 100% malted barley from one distillery.

The nose is lush with ripe fruit, vanilla cream, and hints of toffee and barley bread. A rush of sugary sweetness washes over the palate, soon revealing those malty and fruity notes from the nose. Darker notes of dried cherries and dark chocolate evolve on the back palate and into the long finish. There’s a slightly herbal note lingering afterwards. At 45% abv, the liquid doesn’t feel thin and carries a little weight.

Westward has a solid malt on their hands. It’s got a robust flavor that highlights the grain while not tasting too young. It’s a great base to build upon, especially if the distillery were to utilize wine casks in their blends.

Next up will be an even deeper dive into Westward Whisky’s flavor profile with a look at a single barrel release. Stay tuned…

Thanks to Westward Whisky for the review sample. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Review: Proper No. Twelve Irish Whiskey

A few weeks ago when I received this sample of Proper No. Twelve in the mail, I posted about it on social media. I received a few comments and DMs from folks telling me they did not care for it. I respect people’s opinions, especially when it comes to something as subjective as whiskey. You like what you like. For me, I try not to read whiskey reviews until I have some notes and my opinion jotted down as to not influence my thoughts. That’s the case here.

If you’re not aware, Proper No. Twelve is Conor McGregor’s Irish Whiskey. It’s a triple-distilled blended whiskey made from grain and barley, and bottled at 40% abv. The whiskey is aged at least three years. We don’t know much more about the whiskey itself. One more thing – $5 from every case sold goes to local first responder organizations around the world. I love when whiskey brands give back to their communities.

Onto the whiskey – the nose is light and vibrant with hints of sweet grain and honey. On entry, more of the sweet honeyed grain comes through. There’s a slightly “green” quality about it, indicating the presence of a lot of young grain whiskey in the blend. Pine nuts and a touch of oak spice pop in mid-palate with light fruit. There’s a rough-around-the-edges alcohol quality here that starts to overwhelm the entire tasting experience, and it continues through the short finish.

Woof! Proper No. Twelve is not something I’d reach for again to drink neat. There’s zero complexity here. Hell, it’s not enjoyable on a base level. The kind of sweet young-ish profile is ruined by the ethanol notes found on the palate. Maybe it’s decent enough for a cocktail? More testing to come. I hope Mr. McGregor and his team can manage to tinker with their blend and use more malt and less young grain, even if it means a price increase. People are willing to pay a little more for better whiskey. As it stands now, I can’t recommend this one.

Thanks to Proper No. Twelve for the sample. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Review: High West American Prairie Bourbon

For all my years of enjoying wonderful whiskies from High West, I’ve never tried their American Prairie Bourbon until recently. The whiskey is a blend of straight bourbons aged 2 to 13 years. One of the whiskies in the blend is from MGP and features a 75% corn, 21% rye, 4% barley malt mash bill. All other whiskies utilized remain undisclosed. The resulting whiskey is bottled at 46% ABV.

One neat thing about this expression is that a portion of sales goes to the American Prairie Foundation, who’s mission is to restore the prairie ecosystem in the United States. High West also collaborated with Coalatree for a limited edition High West X Coalatree Kachula Adventure blanket (pictured above). $30 from each blanket sale will be donated to support the conservation efforts of the American Prairie Reserve (the largest nature reserve in the continental U.S.). I’d say this is a worthy cause! Drink a little bourbon, warm up beside a campfire, and help save the American Prairie!

As far as the whiskey is concerned, not too shabby. The nose features some light caramel and fruit notes alongside a touch of vanilla. On the palate, there’s a fair amount of rye spice that pops in after an initial hit of sweet caramel. The spicy also plays well with the dried fruit found in the background. A slight earthy note emerges on the back palate. The medium finish features lingering notes of sweet tobacco, caramel, and black pepper.

High West American Prairie is a decent enough bourbon, one that isn’t too complex but is, however, easy on the palate. It’s a fine daily sipper that goes down nicely neat but starts to lose its character with ice or a splash of water. For the $35ish asking price, it comes with an easy recommendation.

Thanks to High West for the American Prairie bourbon sample as well as a High West X Coalatree Kachula Adventure blanket. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.