*Sincere thanks to Westland Distillery for the sample.
Conventional whisky wisdom says that peat as a flavor is at its most pungent when a whisky is young, let’s say under 12 years. Once a malt starts edging up into those delightful late teens, things begin to balance out and that once dominating peat starts to integrate itself more with the deepening flavors of maturation. That only makes sense, a peated spirit is a much, much bolder spirit than a non-peated one, and it takes time to for it to mellow and for the wood to catch up and impart its magic in more equal measure.
This isn’t to say that one is better than the other, au contraire, Balblair. Obviously, the high regard for those young upstarts like Kilchoman and the English Whisky Co., the slightly older standards like the Ardbeg and Laphroaig 10 year olds, and the flag-bearers for peated elegance, the Lagavulin 16 year old and pretty much any Port Ellen, shows that if you peat it, they will come. Indeed, you don’t see many non-peated whiskies succeeding at three to five years old, yet peated malts can do well in that range. I suppose one of the main reasons for this is that the strength of the peat tends to mask some of the harsher flavors of youth.
So with all that in mind, here we are at another very young peated one, The Westland Peated American Single Malt Whiskey. Like their standard American Single Malt, this one owes a bit more to beer brewing than most whiskies do. Made from a combination of peated malt and Washington Select Pale Malt, this edition of the Westland Peated was matured for two years in a combination of new, heavily charred American Oak, ex-bourbon, and ex-sherry casks.
The Nose: This is not necessarily a heavily peated whiskey. Initially, there’s honey-sweet, slightly beery malt and cereal, along with tart cherries and tannic grapes. The upfront yet relatively gentle peat adds a medicinal, almost mentholated edge to the cherry cough drop notes I found in the Westland Single Malt. There’s a bit of savory smoke, more like barbecuing meat than a dry wood fire. Subtle spice hints of mustard seed, pepper, nutmeg and cinnamon are tucked in the background.
The Palate: The palate edges more towards an expected peated malt flavor profile. Early on, there’s more honeyed cereal sweetness along with baked cherry cobbler. A bold swell of that slightly minty, medicinal peat and savory, bbq smoke, now a touch ashy, leads to more wood and spice than I found on the nose. Sharp, youthful, tannic oak notes, along with white pepper, clove, and faint hot cinnamon wrap things up.
The Finish: Long-ish and altogether pleasant with a mouth-watering combo of peaty, ashy bbq smoke, mint, clove and oak.
Thoughts: Really very nice. Every bit as good as the very young and very good Kilchoman and English Whisky Co. expressions of the last few years. Though the nose seems much gentler than the palate, there’s a nice, compact integration and progression with this one. As I mentioned above, peat does seem to cover up some of the harsher edges of youth, and while this one is no exception to that rule, the edges seem less harsh to begin with. The distillery character is evident, the peat and smoke measured, the maturation just enough to bring it all together. Very enjoyable right now and full of great promise for the future. Recommended.