Whisky Distilleries

Laphroaig Distillery – The Controversial Islay

Laphroaig Distillery

Laphroaig distillery is home to the world-famous whisky of the same name. It is a whisky that causes heated debates over how it tasted, and can seriously make one person look demented in the eyes of another. However controversial the whisky may appear to taste, Laphroaig distillery is a place that excites whisky drinkers all over the world.

Entrance to Laphroaig Visitor Centre

We visited Laphroaig Distillery on a sunny morning for a tour and tasting. Having a driver who used to work at Laphroaig Distillery as a Stillman made it extra special for us as our dear driver introduced us to everyone at the visitor centre! We arrived earlier than expected, and excitedly, try to explore the little museum located at the visitor centre. It is a small area detailing the history of Laphroaig, as well as providing some explanation to what peat is.

Peat Explained

Laphroaig Distillery Tour

After going through the museum, we met our tour guide for the day and started our tour.

Step 1: Malting Floor

Malting Floor

Laphroaig malts some of their barley at the distillery and buys the rest of them from Port Ellen Malting. The first step of malting barley is naturally seeping them in water. Barley seeped in water for roughly 48 hours. The time depends on the temperature and how fast the barley reacts as the barley needs to get a moisture content of 45% before they are used in the next step.

The team at the malting hall changes the water regularly to keep the water fresh. Draining the water also helps to allow the barley to breathe before refilling it to continue the seeping process. Once the barley is ready, they will be spread onto the floor. The ideal temperature during the germination is about 18 degrees C to make sure that the barley is ready for the kiln. However, due to weather changes, the distillery needs to monitor the temperature carefully and make changes when necessary. In cold weather, the team keeps the barley warm by closing the windows; in hot weather, the windows are opened to keep the barley cool and well-ventilated.

During germination, the team works hard to keep the barley fresh by turning them regularly. The process helps to ventilate the barley and prevent them from sticking to one another. It also allows the barley to breathe and germinate properly. During the tour, the guide allowed everyone to help turn the barley using a shovel that they kept to the malting floor. We were very excited to try that as it would be the first time that we get to do it!

Turning the Barley!

Here we were! Holding the shovel for the first time, and scooping barley in the attempt to turn it! It was great fun, honestly, with every one of us making a pose for pictures and videos! The barley germinates better with the regular turning, and soon, it would be ready for milling before moving on to the next step.

Step 2: The Kiln and Smoking

The germinated barley needs to be dried to stop the growth and make it useful for whisky-making. Maltsers transferred the barley to the kiln when it is ready. The kiln is responsible for both the smoking and drying of the barley. They do the two processes separately. Smoking using peat takes about 12 hours while the drying time depends on the moisture content. The team needs to dry the barley down to 2% moisture.

The place the barley rest on

To smoke and dry the barley, the team sends the barley to this “resting floor” above the kiln. The guide took us in to take a look and also to have a feel of getting smoked! The germinated barley gets spread out on the floor before they lit the fire below for the smoking and drying process.

The Kiln

This is the kiln at Laphroaig. As it was one of the slower periods in whisky-making, we got a chance to see the kiln when it was not in use. The team will pile peat into the kiln, light it up, and the smoke that rises will reach the floor above where the barley lies. As mentioned earlier, the smoking process takes 12 hours. After that, drying takes place. As mentioned earlier, the distillery takes part of its malted barley from Port Ellen Malting. We understood from our guide that the malt from Port Ellen is around 40-45ppm while the malts from Laphroaig is around 50-55ppm. To achieve an average, the distillery mixes the two malts to get a good balance.

Peat Lesson

An Aside: Peat at Laphroaig

Our knowledgeable guide also worked us through a lesson on peat on Islay as well, explaining how Laphroaig cuts its peat.

We learned that peat location plays a big part in the kind of peat smoke the distillery wanted. Islay peat is the product of salt-sprayed heather, ferns, gorse, sphagnum moss, moorland grass and seaweed. The combination gives Laphroaig its signature salty, medicinal and coastal notes that creates controversial reactions all over the world. The distillery owns peat beds on the east shores of Loch Indaal, near to the Islay airport. The team looks after the peat beds, making sure that they are in the right conditions for the cutting which is usually done between April to September every year.

Laphroaig distillery is the last distillery on Islay that is still hand-cutting its peat. Usually, hand-cut peat is wet enough to make lots of smoke, which is perfect for Laphroaig.

Step 3: Mashing and Fermentation

We moved on to the mash house, where our guide treated us to more information about the whisky-making process. The mash tun gets three lots of water to extract the sugar from the malted barley. The first lot of water is at 63 degrees C; the second lot at 80 degrees C, and the last lot at 90 degrees C. The first and second lot of water move to the washbacks, while the last lot of water goes back to the mash tun as the first lot of water for the next mash. The sugary liquid, or wort, then cools to about 19 degrees C and moves to the stainless steel washbacks.

Washback

Laphroaig used liquid yeast, and the team adds it to the wort in the washback. Fermentation happens, and it yields a low wine (beer) at roughly 8.5% abv. Again, we were excited when our guides offered to let us taste the low wine!

My cup of Laphroaig “beer.”

Laphroaig also makes excellent “beer”! It is slightly peaty and smokey, coupled with plenty of sweetness. In my opinion, it tasted even better than the one we had at Kilchoman! Considering that I dislike Laphroaig, I believe I would instead drink its beer (if the distillery ever decides to release one)!

Step Four: Distillation

Spirits Still (four in the back); Wash Still (in the foreground)

Our group trotted to the Still House like a bunch of eager children who had been promised chocolates. Once there, we wowed over the seven stills standing proudly in front of us. There are three wash stills and four spirits stills. Each wash still holds 10,400 litres, while the spirits stills vary in their volume.

Spirit Safe

The first distillation through the wash still increases the alcohol percentage from 8.5% abv to around 20-25% abv. The lyne arms slope upwards to get more reflux, which helps to increase the strength of the distilled spirit. The second distillation goes through the spirits stills and alcohol percentage goes up to above 80% abv. Laphroaig takes the cut of the heart between 78% to 62%.

Step Five: Maturation

Whisky cannot be whisky if it is not matured for a minimum of three years in Scotland. We headed off to the warehouse once we completed the still house tour.

Laphroaig Warehouse

A quick look at the warehouse showed rows and rows of casks lying in the dark and moist environment, waiting for their turn to shine as whisky in a prized bottle. As our tour was a cask strength whisky-tasting tour, we knew what laid ahead.

The Best Treat at Laphroaig

Our guide finally bought us to a low-lying warehouse where we see three casks waiting for us. Our group sat down and waited with bated breath as our guide explained the procedure of tasting the three cask-strength whiskies and how we should bottle our favourite into the glass bottles provided. The three casks consisted of a bourbon barrel, a Manzanilla Sherry butt and a Fino Sherry butt.

