Westland Solum Is America's First True Peated Malt
March 13, 2023 –––––– David Fleming
In 2020, Seattle’s Westland Distillery did a seemingly odd thing. After a decade of building a reputation as one of the country’s premier single malt makers, the company threw out the playbook. The flagship trio—Westland American Oak, Sherry Wood, and Peated—would be jettisoned. Even the beloved Peat Week, Westland’s flamboyantly labeled, carnival-themed release and centerpiece of the distillery’s annual Peat Week celebration, would be no more.
Westland Distillery master distiller Matt Hofmann sources peat from Washington state.
If it appeared like a radical move, in many ways it was. For master distiller Matt Hofmann, it was a monumental step on the path toward a long-held dream of making whiskeys that reflect the terroir of the Pacific Northwest. In the future, there would be no peat sourced from Scotland or casks shipped from Jerez. The Old World conventions would be swept away, and replaced by this new orientation toward Northwest provenance.
Fast forward to 2023, and a reimagined range of four single malts using this tenet is now in place: Westland, Garryana, Colere, and Solum. The Westland label, with more than 90% of its barley coming from Washington state, has replaced the old Westland oak/sherry/peated trio. Garryana uses barrels from the Pacific Northwest’s native Garryana oak, while Colere has a mashbill of locally grown Talisman two-row winter barley. Completing the group is the peated expression Solum. It’s the last member of the core range to arrive, dropping this month.
While Solum ($150) was the final member of the foursome to be released, it’s arguably the most significant: it’s the first American whiskey made from American peated malt, departing from the usual practice of sourcing peat from Scotland. The grains for Solum, (which means “soil” in Latin) were grown in Washington’s Skagit Valley, about 70 miles north of Seattle, and the peat was extracted from a bog located about two hours south of Seattle, where Westland has been getting its peat for years in preparation for this whiskey.
Those who expect the wafting notes of classic Scottish peat smoke should be prepared for a surprise. Pacific Northwest peat is a different beast altogether, comprised of unusual botanicals, like Labrador Tea, which lend it a very different taste that’s herbal, grain-forward, and savory. In presenting Solum to the world, Hofmann was quick to note its “completely different flavor profile.”
Alas, just 4,044 bottles of Solum have been released, so it’s still just a tease for most people. The other expressions in The Outpost Collection were similarly small: Garryana, which had actually been a Westland special release since 2016 before joining The Outpost Collection, was last released in February with 6,900 bottles, and just 3,000 bottles of Colere were made available when it first launched in 2022. The Westland label is more widely sold, and the hope is that Solum, as well as Colere and Garryana, will one day become a bit more plentiful as well.
A release party for Solum was held at the Seattle distillery this past Saturday (March 11th), and on March 27th Hofmann will conduct a virtual tasting from the distillery on Instagram Live, where you can learn more about this new release. It’s a big chapter in this ongoing story of the American whiskey renaissance.