Regular readers of the blog will be familiar with my admiration for the growing category of American Single Malt. While Westward (not to be confused with Westland) is a core component of this movement, they are not my favorite producer. Still, I’m always up to try something new, and here’s an American Single Malt finished in a cask that previously held Oregon stout (beer). For more background on Westward, see my review of their flagship American Single Malt.
Now, a pedant might point out that stout is not typically aged in barrels. While true, many specialty brewers make oak barrel-aged beer of various varieties, and Westward (located in Portland, Oregon) trades their ex-whiskey casks with local brewers. Westward refers to these casks as “Stout-seasoned” when they come back.
Westward’s Oregon Stout Cask whisky is aged in new American oak, like their other malts, and is then finished in the aforementioned Oregon stout “seasoned” casks for 1 additional year. It’s bottled at 45% ABV in small batches without chill filtration. Here’s a weird thing: The older red label (pictured) was bottled at 45% ABV. The newer teal/green label is bottled at 46% ABV. Why? No clue.
Nose: Definitely Westward. Sickly sweet malt with ferment-heavy vanillas, overripe banana, molasses, cream soda, sweet oak, and a dense roasty note of coffee and cocoa. It is very close to the original Westward single malt, with perhaps an extra layer of roasted malt from the stout cask, and perhaps some extra sweetness.
Palate: Syrupy body. Ah, now it tastes like stout. Bitter Italian roast coffee beans, very dark chocolate, hazelnuts, chestnuts, and cream. The same Westward house character notes from the aroma are present as well, along with a lot of oak sugars (but not much tannin).
Finish: Long, and very consistent. All of the palate notes continue through the finish, and evolve into cherry cordials and then mint chocolate chip ice cream. Quite nice.
With Water: Several drops of water clean up some of the funky banana aromas, which is a plus. The palate seems thinner and more acidic, and some of the stout-specific notes are hidden. The finish, however, is livelier. Try it without water first, and then see how it changes for you.
Overall: If you can get past the oddness of Westward’s initial aroma blast, which is hard to describe but is somewhere in the flavor triangle formed by wet cardboard, molasses, and bruised bananas, then you will find a very successful melding of classic American single malt (oak-forward, sweet) with a very tasty set of stout-derived flavors. A pity this is only really apparent on the palate, but the finish is excellent.
This is one of the few whiskies I would recommend rushing through the nosing. As to whether your should buy it, that depends. I got an exquisite deal on my bottle, but I doubt I’d be happy paying $80. If you’re a big Westward fan already then you will probably appreciate the “plus” of the stout elements. If this is your first Westward, I’d look for a sample (of any Westward) first before committing. For that reason, this is a “Try Before Buy”.