Our guide showing us how to draw whisky from the cask

We were all given a taste of the three casks, and then our guide waited for us to decide on the whisky that we wanted to bottle. Some of the participants rushed to the casks, but we took some time to decide. Our final choices were the bourbon barrel and the Manzanilla Sherry butt.

The Final Look

Bottling took longer than expected due to the crowd in our group, but we finally got our hands on the finished products! The above picture showed my bottle nicely sitting inside a beautiful package. Sadly, the box did not survive the flight back, and we had to throw it away in Edinburgh. Nonetheless, the bottle and the glass survived!

Friends of Laphroaig

Back at the visitor centre, we claimed our rental for the plot of land that we “own” on Laphroaig’s peat bed. While we did not have time to visit our little plot, it was good to get our rental “payment” of it.

Our rental payment

If you are a friend of Laphroaig, remember to claim your rent at the visitor centre when you visit the distillery. It is available once a year and if you are lucky to visit them every year, claim it! We moved on to the next distillery soon after our tour as we were on a tight schedule, but Laphroaig distillery truly gave me one of the best distillery tours on Islay.

 

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    Kilchoman Distillery – The Farmhouse

    Kilchoman Distillery

    Two team members from WhiskyGeeks went on an Islay-centric Scotland tour in September 2019 and we had a whale of a time! Coming back from Scotland was torturous, but such is life! It took us many months to get our bum to settle down in front of our computers to start writing, but here we are, finally!

    Let’s start our journey with Kilchoman, the second newest distillery on Islay. The distillery started distillation in 2005 and have since expanded their production to 220 thousand litres of pure alcohol a year! New washbacks and stills will be installed soon, and we can expect increased production after that.

    Going on a Distillery Tour

    It was fun going on a distillery tour, mainly because you get to see all the machines and get behind the storefront to see the actual production hall. On Islay, the distilleries normally consist of different buildings on the distillery grounds, and Kilchoman is not any different. We started the tour at the shop, where our lovely tour guide met us. She distributed our tour souvenir, a mini Glencairn glass and a lanyard, as we will be using them along the way. After the usual safety briefing, we were off!

    First stop – The Malt Floor

    Entrance to the Malt Room

    Kilchoman does some of their maltings onsite using Islay grown barley from the nearby Rock Side farm. Roughly 30% of the distilled spirit comes from Islay grown barley, while the rest comes from Port Ellen Maltings. Each malting is carried out in the traditional way of spreading the barley on the floor for germination to take place.

    Traditional Malting Floor

    Workers malt around 40 tons of barley at a time, by steeping them in water and allowing for 5-7 days of germination and drying.

    Barley germination in progress

    During the germination, the plant shoot, or acrospire, will start growing. The malting is complete once the acrospire grows to around three quarters or more of the length of barley. Once the maltsters see that the barley is ready, they will start the kilning process.

    Second Stop – The Kiln

    The Kiln

    The kilning begins by igniting dry peat to get the fire going before adding wet peat to create peat smoke. The workers will smoke the barley for 10 hours and leave it to dry until the malt reaches 5% moisture content. This malting onsite leads to a 20ppm phenol content in the Islay malt. To follow the traditional way of malting, Kilchoman lets the barley rest for four days after kilning and before milling them for mashing and fermentation.

    Third Stop – The Still House

    The Still House

    Kilchoman is a farmhouse distillery, which means that space is limited. To make work effective, the mash tun, washbacks and stills are placed in the same location.

    After milling, 1.2 tonnes of grist goes into the mash tun. To extract the sugars, the workers add three streams of hot water at 56degC, 85degC and 95 degC. 6000L of sugary liquid, or wort, goes into the washbacks, along with 20kg of dry yeast. This wort is then left to ferment for approximately 84 hours to become wash, a strong beer at 6-8% abv.

    Our tour guide asked if we would like to try the “Kilchoman beer” and proceed to pour us some when she got a resounding “YES!”

    The Kilchoman Beer

    The wash tasted sweet, with a yeasty, lightly fizzed note at the back. It was good! So good that we asked for a second helping. Personally, I think that Kilchoman should consider making their own beer. I would buy them if they make it!

    The Distillation

    The Stills

    Since the stills are pretty small, only 3000L of wash goes into the wash still at a time. After the first distillation, 1000L of low wines at approximately 19% abv goes into the spirit still for the second distillation. The remaining 2000L became pot ale, which is used to fertilise the crops at Rock Side Farm. Pot ale is useless for making whisky, but its organic compounds made them perfect as fertilisers.

    The low wines from the wash still, and the heads and tails from previous distillations are then added into the spirit still at approximately 26% for the second distillation. Kilchoman takes the cut of the heart between 76% and 65%; this means any distillate above 76% are foreshots, and any distillate below 65% are feints. These foreshots and feints are added to the low wines in the next distillation. After 3.5 hours of distillation, the spirit still produces 3.5 litres of spirit, which will be watered down to a filling strength of 63.5%.

    Fourth Stop – Not the Warehouse

    Sample Casks

    Unfortunately, Kilchoman distillery has a policy that does not allow visitors to see their warehouse. It is due to safety reasons though; they have nothing to hide! Instead, we got to see some sample casks which the tour guide explained their way of storage before she led us to the next exciting part of the distillery tour.

    Fifth and Final Stop – The Bottling Plant

    The machine that helps to bottle Kilchoman Single Malt

    The bottling process is a combination of manual and machine work. The bottling team needs to ensure the cleanliness of the bottles before feeding them to the machine, which will do the bottling. In the above picture, you can see the process of filling the bottle. The filled bottles then passed through the glass portion of the machine where the cork gets fixed onto the bottle. The final process gets the bottles sealed and labelled! The bottling team then completes the process by putting the bottles into their boxes and packed them into cases of six.

    End of the Tour – Back at the Distillery Shop

    Our tour guide led us back to the distillery shop and ended the tour. You must be surprised to see that we did not appear to taste any Kilchoman whisky. We did! It just did not flow nicely in the narratives earlier. We had a Sanaig in the malting room and it was surprisingly good! We got to admit that we are not big Kilchoman fans largely because we find it spicy, but the Sanaig was really awesome.

    Sanaig and peat 

    Back at the shop, we considered having a meal at Kilchoman because we heard that the food was awesome! Alas, we cannot, as we needed to move on to the next distillery. Nonetheless, we had enough time to explore the little farmhouse at the back of the distillery and the below pictures were what we found!

    The Kilchoman Cat and Hen

    There were some other hens running around but they ran away when they saw us. Hahaha…

    It was a fantastic visit to Kilchoman, and we look forward to seeing more of them after their expansion.

