We invited the all-star craft whiskey team at Westward Distillery to show us what all the fuss is about… and they came back with the most kick-ass dram we tasted all year.
Made from scratch using two-row Pacific Northwest barley fermented with ale yeast, double pot distilled and matured in #2 char new oak casks before finishing in ex-Oregon Pinot Noir wine casks; Westward Oregon Pinot Noir Cask Single Malt Whiskey, Created Exclusively for The Whisky Club is a celebration of all things great about single malt!
Sweet sun dried figs, ripe plums, brown sugar and fragrant pipe tobacco on the nose, rich and velvety on the palate with sweet raisin, creamy grain and fresh melon, before finishing long with English toffee and hints of leather and white pepper.
The good news? Limited stock still available, so join us now to get your hands on a bottle!
Country of Origin:
United States of America
Our Whisky Club journey has taken us all around the world, with distilleries in Scotland, Ireland, Japan, Australia, India and even Canada having been featured. It’s time to check out the rapidly emerging single malt scene from the USA, and where better to start than with the leader of America’s craft distilling resurgence than Westward Whiskey, hailing from Portland Oregon.
When you think about Portland these days, you probably think about it as being a bit left-field, somewhat of an alternative town with a huge culture for coffee, beards, fixed gear bikes and craft beer. And you’d be right. If you’ve ever watched Portlandia, you’d know where we’re coming from.
Tech giant Intel established itself in Portland in the 90s, injecting billions of dollars into the local economy. This saw a massive spike to the population as young tech-heads moved to the city for work. Portland grew in numbers by over 90,000 between 2000 and 2014. This combined with its comparatively low cost of living and the unofficial “Keep Portland Weird” mantra has seen the hipster culture flourish. Hipsters lead to craft beer, which naturally leads to distilling spirits, so not only has the city seen the establishment of a multitude of craft breweries, but a growing number of distilleries producing a wide range of spirits, collectively known as Portland’s Distillery Row, who have teamed together to promote the Portland spirit scene to locals and visitors alike.
The anchor of Distillery Row, Westward Distillery was founded in 2004 as “House Spirits Distillery” by former brewer and now master distiller Christian Krogstad, as he sought to turn his lifelong dream to produce and distil a locally made American single malt whiskey into reality. Krogstad jokes that single malt whiskey is beer that’s finally achieved its higher purpose and that as a brewer, that was what he needed to do to achieve his higher purpose. Who are we to argue with that?
Along with investment from American football legend Joe Montana, Krogstad partnered with CEO and co-owner Thomas Mooney to grow the brand to become the largest independent distiller of American single malt whiskey. Initially, the spirit was distilled with wash from local breweries, as they didn’t have fermentation capacity, but since Krogstad was a brewer, this was never going to last, with brewing going inhouse in 2015 when Westward built its new, bigger home in Southeast Portland. The new facility allows for far greater production, with half the building dedicated to fermentation. The team brew over 11,000 litres of pale ale whiskey wash on a typical day, which is then double-pot distilled resulting in enough spirit to fill five or six barrels a day.
There’s no sign of things slowing down at Westward either, with further expansion plans announced in September 2018 set to increase production by a further 40% in 2019 alone. This has been made possible by investment in the company by Distill Ventures, Diageo’s craft spirits accelerator who you may remember also recently invested in Australia’s Starward Whisky. They’ve invested in not only the facility and inventory, but the Westward brand itself too, but as always with their investments, majority ownership and independent control remains in the hands of Westward’s founders and existing investors, and all existing staff are kept on board. This win-win deal provides the Westward team with capital, mentorship, and a bright future for Westward Whiskey, a brand we hope we’ll see more from in years to come.
About Westward Whiskey:
Taking inspiration from the thriving local brewing culture, Westward Whiskey is brewed and distilled from scratch on-site at the Portland distillery, their grain-to-glass operation giving Master Distiller Christian Krogstad and lead distiller Miles Munroe complete control over the production process, and a provenance that truly reflects where it was made.
You can’t expect a distillery run by a brewer to use just any old wash, and to that end, all Westward Whiskey is made from 100% Northwest two-row pale malted barley and ale yeast. In the early days, before the new distillery was built, washes were brewed in collaboration with a number of iconic Portland breweries, such as Breakside, Alameda, and Rogue, but since November 2015 every single wash used has been brewed inhouse, with a true craft beer philosophy, fermentation taking place over a long time at a low temperature. The result, a spicy wash with bright and fruity notes.
