Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Balcones, MB Roland, St George, Westland American Single Malt p.1

There are some very exciting exemplars of American-made single malt that are starting to appear in the market. Some, but not all brands that produce some kind of single malt bottlings that are “Made in the USA” are… EDIT: Nevermind, I was going to write out some that are familiar to me… but just read it here, this article did the job for me already: https://vadistillery … american-single-malt… I’ll just add that there is also Rua single malt from that is supposedly really good as well as plenty of others that are likely out there but not well known.

But really, this write up is about what I have rather than what’s available out there.

Balcones Single Malt French Oak 61.9%
Small sample, short review. A single malt from Balcones aged in French Oak cask. The nose is sweet caramel. Palate is malty sweet cola, caramel and a solid streak of wood though it all for balance. Doesn’t drink anywhere near its proof. The aftertaste is long and woody and sweet. Tasted blindly I’d not have called this being a single malt. Really good and not what I expected based on my previous experience with Balcones. Bits of woody bitterness show up and start to overwhelm the palate after a few sips. Very slightly drying in the back due to wood tannins but those are really required as the rest of the spirit is super sweet. With the disclaimer that this is nothing like a regular single malt by anyone else and is overwooded by necessity, it’s also totally worth trying or even having for that ‘different’ drink of the night.
Score: B+

MB Roland Straight Malt 55%
Another small sample. This is a mash bill of 63% malt, 21% corn and 15% rye. Somewhat sour and quite unpleasant beer-like initial nose it clears out somewhat later but never to a degree where it becomes enjoyable. It maintains a weird off-putting note for me somewhere in there. Fairly heavy on eucalyptus notes once the nose clears. The palate is familiar yet weird, the layering of flavors is incredible with at least 3 distinct layers I’ve been able to identify yet at least some of them taste like something from a pharmacy which is not making me happy drinking it. Strongly recommending letting this sit in a glass for a bit to breathe. The aftertaste is short and woody with more wood tannins. Almost walnut bitters-like this is very herbal and even slightly minty. Weird and very different I’m finding it hard to enjoy or recommend for casual drinking. Yet another… different, digestif, drink of the night. I think it reminds me of Underberg digestif but I may be completely mis-remembering.
Score: C

St George Single Malt (probably) Lot 19
An Alameda county production. This is an 43% abv American Single malt. The nose is malted rye forward but not unpleasant though it does possess some medicine menthol eucalyptus notes. The palate isn’t really my thing. More menthol eucalyptus, this reminds of some sort of herbal concoction that’s almost bitter and slightly herbal. The same unpleasantly bitter notes last into the aftertaste. The texture is actually creamy and pleasant and malt notes are there… yet this is way off the beaten path to be enjoyable. It may not be a drain pour for most but I’m not going for it again. It almost drinks like a dry (non-sweet) rye whiskey. Sincere ‘Avoid’ score. Way too many whiskeys out there that are infinitely better or more interesting. I’m adding the disclaimer that there is a lot a variance between lots. This particular sample isn’t my favorite.
Score: D+

Ah, now we come to the bread and potatoes, or more of a barley of this review: Westland distillery! Arguably, best overall American single malt available across bottlings.

Westland Winter Storm 2016, 50%
The Winter Storm is a blend of three different malts, with 21% being a Scottish peated malt and the rest unpeated. Specs are here: https://www.westland … releases/winter-2016. The resulting spirit is aged in four different types of barrels—ex-bourbon, ex-Oloroso sherry, ex-Westland single malt, and new French and American oak—for at least 34 months, and bottled at 50% ABV (and the kitchen sink)… Nose is light peat that’s still light and fruity. with apples and pears. Sweet, smokey and mouth-coating thick (the last one seems to be the typical of Westland whiskey)… This has more light fruits, malt, some smoke and sugar candy. The palate is light overall with very little that indicates that there was any sherry in this mix of casks. The aftertaste is mostly same as palate with more of the lingering smoke that is slightly ashy in the very end. It really give an impression of sitting in front of a cozy fire while there’s a snowstorm outside. The sweet smoke makes it drinkable for me and overall this highly enjoyable.
Score: B

Westland Single Cask #2479, 59%
Read all the tech specs here: https://www.westland … m/releases/cask-2479… So, American single malt in PX casks… The nose is a little alcohol forward and has some varnish with the strength of the shery. Also rich dark stewed fruits, primarily figs and raisins. Sweet and syrupy on the palate with the alcohol still being a little too forward more of a typical single malt first fill PX syrupy varnish notes. Drying delicious fruity aftertaste. But wait, there’s more… Adding a little bit of water to tone back the alcohol and boy oh boy does this bloom into something wonderfully fruity, sweet and malty and becomes a thicker (typical of Westland texture) Speyside Scotch. Sweet, sherried, slightly woody from the cask. Yes. I like this.
Score: B+ (just add water)

Westland Cask Exchange Lucky Envelope Brewing 51%
Every mashbill under the sun that’s aged in ex-Imperial Stout casks: https://www.westland … velope-cask-exchange. Nose is overflowing with dates, dark fruits, a tiny smidge of tobacco smoke, coffee, chocolate. OMG. The palate starts out sweet like a sherried single malt then performs a complete U-turn from front to back into a boozy imperial stout, amazingly complex and delicious this is a pleaser. Medium length, warming, aftertaste that reminds me of good imperial stouts, with coffee, chocolate, and malt. Frankly, this is beer cask finish done right! But one has to also like beer and specifically stouts to really appreciate this two-faced flavor monster.
Score: B+ (must like stouts)

Scoring Breakdown: https://www.aerin.or … age=scores_breakdown