     

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      Balblair Distillery – True Highland Spirit

      Balblair distillery made it into the news recently for their change in packaging and labelling of their whiskies. Instead of vintages, the distillery decided to follow the conventional method of stating the age of the whisky on the bottle. It is a welcoming change for drinkers who are too lazy to count the years (like us)!

      We wanted to see how things may change with the new packaging, and Lady Luck shines on us – SAMPLES! Our friend over at AsiaEuro kindly gave us some samples to try, and of course, we gladly took over. Who says no to whisky, right? Before we go into the tasting, let’s take a look at the history of the distillery.

      History of Balblair Distillery

      Balblair was founded in 1790 by John Ross in the Highlands of Scotland. As a Highland distillery, Balblair uses water from the Ault Dearg burn. Even though the distillery moved its location in 1895 when Charles C Doig rebuilt it, the water source remains unchanged to this day. It is important to note that water source for a distillery is crucial, and we applaud the efforts that Balblair takes to maintain the integrity of its water.

      John ran Balblair from 1790 to 1824 singlehandedly as a striving business. Andrew Ross, his son, joined him at the distillery in 1824 and it remained in the Ross family for another 70 years. In 1894, Alexander Cowan took over the tenancy of Balblair distillery. The business remained as a small-scale distillery until 1948, when Robert Cumming bought it. Robert expanded the distillery and increased production and ran the bigger distillery until he retired in 1970.

      By this time, Balblair is known as an excellent Highland single malt whisky producer, and it is no wonder that the distillery attracted buyers. When Robert Cumming retired, he sold Balblair to Hiram Walker. Finally, Walker sold it to Inver House Distillers Limited in 1996, where it remained till this day.

      Whisky Production at Balblair

      We do not get a lot of information on the actual whisky production methods at Balblair as the information is not available. Let’s move on to the tasting notes!

      Whisky Reviews

      Credits: balblair.com

      Balblair 12 Years Old

      Nose: confectionary sweetness, lemon zest, sour mash
      Palate: lemon zest, vanilla sponge cake, resin,
      Finish: heather, resin, lemon zest, vanilla
      *We did not add water to the 12 Years Old.

      Balblair 15 Years Old

      Nose: cookie dough, brioche, chocolate, cinnamon, black pepper and honey. With water, we get a hint of ginger too.
      Palate: chocolate cinnamon honey and yellow pears. With water, there are more honey, cinnamon and black pepper.
      Finish: vanilla citrus, cinnamon and milk chocolate. With water, we get dark chocolate, walnuts and marzipan.

      Balblair 18 Years Old

      Nose: hints of new magazines, cinnamon, milk chocolate, rich honey, vanilla sponge,
      Palate: cinnamon, chocolate, brioche, walnuts, cashews, lemon zest, grapefruit zest
      Finish: cinnamon, black pepper, lemon zest
      Again, we did not add water to the 18 Years Old.

      Our team was quite divided on our favourites after the tasting. Suffice to say, we enjoyed all three expressions, but the 15 Years Old did win the vote with a 2 out of 3. Have you tried these yet? What are your thoughts?

       

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        Singapore’s first Single Malt!

        Singapore’s first Single Malt distillate was filled into a Four Roses ex-bourbon barrel! In a collaboration between Brass Lion Distillery and The General Brewing Co., the wash was carefully formulated and distilled.

        The Process

        The team used a barley strain called Maris Otter for the mash. This malted barley used for the mash was especially unique, as it is a pale malt that Scottish distillers do not use. The mash then underwent fermentation, utilising a blend of 80% high gravity yeast and 20% ale yeast. Brewer Daryl Yeap noted that the high gravity yeast could survive a higher alcohol content and produce a high alcohol yield. He went to explain that the ale yeast contributed fruity flavours to the new-make. In crafting a truly Singaporean whisky, the fermentation was at a very local temperature of 30 degrees Celcius, which possible due to the thermotolerant yeast used. After 36 hours of primary fermentation, the wash sat for another 36 hours to allow unique and funky flavours to emerge.

        This 2000L wash at 9.5% reached Brass Lion distillery for a double pot still distillation. Although Brass Lion’s hybrid consists of a pot still and a modern column still, the low wines did not get distilled in the column still. Instead, the low wines underwent distillation a second time through the same pot still. A strict numerical point did not determine the cut of the heart. Instead, Javin Chia analysed the new-make distillate in most of all the distillations and took the cut of the heart. This process bears a striking similarity to Chichibu’s method of nosing to determine the cut of the heart rather than a fixed numerical figure.

        Challenges

        As this is Singapore’s first legally distilled Single Malt New-Make Spirit, the team faced many challenges. One challenge was getting Singapore customs to understand how whisky duties would work, taking into account the angel’s share. Executing a brew without hops presented the brewery with new challenges. The wee pot still had a volume of 150L, and approximately 130L can be distilled each time.  After a gruelling 22 distillations done, Brass Lion obtained 180L of new-make spirit, which would go into a bourbon barrel.

        The New-Make Spirit

        Nose: The nose was generally malty, with notes of cereal biscuit aromas, butter, and peanut nuttiness.

        Palate: The arrival gave notes of unripe green apples and cereal. The texture was buttery, and after a bit, lemon rind notes start to appear.

        Finish: A lovely malty, and buttery finish

        Unlike most new-make spirits that I have tried, this did not have strong notes of sour mash. Furthermore, the malty notes of the Maris Otter shone through. This very drinkable new-make is likely due to the commitment of Javin and the Brass Lion team to smell and analyse the distillate.

         

        Whiskygeeks is very honoured to be invited to the barrel-filling and showcase of Singapore’s first legal Single Malt New-Make! I am confident that the spirit will evolve into something spectacular.  Special thanks to Javin Chia and Brass Lion!

        Frongoch Distillery – The Royal Welsh Whisky of Old

        The Royal Welsh Whiskies – Picture from Penderyn Distillery

        Wales is not high on the whisky map. It is well-known as an industrial country with coal mines, and gold. Whisky was never one of their “virtues”.  Many people did not even know where Wales is or that it exists.

        Wales has a short whisky history. The current distilleries are Penderyn Distillery, located in the Brecon Beacons in Southern Wales, and Dà Mhìle Distillery in Western Wales. Penderyn is the only distillery exporting its Welsh whiskies outside of UK, to countries such as the United States, Germany, France and Singapore.

        The History of Whisky in Wales

        Unknown to many, Wales was home to a whisky distillery about one century ago. Known as Frongoch Distillery, its location was about two and a half miles from Bala on the way to Trawsfynydd. R. Lloyd Price, the owner of the Rhiwlas Estate and Robert Willis, a pretty unknown person, registered the Welsh Whisky Distillery Co in Frongoch, Bala, in 1889 and built the Frongoch Distillery.

        The Rise and Fall of Frongoch Distillery

        An Old Picture of Frongoch Distillery. Picture from BBC.

