Whiskey Name: SMWS 133.1 (Westland) “Speakeasy Sneaky Peeky”
Whiskey Type: Single Malt
Release Date: 2017
Age: 5 years
Mashbill: 100% malted barley. Presumably Westland’s signature multi-malt combo.
Introduction/Background: The first bottling of Westland by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society, and apparently the oldest bottling of Westland ever at a mighty 5 years young.
I’m a fan of the distillery; we’ve looked at their first Garryana in the past, and I’m partial to their American oak flagship too. (The sherry-matured is less successful by my mileage, but perhaps I’ll have to go back to it again and check).
What I like is the obvious thought they put into their malts. No mucking about for the sake of it; they genuinely seem to care about their grains, yeast, and oak, and put hard yards into doing things properly. The website really goes the extra mile in explaining it all; it feels like they know they’re being read by people who are actually interested.
This is the first independent bottling I’ve tried of their juice though; I’m keen to see how it compares to the proprietaries. It came courtesy of BBS member Andrew, who runs the excellent Andrew’s Share blog. Unpeated, and drawn from a single, heavily-charred virgin oak cask.
Appearance: Deep amber
Nose: Signature Westland maltiness, with particular focus on the chocolate malt. Something slightly waxy about it, and a savoury – almost gamey – quality. Vanillas are clear, as are bananas and stout. A little pine and barley betrays youth and lifts things. Touch of sharp yeast, too. Very reminiscent of the American Oak expression, but ever so slightly closed, to be honest.
Mouth: Was not expecting that! Gloriously – shockingly – rich palate. Voluptuous mouthfeel with huge, mouthwatering spices and more of – you guessed it – chocolate malt. Insane amounts of chocolate malt in fact; to the point that it becomes hard to focus on anything else! Broadly speaking the palate follows the nose, but everything seems turned up by 5 or 6 notches, and a load of oranges and currants have flooded in. big booze, but the flavours can take it.
Finish: Becomes much more about the cereal, but the chocolate lingers. Caramel becomes more pronounced, and a leathery impression arrives too. Really good finish, actually.
Value for Money: Not outstanding, but far from terrible.
Summary: Thought this was going to be decent but nothing to scream about based on the nose, but the palate just blew me away. Not the most complex beast in the world, but it made the most of the lines it had. The finish in particular was superb, and it really isn’t often that the finish is my favourite part of the experience.
Based on the price, I think I prefer the proprietaries. This is a little steep. There are moments when it outdistanced the core range from Westland, but it doesn’t quite have the complexity, and the nose isn’t quite there. Certainly not enough to totally justify the price hike.
But I’m being critical, because Westland is one of my favourite US distilleries. My main thought, tasting this, was ‘when are we going to bottle a BBS Westland?’ I reckon we’d give this SMWS offering a run for its money. Fighting talk.
Overall Verdict: Ok nose, superb palate and finish. A solid cask.
Thanks very much to Andrew for the sample!