The wash is then double pot-distilled, first up in the 11,350 litre pot still that was handcrafted for Westward by Vendome Copper & Brassworks in Louisville, KY. This is one of the largest of its type in the country. From there to the 2,650 litre spirit still that was designed by Westward themselves, and built by Global Stainless in Canby, Oregon. Both stills feature short open heads that ensure the distillate is rich and robust.
The new make is then filled in newly charred American oak barrels at 62% ABV. The majority of the barrels are #2 char, this lower char amount allows the rich esters created by the fermentation process to remain present, contributing to the full-flavoured palate. Because the distillery is situated between a river, a highway, and a railway line, it’s not considered the ideal location for maturing whiskey. The temperature and pressure swings considered far too much. Rather, the barrels are matured in a 28,000 square foot, barometrically monitored rackhouse facility in nearby Clackamas County, Oregon, just out of town. The barrels still experience Oregon’s seasons, but it provides a far more stable environment for maturation. Well, it’s usually stable… the area is prone to earthquakes, so to keep the precious contents safe the barrels are palletised, standing upright, four to a pallet and never more than four high. Perhaps not the most efficient use of the warehouse space, but at least nothing has too far to fall if ever there is a quake. After safely resting for three to five years, the casks are selected when ready and brought together and bottled, creating a whiskey that is distinct, brazen, rich in character, and full of flavour.
Westward’s whiskies have caught the attention of judges around the world, having picked up a Double Gold medal at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition, a 93-point/excellent rating at the Ultimate Spirits Challenge, a 94-point rating from Wine Enthusiast, as well as topping the list of the Wall Street Journal’s Singular Single Malts Born in the USA. Way to go!
All this praise and attention didn’t go unnoticed by us here at The Club, and we knew we just had to work with them to bring our Members something special. Christian and Miles were put to work to create a unique expression of the American Northwest, just for us. Their signature whiskey has been carefully aged to taste in lightly toasted new American Oak barrels in the heart of the American Northwest, those hot, dry summers and cool, wet winters working the spirit through the barrels. Once ready, the whiskey then went into Oregon Pinot Noir casks, sourced from Remy Wines in Oregon Wine Country’s iconic Willamette Valley, where it rested for eight months before being bottled at a sharp 45% ABV. And thus, Westward Oregon Pinot Noir Cask Single Malt Whiskey created Exclusively for The Whisky Club was born.
This is a whiskey that brings so many things Portland is famous for – craft beer brewing, pinot noir, and spirit distillation – together in one delicious bottle, absolutely bursting with sweet sun-dried figs, ripe plums, brown sugar and fragrant pipe tobacco on the nose before rolling into creamy grain, fresh melon and raisin on the palate, and finishing decadently with English toffee, leather and a touch of white pepper. It’s hands-down the most kick-ass dram we’ve tasted all year.
Don’t miss your chance to grab a bottle of this unrepeatable Limited Edition whiskey. In fact, we’re sure once you get your lips around it, you’ll be wanting a second bottle. Avoid disappointment and hit that Double-Up button while you can, because as always once it’s gone, it’s gone.
$120 per bottle + $15 flat fee postage
Age on release:
Matured in new American oak barrels and finished in Oregon pinot noir casks
Westward quick facts
Region: Portland, Oregon, USA
Place of origin: House Spirits Distillery, 65 SE Washington St., Portland, Oregon USA 97214
Water source: Bull Run Watershed. Located 30 miles from Portland, Oregon
Washbacks: Hydroconical glycol-jacketed closed fermenters. Stainless and 11,350 Litres
Number of stills: 2 Pot Stills. 1 x 11,350 Litre wash still – stainless with large copper coils, copper neck and descending lyne arm. 1 x 2,650 Litre spirit still – stainless with a copper shotgun column.
Colour: Cadmium amber
Nose: Layers of sweet, sun-dried figs, ripe plums, brown sugar and fragrant pipe tobacco
Palate: Rich and velvety with raisins and creamy malty grain perfectly balanced with fresh melon
Finish: Lingers long with loads of English toffee overtones and hints of leather and white pepper
Camembert cheese or sharp cheeses with a salty finish.