        Frongoch was the perfect site for the distillery due to two crucial things – the pure, peaty water from the Tryweryn River, and the readily available transportation network via the nearby railway station and ports. The first Welsh distillery was a magnificent building in its heydays as it received fundings of £100,000 to build and run it. When it opened its doors in 1890, it was a beautiful place with a malthouse, kilns, peat store, offices and accommodation for its 30 workers. There was also a dedicated excise officer located on site.

        Sadly, the distillery did not survive. The company went bankrupt in 1910 and Frongoch Distillery became an empty shell. The premise remained uninhabited until the outbreak of World War One in 1914. During the war, the distillery and its grounds became a prisoner of war camp for captured Germans and Irish.

        In 1916, during the Easter Rising in Ireland, the English army detained some of the most prominent figures of the uprising at Frongoch. There were two camps on the premises, the North and South camps. The South Camp was in the old buildings of the distillery. The prisoners included Terence MacSweeney and Michael Collins. Frongoch Distillery in Wales remains a vital link in the history of Ireland even up to today. As a prison during the war, it held the best of Ireland’s revolutionaries for the freedom of Ireland.

        The Whisky of Frongoch Distillery

        It was said that full production at Frongoch would reach 150,000 gallons per annum when the distillery opened. The first Welsh whisky went to customers in 1891. All of them went to North Wales and the border counties. The owners changed their policy after the first batch, choosing to increase the years of maturation. This was a time before rules and regulations came into the whisky industry; such a move from the owners showed their passion and dedication to the craft of whisky-making.

        Interestingly, the Welsh Whisky Company Co. received a royal warrant from the Queen on 26 July 1895. As a result, the prefix “Royal” could be used in front of the whisky. Hence, the Royal Welsh Whisky was born. Shortly after the receipt of the royal warrant, the market released the first Royal Welsh Whisky in the history of Wales.

         

        Advertisement of the Royal Welsh Whisky. Picture from WhiskyInvestDirect

        Details about the flavours and taste of the whisky did not survive the years, unfortunately. Advertisements such as the above picture tell us that the distillery released the whisky as a five years old malt made from the finest malted barley, but there was nothing that spoke of its flavours or taste.

        Based on the location of Frongoch, the ample peat available likely meant that the whisky was peated. It was also comparatively more expensive than the typical Scotch whiskies of the time. The old report of the Wine & Spirits Trade Record also pointed to the fact that the Royal Welsh Whisky might have been more similar in style to their Irish counterpart than Scotch in terms of their choice of using a “Pot Still” and selling the whisky both in bulk and in bottles. Sadly, there were no concrete details to find out more.

        The modern Royal Welsh Whisky

        The Royal Welsh Whisky of Penderyn. Picture from Spirits Castle

        Fast forward to the modern era, and we have Penderyn Distillery as a successor. As the first Welsh distillery to export its whiskies outside of the United Kingdom, the distillery owns one of the original Royal Welsh Whisky bottle (picture at the top of the article). There are three other surviving bottles. One of them is a resident at Cardiff’s St Fagans National History Museum. The other two belong to private collectors who bought them in an auction at £7,300 and £7,200 respectively in 2016.

        In 2019, Penderyn Distillery decided to honour the history of whisky-making in Wales with the release of their version of the Royal Welsh Whisky. It is part of Penderyn’s Icon of Wales series and released in March 2019 to celebrate St David’s Day. The new Royal Welsh Whisky sports a peated Portwood finish.

        We wonder if the distillery opened the original bottle to try before deciding on the flavours, although it would be very much like drinking a historical relic. Nonetheless, we are excited to try the newly-minted “Royal Welsh Whisky” from Penderyn Distillery.

        Royal Welsh Whisky from Penderyn Distillery

        Nose: Guava, melons, pineapples surface with black pepper in the nose, with a very muted peat note at the back. With time, vanilla surfaces with soft peat.

        Palate: Tropical fruits, muted peat and hints of smoke at the forefront. With time, vanilla cream, peat and smoke come together in a harmonious and beautiful expression.

        Finish: Oaky with sweet fruits that develops into fruit peels. With time, the finish is long, and wisps of smoke come and go elegantly.

        The Royal Welsh Whisky will benefit from patience and airing time. The dram evolves over time, with the characteristic of its Portwood finish disappearing after 30 minutes and the Peated finish comes full power. It is a beautiful dram that changes with time, giving you a surprise at every turn.

         

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          Nantou Distillery (Omar whisky) visit!

          Nantou distillery has been making Omar, a Taiwanese whisky, since 2008. The distillery tours there are quite like those of Scotland. The tour guide makes the experience more intimate, more personalised and less commercial. Nantou distillery’s willingness to experiment makes them unique, especially to whisky geeks like myself! I know many of you are more interested in the whisky; so I will leave the technical production details to later in the article!

          Omar Whisky

          Nantou winery makes different fruit wines and liqueurs which can be used to season casks for unique cask finishes. Omar whisky has released whisky finished in casks of Lychee Liqueur, Plum liqueur, Black-Queen Wine and Orange liqueur.

          Batch 4 Lychee Liqueur Cask Finish

          This Lychee liqueur finish has a balanced Lychee note that does not overpower the whisky. I enjoyed the tropical fruit notes of pineapple and mango alongside notes of pear drops!

          Batch 1 Orange Liqueur Cask Finish

          This dram is for the orange lover with notes of orange puree, orange zest, and orange flower water alongside some lovely notes of vanilla and honey from its prior maturation.

          I am particularly fond of their bourbon cask strength, both peated and unpeated! But do not fret about the age statements. Due to a higher average temperature, maturation speeds are a lot faster than Scotland. A 3-year-old whisky at Nantou would taste similar to an 8 to 12-year-old whisky matured in Scotland. The 8-year-old cask strength is a special release; it feels like a 15-20-year-old scotch.

          Omar 8yo 2009 Cask Strength

          This 8yo is very soft and demure, giving notes of old oak, vanilla, pears and mandarin oranges!

          Omar 3yo 2014 Peated Cask Strength

          The 3-year-old peated cask strength displayed a high calibre of maturation, with the right balance of peat smoke. Water will draw out more smoke for people who love that note! This delicious yet affordable single cask would be good smoky daily dram!

          Omar 10yo 2008 PX Sherry Cask

          For sherry bomb lovers, this is an absolute sherry nuke or WMD! This is the result of 8 years in sherry hogshead before finishing in a PX cask for two years. This dram holds notes of Christmas cake, cinnamon, chocolate, plums and dried fruit!

          Barley

          TTL buys barley in bulk from multiple maltsters. Most of the unpeated barley is from maltsters in England, while most of the peated barley at 35ppm is from maltsters based in Scotland. The moisture content is also similar to specifications required in Scottish distilleries, around 4%.

