There are many things to love about Portland, Oregon. It’s glorious uniqueness as a city can be seen, heard, and most importantly, tasted. With over 80 breweries calling Portland home, it’s no wonder many burgeoning brewers move West to claim their stake in one of the country’s most influential craft beer cities. However, craft beer isn’t the only thing brewing in this coastal locale.
Westward Whiskey is proud to make its grain to glass whiskeys in the Pacific Northwest. Everything from the whiskey’s water source — which consists of snowmelt and rain from Mount Hood — to its inclusion of locally malted barley, all stems from the region.
Head distiller and blender, Miles Munroe says, “I think malted barley makes the most complex and flavorful whiskey out there. Our approach to American single malt is a very minimalist one where we want the features of great beer, such as fermentation flavors and careful malt selection, to exhibit themselves in the whiskey.” Munroe continues, “we place as much importance on the production of our wash as a brewer would of their beers, creating flavor every step of the way.”
Munroe studied at American Brewers Guild and was a professional brewer for three years, with the full intention of eventually becoming a single malt whiskey maker. Most of the distilling staff at Westward have a brewing history. Plus, all whiskey starts out as beer, so brewing is a great place for any distiller to start.
Another truly special, heartwarming aspect of Portland culture is its collaborative spirit. Westward prides itself on partnering with Northwest tastemakers such as world-class winemakers and breweries in the local area. The result is the creation of an American single malt whiskey that’s as innovative as it is rebellious. “We’ve established a regional style of single malt, so we don’t use sherry barrels or peated barley because that has nothing to do with the Pacific Northwest,” Munroe adds.
The two primary expressions are Westward American Single Malt and Westward Oregon Stout Cask Finish, both of which recently won gold at San Francisco World Spirits Competition. The newest release, Westward Oregon Pinot Noir Cask just launched as an Oregon exclusive and will be introduced to additional markets early next year. We were lucky enough to taste all three and here are our thoughts.
Westward American Single Malt
The Whiskey: Westward American Single Malt is aged in the Willamette Valley where they annually see 30 percent more rain above the national average. These conditions make for perfect aging conditions for Westward’s distinctive signature single malt.
Tasting Notes: Balanced and bold from start to finish. Though the aroma has a bit of a punch — you can smell the high-proof — your senses will welcome the blend of brown sugar, vanilla, and slightly fruity notes.
Westward Oregon Stout Cask Finish
The Whiskey: Released merely a year ago, this “red label” is the crème de la crème of stout cask finishes. “Really great beer makes really great single malts,” says Munroe. This expression takes the single malt above and re-barrels it into American oak that’s been pre-seasoned with stout from a long-list of great Oregon breweries. The whiskey then mellows for another year while absorbing the stout flavors.
Tasting Notes: Expect a harmonious combination of robustness, velvety chocolate, and toasted nuts, particularly pecan. It’s definitely meant for sipping. However, the alluring oak-coffee-cocoa aftertaste makes us want to experiment with an Old Fashioned.
Westward Pinot Noir Cask Finish
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The Westward Pinot cask finish is an amazing expression of American Single Malt! The nose reminded me of growing up at my grandparents: beautiful aroma of my Grandma’s homemade grape jelly balanced perfectly by the malt my Grandpa would add to his malted milkshakes. The taste starts out with toffee, caramel and butterscotch, which transitions into delicate white pepper notes that stretch into a solid finish. Very pleased by this addition to the Westward line! 🥃
The Whiskey: Westward Whiskey Pinot Noir Cask Finish teams up Westward with local friends from Suzor Wines. The expression spends time mellowing in their old pinot barrels before small-batch bottling.
Tasting Notes: The nose is absolutely divine (is there a candle for this?) with hints of fig, plum, and brown sugar. The depth of flavor pulls through with an exquisite fusion of fresh berries and drawn-out spices. This whiskey is like the perfect song — released at the right time and exceptional in quality.