Thursday, 25 June 2020

Tasted #484: Westward Oregon Stout Cask

The phenomenon of "farm to table, grain to glass" has been around for some time and with the rise of craft distillation - consumers are embracing the movement more and more. Westward, a Portland Distiller has dabbled in the craft distillation practice over the past few years. Born out of a region known for its craft culture, Westward has been one of the proponents of craft American single malts over the past year. 

Last year I sat down with Miles Munroe, Westward Head Distiller who told us that Westward, like others, are continuing to explore various distillation techniques and have been given the freedom and flexibility through which they can do this in. Miles indicated that Westward was developing a partnership with Deschutes, an Oregon brewery to come up with stout cask finished bottlings. Miles would send a couple of hundred of recently empty barrels to Deschutes where they would use them to age their stock and they'll send back again for use by Westward. At that time, the Westward Stout Cask Finish concept was still in its infancy and very much confined to the states. That has now changed with the recent arrival of the Oregon Stout Cask in Australia. 

The Oregon Stout Cask is a collaboration between Westward and various local Portland breweries and as far as beer breweries go, you can't go past Portland. Known as one of the world's greatest beer city - Portland has more breweries than any other places. Miles also started his career as a brewer, having studied Brewing Science and Engineering and has worked at a few craft breweries early in his career. It is, therefore, no surprise that Westward has headed down this path early in their journey, to marry both whiskey and beer.   

Stout, made from heavily roasted barley, carries rich notes of toffee, coffee and chocolate. The use of ex-stout casks for the maturation of malt whiskey I find imparts interesting notes on the final product. Jameson tried this with their Caskmates Stout Finish in 2016 which I thought was good with notes of cocoa and coffee.

For Westward, the Oregon Stout Cask starts with their classic double pot-stilled American single malt, that is aged for a period of time in bourbon barrels before being finished in ex-stout casks for approximately a year.

The Oregon Stout Cask is likely to be an indication of what we might see from Westward in the coming years. Portland is located in the Willamette Valley, a place known for its Pinot Noir and so I  do see the potential partnership between Westward and the wineries in the region. Wine and whisky is certainly not a new concept and does present a good marriage - look at Starward. If anything, it will provide Westward with another point of differentiation rather than using the more traditional sherry or port casks, they can experiment with the marriage of their single malt and local wine barrels.

Westward Oregon Stout Cask

Westward Oregon Stout Cask (45% ABV, NAS, Portland, Oregon, A$169)
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Colour: Rich golden caramel

Nose: The nose is fragrant. I get a sweet cinnamon bun, nutmeg spice, orange zest from orange peels, a hint of vanilla, cereal note, marzipan cherry cake

Palate: The palate is pleasant and soft at first, like biting into a warm cinnamon bun with glazed sugar. The cinnamon and star anise spices come through. There is that creamy milk chocolate, could this be a blessing from the ex-stout casks. The mouthfeel grows over time, becoming quite luscious and a tad salty. The stout profile comes back again at the end.

Finish: The finish is relatively long with loads of coffee and chocolate profiles. There are fresh orange slices, malt, caramel and chocolate. A lovely finish.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 89/100.

Cheers
Hendy

Thanks to Agent 99 PR for providing the sample.

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