          Milling & Mashing

          The barley is milled into grist with the standard ratio of 70% grist, 20% barley husk and 10% flour. Distilleries maintain specific ratios to assist in the filtration of wort and to prevent choking in the pipes. The grist is sent to a German semi-lauter mash tun with a charge of 120000L. Hot water is added three times; the first and second streams form the wort. The third stream, called the sparge, picks up the remaining sugars, but it is low in sugar. The sparge is not mixed with the first 2 streams, but to maximise sugar recovery. This is done by reusing the sparge for the first stream to be added to the next batch of grist.

          Fermentation

          The wort goes into one of the stainless steel washbacks to undergo fermentation, turning it into a strong beer called wash. In this stage, the yeast will start eating the sugar in the wort and produce carbon dioxide and alcohol. For Omar whisky, this fermentation process takes an average of 72 hours using French distiller’s yeast. This is slightly longer than the 48 hours of fermentation in most modern Scottish distilleries. The wash from Omar is around 7-8% alcohol by volume (abv).

          Distillation

          Pot stills

          The wash goes into one of 2 wash stills to be distilled into low wines. This distillation removes the barley solids leaving mostly ethanol, water and aromatic compounds. The low wines are pipped into the spirit still for its second distillation to reduce water content. Nantou Distillery currently has 2 Wash Stills and 2 Spirit Stills. One spirit still is different, as it, strangely enough, has a window. The stills are of varying sizes, one at 7000L, two at 5000L and the last one at 2000L.

          Cut of the Heart

          There are three components in the spirit still distillate. The head comes first at a high abv, followed by the heart, which is what goes into the barrels, and lastly comes the tail which has a lower abv. The cut of the heart affects the new make spirit and how the whisky tastes. If the cut starts at a higher abv, the new make spirit gets lighter, fruity notes, but also more undesirable flavours from the heads. If the cut ends too low, it gets heavier flavours but risk lowering the final abv.

          The master distiller decides how to balance these two points. For Omar, the cut of the heart is somewhere between 73% and 64%. This means that the stillmen sends distillate above 73% (heads) and below 64% (tails) into a tank to be redistilled. The heart that is within the range will go into barrels for maturation. Due to Taiwan’s legislation, Nantou Distillery reduces the strength of their new make spirit to just below 60% abv before filling in casks.

          Maturation

          Cask Management

          Nantou distillery receives the sherry and bourbon casks whole so that the cask maintains its inherent quality. Nantou distillery uses ex-bourbon casks up to 3 times. As for Sherry casks, there is no fixed numerical limit. Craftsmen will keep utilising the sherry cask until they deem it to be too exhausted to provide flavour. According to the tour guide, the sherry casks usually provides stronger flavours in Nantou’s climate, therefore using refill would give a more balanced dram.

           

          3rd and 4th fill Bourbon casks are usually used for seasoning with wines or liqueurs. This is extraordinarily creative, because a 3rd or 4th fill cask may not provide as much cask influence, but they can act as a sponge to soak up the previous liquid. This means that such a seasoned cask would deliver the flavours of the previous content without over-oaking the product. These seasoned casks are used for the various Omar whisky finishes.

          Warehouse

          Most of Nantou distillery’s warehouses are racked for easy access to the individual cask. Amongst the racked warehouses, Nantou distillery also has a specially designed warehouse with space for future tasting events. This warehouse has an architecture heavily influenced by the sherry bodegas in Spain. The casks stacked up to three high and is a mimic of the solera system in a sherry bodega. Though the ceiling is lower, the arcs near the ceiling are similar to Bodegas in Spain. As a comparison, these are some pictures of the bodegas I visited in Jerez de la Frontera. On the left is Bodega Diez Merito, on the right is Bodega Fundador.

           

          Distillery Expansion

          Omar is looking to expand its production capacity by adding 3 more pairs of wash and spirit stills! The distillery is also undergoing renovation to accommodate larger tour crowds. In addition, Omar is continuing to experiment with new and different finishes! It is an exciting time ahead for Omar whisky and Nantou distillery is a must go on your Taiwan trip!

           

          Special thanks to Nantou Distillery, Chairman Chung, and Ben for this enjoyable experience!

          Guest Writer: Hongfu’s take on Glengoyne’s Production

          Glengoyne is a beautiful Highland Distillery with a warehouse just across the road in the lowlands. They have a long reputation of using quality casks and produces whiskies that are sweet, unpeated and sherried. It came as no surprise to me when M&S chose to feature a 14-year-old in their range! Glengoyne holds many special memories for me – Jonathan Scott conducted my first proper whisky tasting at The Single Cask @CHIJMES, and I had Glengoyne 21 year old as a gift on my 21stbirthday from a generous friend!

          With the help of Zerlina from WhiskyGeeks and Jonathan Scott of Glengoyne Distillery, I got an exclusive tour to learn the production of this delicious golden nectar! As a way of saying thanks, I asked Zerlina if I could write an article for WhiskyGeeks to share my experience at Glengoyne, and so, here it is!

          My Glengoyne Experience

          Glengoyne is a mid-sized distillery producing approximately 1 million litres per year. Glengoyne has two water sources. It uses the water from Loch Carron for production and Blairgar Burn for heating and cooling. 100% of the malt used is the Concerto variety coming from Simpsons, a malting company just to the right of Edinburgh. That might change in the future as more distilleries start switching to the Laureate variety. Some other distilleries have allegedly had their highest yield in their wash during experiments, so this seems promising for the future of this barley variety!

          The Production Process

          Mashing

          The mill crushes the malted barley to grist to break open the husk of the grain. The rollers of the mill grind barley to a standard ratio of approximately 20% Husk, 10% Flour, and 70% Grist. This ratio is vital to prevent clogs and blockages in the pipes. The grist mixed with water to form a mash, with a porridge consistency, which is similar to adding hot water to a bowl of oatmeal. A traditional rack style mash tun, which has rakes turning continuously, mixes the “porridge” mash. The hot water helps dissolve some of the soluble sugars and to start breaking down the starch in the barley into sweet soluble sugar. This process separates the sugars from most of the solids. Hot water is added three times at Glengoyne to extract almost all the sugars from the mash. Each stream of water is hotter than the previous one.

          Glengoyne’s way

          At Glengoyne, the first stream of water to mix with the grist is at 64oC, followed by a second stream of water at 78oC. The first and second streams break most of the starch in the grist into sugar.  The third and final water stream comes approximately between 88-90oC to take away any remaining sugar. The process strips almost all the sugar in the grist, much like how hot water dissolves more chocolate and much faster than cold water. The temperatures of the water streams gradually increase so as not to change the natural qualities of the malted barley.

