Portland, Oregon’s Westward Whiskey recently unveiled its first whiskey for 2023 for its Whiskey Club members, an expression of its single malt which has been finished for 14 months in French Sauternes dessert wine casks. This limited edition won’t be widely available, but at press time it’s still showing up on Westward’s website — so worth a shot if you want to nab one.
Sauternes finishing can have a profound impact on a whiskey, but here I feel the underlying malt still does more of the heavy lifting. There’s (surprisingly) immediately a lot in common here with Westward’s stout-finished whiskey, rich on the nose with aromas of malt balls, floral hops, clover honey, and almond nougat. Complex from the start, it opens up further as it gets some air, adding a sharp, almost overripe fruit element to the mix, plus a hint of salinity.
The palate goes in a slightly different direction, a Bit-O-Honey candy character dropping immediately as things build to a more fruity body: figs, spring peaches, ginger, and then a clear banana note. The honey endures and keeps the underlying cereal character at bay for the most part, developing a finish reminscent of pastry cream dusted with grated lemon peel. With more airtime, a fairly heavy baking spice character emerges, lingering well into the denouement.
There’s a lot going on here — and it’s a whiskey that rewards patience — though I never really got the essence of Sauternes in the experience, aside of course from the honey elements that show themselves throughout. Nonetheless, it’s definitely worth trying based on its exuberance alone — should you manage to score a bottle, or a dram.
B+ / $100 / westwardwhiskey.com