          Fermentation

          The sugared water from the first and second streams is called wort. The distillery cools the wort to below 20oC before channelling it to the washbacks for fermentation. The temperature is crucial as yeast cannot survive in high heat. The sugary liquid from the third stream of water is called the sparge. Sparge is very hot and have low sugar content. The sparge isn’t wasted though; it is piped away to be used as the first stream for the next mash at 64oC. The remaining barley solids in the mash tun is called the draff, and though it has almost no sugar, it is high in proteins. The draff is sold to farmers as cattle feed. It builds a very strong relationship between Glengoyne and the farmers around the area. Draff also grows healthy cows and produces delicious Scottish beef!

          Fermentation at Glengoyne

          A 20kg bag of Pinnacle Distillers Dry Yeast (MG+) – Photo by Hongfu Teo

          The distillery uses Douglas Fir Wooden Washbacks for fermentation. Douglas Fir trees have fewer branches with lesser weak points, making them strong and lasting as washbacks. Each washback can last a couple of decades.

          Each mash pipes into one of six Douglas Fir Wooden Washbacks for a fermentation period of approximately 56 hours. The team adds MG+ Pinnicale Dry Yeast into the washback to start the fermentation process. The yeast will change the dissolved sugars in the wort into low strength alcohol. This fizzy beer-like liquid brewed in the washbacks is called wash, and when the team completes the fermentation, the wash has an alcoholic strength of approximately 8.5% abv.

          Distillation

          Glengoyne’s Stills (from left) – Wash Still and 2 Spirits Stills (Photo by Hongfu Teo)

          This wash is then sent to the wash still, which is the bigger pot still with three windows on the left of the photo. The wash still takes away some of the water and all the solid particles. This is done by heating the liquid until it bubbles. The vapours rise to the top of the pot still and down the lyne arm, to a shell and tube condenser that turns the vapour into liquid. The distillate from the wash still, known as low wine, flows down the lyne arm at approximately 16L/min. This low wine has an abv of 24%. The low wines enter the tank called the low wine receiver.

          The stillmen have to ensure that the wash does not boil over the still and go down the lyne arm by monitoring the bubbles constantly. This is to ensure that the low wine does not have solid particles. The window on the still is usually the indicator that this still is a wash still.

          A Second Distillation

          The stillmen split the low wines between the two small onion-bulb Spirit Stills (in the picture above) to be distilled a second time. The second distillation increases the alcohol percentage of the final product. The pair of spirit stills is on the right of the photo above. The distillate comes out of the Spirit still in three stages: the Foreshots, the New-Make and the Feints (aka the Head, the Heart and the Tail).

          The foreshots are cloudy and undesirable as it contains a lot of alcohol and lighter flavors. At approximately 75% abv, the distillate becomes clean and clear and smells sweet. This is the start of the “heart” or new make. The stillmen collect the distillate from this moment as the new make. Heavier flavours appear at approximately 65% and the stillmen direct the distillate to feints. The foreshots and feints are then channelled into the still again as there is still a significant amount of alcohol in them. The figures of 75-65% are approximate because temperature affects the reading. Stillmen usually use charts to ensure that the Glengoyne new make spirit is sweet and clean.

          The Slowest Distillation

          Glengoyne also has the slowest distillation from the Spirit Still at a volumetric flow rate of 5L/min. This slow distillation allows the liquid to have prolonged contact with the copper stills. This copper contact takes away sulfur compounds, which is another reason why the Glengoyne spirit character is so unique, and clean.

          The New Make

          Casks on display at Glengoyne (Photo by Hongfu Teo)

          The new make is usually around 71% abv, and Glengoyne watered it down to 63.5% before filling it into a cask. Glengoyne has a 3-fill cask policy so after the third use; they stop using the cask. This policy ensures that every cask provides adequate maturation to the new make. The distillery shipped Oloroso sherry casks whole from Spain and seasoned them for at least two years. The process also strips the rougher tannins off the wood, giving the casks more Oloroso character! The casks give Glengoyne whiskies notes of raisins, dried fruit, nuttiness, chocolate, cinnamon and Christmas Cake! The sherry casks also provide all of Glengoyne single malt’s colour; the distillery does not use E150a caramel colouring!

          An Extremely Educational and Enjoyable Journey

          It was a lovely trip to the Glengoyne distillery and a one which I learnt a lot from. Thank you, Jonathan Scott, for the insightful tour! I am sure that I will be back again in future!

          All this talk of Glengoyne is making me thirsty. Now, excuse me as I pour myself a dram of my favourite Glengoyne Core Range Bottling; the 21yo aged in 1stfill Oloroso cask… for 21 years!

          Slainté!

           

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            CameronBridge – A Grain Whisky Distillery in Scotland

            The reputation of single grain whiskies is unlike that of single malt whiskies. Many drinkers tend to regard single grain whiskies as inferior, which makes it harder for these distilleries and their parent companies to showcase and bottle them the way that single malt whiskies. Invariantly, distillers used most of the grain whiskies for blended Scotch as they are first and foremost, intended as such.

            The Story of Haig and Stein Families

            Cameronbridge distillery has intimate links to the Haig and Stein families in its history. The afore-mentioned families were two of the most remarkable distilling families in whisky history. The first record of a Haig distilling whisky was in 1655 when the church confronted Robert Haig, an excellent distiller, for distilling on the Sabbath. The story followed that his great-great-grandson, John Haig, married Margaret Stein in 1751. The Stein family had two distilleries in Kilbagie and Kennetpans.

            Four of John and Margaret’s sons became distillers. They opened plants in central Scotland and Ireland. Their eldest son, John, founded Cameronbridge distillery in 1824.

            Cameronbridge Distillery

            The Cameronbridge distillery is the largest grain distillery in Scotland. It appeared to be the oldest too. Of course, it was not Cameronbridge in its previous life. Under the control of John Haig, it was Haig distillery in 1824 when it opened its doors.

            When John built his distillery, there was rapid growth in whisky production as new methods of making whisky became available. The location of Cameronbridge was in between the Lowlands and Eastern Highland, and the limitations of law and technology hampered John for a short period.

            When things changed for the better in 1829, John quickly installed patented Stein stills which his cousin, Robert Stein had invented. With the Stein stills, things looked promising for Haig distillery. Shortly after John introduced these stills, Irish engineer Aeneas Coffey improved the Stein stills and invented the patented Coffey still. John quickly jumped onboard, installing one Coffey still.

            When Alfred Barnard, the famous whisky author, visited the Haig distillery in the 1880s, he noted that the distillery had two Stein, two Coffey and a pot still. Today, the Coffey design is the main instrument of use at Cameronbridge distillery.

            Evolving Haig Distillery into Cameronbridge Distillery

            41 years after John Haig opened the distillery, he joined an alliance with five other grain distillers and formed the Distillers Company Limited (DCL) in 1877. The company controlled 75% of Scotland’s grain capacity, which allowed it to dominate and eventually monopolised the supply. They also gain the competitive advantage to fix prices in the industry. As we are all aware, DCL was the predecessor of today’s Diageo. Cameronbridge continued to produce both grain and malt whiskies using their pot and column stills until 1929, before switching to exclusive grain whisky production.

            After the switch, Cameronbridge proposed as a grain whisky producer. The distillery constructed a column still house with two new column stills in the 1960s. The third still came from the old Carsebridge distillery in Alloa in 1983, after DCL closed it down.

            Cameronbridge expanded a few times between 1989 and 2000. It becomes the sole wholly-owned grain plant of Diageo after the closure of Port Dundas in 2010. The expansion also increased the portfolio of spirits produced at Cameronbridge as it takes on the production of Gordon’s and Tanqueray gin as well as Smirnoff vodka. The latest expansion was in 2007. Finally, in 2014, it also became the provider for Haig Club.

            Cameronbridge Single Grain Whisky

            Similar to most single grain whisky distilleries, Cameronbridge does not have many bottlings. However, it is the only one of all the grain distilleries to have its brand – Cameron Brig. In Singapore, we also have independent bottlers who offers Cameronbridge grain whisky under their label. Cadenhead is the most notable independent bottler to offer high-aged Cameronbridge single grain whisky to end-consumers.

            We heard that HNWS is bottling a 34 years old Cameronbridge single grain whisky for its 13th anniversary. While we do not have many details yet, we are told that it is going to be one hell of a dram! We are eagerly waiting for our sample to arrive in the mail so that we can try it asap. We’ll update once we get it! 🙂

             

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              State 38 – Boutique Distillery from Golden, Colorado

              Ask me which part of the USA I have been to, and the answer will be none. My globe-trotting adventures stopped in the United Kingdom, and I have yet to visit the USA. Frankly, the one thing that indeed puts me off from the USA is the long flight. Flying 12 hours to London had been an absolute nightmare to me and all the flight attendants onboard the particular A380 I was on, and trust me, flying to the USA was such a daunting thought that I have not yet considered a trip there – even with three connecting flights perhaps?

              Nonetheless, I think I might be enticed to do that soon, what with my small victory in loving my first ever bourbon! Yay! If you know me well, I am not a bourbon lover. I cannot accept the sweetness that comes with corn distillation, even though I had come close to liking one from Westland Distillery.

              Welcome to Golden

              State 38 Distilling stays at one of the western states of the USA – Golden, Colorado. As Colorado is the 38th state to be recognised in the USA, the owner decided to name his distillery State 38 Distilling. Part of being patriotic, the owner also wants to associate his distillery with the land that it sits on.

              Golden nestled between Denver and the Rocky Mountains and is well-known to be a gold rush town in the 19th century. Gold once flowed in its river, and the town is filled with rich history. It is also home to the Lookout Mountains and the Red Rocks Park.

              History of State 38 Distilling

              State 38 Distilling opened its doors in March 2013. The owner, Sean Smiley, hand-built all the distillery equipment by hand and also the old western style tasting room that you can find at the distillery. Sean comes from a long lineage of patriotic and loyal men and women, with roots all the way from Scotland.

              Sean’s ancestor first crossed the continents from London to the USA in 1850. D.C. Loveday was a Londoner who went to the USA looking for more than just a job. The allure of entrepreneurship guided him forward as he settled in the small town of East Jordan, MI. Loveday became a legendary and honourable statesman in his life, and his independent character became the cornerstone for his descendant, Sean Smiley, owner of State 38 Distilling.

              Sean’s great-grandfather, W.I. McKenzie served as a war crimes prosecutor during World War II and received letters from the FDR for his services. He drew strength from the Scottish blood flowing through his veins and ploughed on even in the face of ultimate challenges.

              The man behind State 38 Distilling

              Sean Smiley in his warehouse

              The man behind State 38 is none other than Sean, the great-grandson of W.I McKenzie. He gained his passion for distilling at a young age. With the encouragement from his family, he built his first home still from various part found at the local hardware stores. After graduation, Sean worked in the oil and gas industry. From Global Sales Managing roles to Director of a small engineering company, Sean sees the world through the lens of the good, old oil and gas industry.

              Five years ago, Sean decided to change his fate and his life. After ten years of home distilling, he believes that it is time to do something about it. Hence, Sean built his distillery by hand and opened its door in March 2013. With his roots firmly planted in the USA, he commits himself to use local ingredients to produce tasty spirits using his customised copper pot stills.

              State 38’s raw ingredients

              As we know, whisky is made from only three ingredients – barley, yeast and water. For bourbons, it is a little more complicated, but the main theory still holds. Producers made bourbons from three main ingredients too – grains, yeast and water. The only difference is that they are allowed to use different grains for their mash.

              Sean wanted to create unique spirits when he decided to open a distillery. With his roots in Scotland, he was determined to make spirits that are reminiscent of Scotch but yet, wholly American. Therefore, he embarked on a journey to make his whiskeys special.

              State 38 uses different grains for their bourbon. While the main ingredient is still corn, the distillery also uses 5% rye, 5% wheat and 20% heavily malted barley. The different grains help to create a unique flavour profile for the DC Loveday bourbon, differentiating it from the others.

              Sean also made a peated whisky in which he imported 100% peat-smoked barley from Scotland. Using the barley from Scotland, he combines yeast and water from the melted snow on the Rocky Mountains to create a new and special whisky – one that is not found anywhere else in the world.

              Distillation Methods in State 38

              Sean’s handmade copper pot still

              Distillation in State 38 follows a strict rule – all raw ingredients are processed onsite. The distillery buys local grains and hand milled them with a small roller mill. Once done, the grains mixed with approximately 500 gallons of fresh Rocky Mountain water in a mash tun. The mash is heated to convert the starch to sugar before turning the heat up to caramelised some of the sugars. The process helps to produce a creamy caramel, chocolatey and coffeey note to the finish spirit. They cool the mash after the caramelisation before transferring it to the fermentation tanks.

              The fermentation process is extra long at State 38. They use a specialised, proprietary yeast to convert the sugars to ethyl alcohol. The entire process takes 14 days per tank, which is extremely slow, even by Scottish standards. At the end of the fermentation period, clean, sweet alcohol materialises.

              New Make running off the tap from the pot still

              The wash then transfers to a 250-gallon copper still hand-built by Sean. They distilled the liquid twice, once to create a low wine and twice to get the heart at around 77.5% abv. Now, here’s where things differ. The completed white whiskey is cut to 62.5% abv using fresh Rocky Mountain water before getting barreled in brand new 52.8-gallon American oak barrels, charred to level 3. These barrels are independently staved, which makes them premium barrels to begin with.

              After maturing for two years, the whiskey is cut down to bottling abv at 45% using the same Rocky Mountain fresh water before bottling.

              Each small batch made at the distillery is labelled with bottle number clearly shown on the bottles.

              Sean’s beliefs in Whiskey Making

              Barrels maturing in the warehouse

              We wanted to understand Sean’s beliefs in whiskey making, so we asked him how whiskey should be made. “I believe that whiskey should be made with great attention to details in all the processes and with respect for the time in maturation in barrels.” He also shared that he spent time studying and testing for the best methods to create the end products he wanted. The intention to caramelise sugar during the mashing process and the extra-long fermentation period are both results from his study.

              Sean also shared that he created the Scottish Peat-Smoke Whisky to honour his roots in Scotland. He aimed to bring about an Islay-style whisky, but not overwhelming in smoke. Thus, he decided to go for a peaty whisky that falls somewhere between a Highland and Islay peated whisky.

              With his innovative mind, Sean creates stunning whisk(e)ys expressions to rival the booming American whiskey companies. Being a boutique distillery, the small batches of whiskey made are often sold out quickly too!

              State 38 Products

              Products line up

              State 38 products range from bourbon to rye to peaty whisky. The distillery also makes 100% organic agave tequila, vodka and gin. Each product carries the State 38 logo proudly. Currently, the products are slowly making their way out of Colorado and into other countries.

              In Singapore and its South East Asia neighbours, the distillery is starting with the DC Loveday Bourbon and the WI McKenzie Peat-Smoke Whisky. It has plans to import its gin, vodka and tequila to Singapore in future.

              Future of State 38

              With its 5th anniversary celebration over, State 38 is expanding its production equipment, storage and bottling plant. The 5-year milestone is a testimony to its great-tasting spirits and Sean’s enduring dedication to creating only quality products. Sean is now looking at expansion into the Asian market, with Singapore as its first stop and the rest of South East Asia should follow soon after.

               

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                Westland Distillery – Thoughtfully Made in America

                I am never a big fan of American whiskey because I find bourbon too sweet and Tennessee whiskey just a little weird for my general tasting profile. However, I had the chance to taste two out of three Westland Distillery’s core range in two separate occasions and their malt-forward flavours and profile made me sit up and take notice.

                A closer look at their bottles revealed the reason – Westland Distillery made single malt whiskey. That is to say, they use malt barley as their base for fermentation, not corn or rye or any other grains. It was an exciting discovery for me so I dug deeper into the distillery to find out more.

                Lo and behold, there are more surprises! I found out that the Westland Distillery belongs to Remy Cointreau, the French company who also owns Bruichladdich Distillery. Apparently, Remy bought the American distillery in late 2016 after the sales of its whiskey soared in the same year.

                So, what is the secret behind Westland? Let me share what I found so far.

                The Founding of Westland Distillery

                The founders, Matt Hofmann and Emerson Lamb started Westland Distillery in 2010. Bonded over their love for whiskey and their passion to create something different for America, the pair decided to produce American whiskey in a special way. Deciding to follow the Scots in the choice of their grains, Matt Hofmann and Emerson Lamb choose to use malt barley instead of the usual corn or rye.

                The distillery moves to the current location in Seattle, Washington in 2012 by refurbishing an old crane factory in 18 months. The first Westland release was a 375ml bottle named “The Deacon Seat”.

                The Ingredients in Westland Single Malt Whiskey

                As we know, there are only three ingredients in single malt whisky when the Scots made them – barley, yeast and water. Westland Distillery follows this recipe closely, but with one exception. They use more than one type of barley for their mash. The distillery uses five different malted barley for their regular American Oak and Sherry Wood, and six different malted barley for their peated expression.

                The five malts are:
                – Pale Malt from Washington
                – Munich Malt from Washington
                – Extra Special Malt from Wisconsin
                – Brown Malt from the UK
                – Pale Chocolate Malt from the UK

                The government and state park in America control much of the peat bogs and wetland in the country and distilleries find it extremely difficult to gain access to peat bogs. Westland is trying to persuade the government to allow them access to a peat bog that is a flavourful, herbaceous mix. For now, Westland is using peated malt from Bairds Maltings in Inverness, Scotland.

                The Production Process

                The distillery mills the barley on site using a roller mill before placing the milled barley into their stainless steel mash tun. Once the mash is completed, the wort moves along to the washbacks for fermentation. The yeast used is a Belgium brewers yeast that typically produces fruity beers! Fermentation takes four to six days, depending on the whiskey that they are making. Distillation takes place in two copper pot stills – a wash still and a spirit still.

                The interesting part of their distillation comes from their copper pot still. It is a combination still where the shape of the still is rounded and yet, there is a column on top of the copper pot. The main idea of the column still is to remove impurities and make a clean spirit for maturation. For Westland Distillery, they remove the plates of the column still in their spirit still, which means there is no rectification or what we called column distillation done over in the spirit still.

                Cask Maturation

                Westland Distillery does not mature their whiskey on site, but at Hoquiam, Washington. That is roughly a two hours drive south of the distillery location. The location sits right smack on the Pacific Ocean, where the sea breezes create a coastal and humid environment. An environment such as this gives an angel share of about 2% all year around.

                Westland only uses standard-sized casks and does not believe in small cask ageing. They have over 40 different cask types in their warehouse as of last year, and they range from sherry to port to ex-bourbon. Besides the regular wood, they also use Garryana oak, an endangered species of oak trees in the United States of America. Scientifically known as Quercus Garryanna, this tree used to grow rampantly from northern California to the British Columbia, but now, the growth area is only 5% of what it used to be. Westland is fighting to use this oak. Due to its endangered status, Westland Distillery is making a lot of efforts to ensure the continuity of the species. You can read more about their quest here.

                The Core Range of Westland Distillery

                Westland Distillery produces three expressions for their core range. The flagship style of the distillery is of course, the American Oak. It is a reflection of the distillery, where it is from and the values of those who made it. It is an approachable dram that is not only uniquely American, but only special in its choice of ingredients.

                The peated malt expression is a varietion of their flagship style with an addition of peated malt imported from Scotland. The addition of the peated malt adds smokey flavours to the whiskey and that makes it flavourful.

                The sherry wood expression is an experiment that has gone well for the distillery. Using only the finest PX and Oloroso sherry casks sourced from Tonelería del Sur in Montilla, Spain, Westland creates a beautiful sherry wood expression with their malt-focused spirit.

                Should you try whiskey from Westland Distillery?

                Well, I tried two of the core range and end up digging deeper into the distillery to find out more. If you are someone who do not fancy bourbons because they are so sweet, perhaps Westland whiskeys will be something to try. It is less cloying on the palate and in general, gives a very well-rounded tasting profile.

                If you are a bourbon lover, try this and let me know what you think! I will love to know what a bourbon drinker thinks about the whiskies from Westland!

                 

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