two glasses of westward whiskey with ice on bar

Westward Whiskey: Our Complete Guide

Westward Whiskey is an American single malt, born in Portland, Oregon, with a unique story and an even more distinctive flavor profile. In this article, we will follow its journey from its beginnings in 2004 to its current status as a respected brand, including insights into its production process, standard offerings, and even limited-edition bottlings. 

We’ll also talk about the ingredients typically used to make it, as well as pairing options and where to find it, both on store shelves and in bars and restaurants. If you’ve been on the hunt for the perfect Westward Whiskey or are simply curious about it, our guide will equip you with pretty much everything you need to know.

Westward Whiskey: An Introduction

Westward Whiskey is an American single malt whiskey hailing from Portland, Oregon. Unlike traditional single malts made solely from malted barley, Westward incorporates a unique process that blends elements of different whiskey styles. For this reason, Westward Whiskey differs from other brands like Whistlepig Whiskey or Knobel Whiskey.

Westward starts by brewing an American pale ale using locally sourced malted barley. This ale is then double-pot distilled, similar to Scotch whisky. Finally, the whiskey is matured in new, charred American oak barrels, reminiscent of the bourbon aging process. This is what makes the spirit complex and flavorful.

When poured neat, Westward whiskey has a rich amber color. On the nose you’ll find aromas of orange peel, caramel, and toasted nuts. The taste is bold and well-rounded, with notes of stone fruit, vanilla, honey, coconut, and a hint of oak on the finish. 

While Westward can certainly be enjoyed on its own either neat or on the rocks, it also shines in cocktails. Its unique flavor profile makes it a versatile base for more or less any concoction you can come up with.

Westward Whiskey is a relatively young brand, established in 2004, but it has quickly gained recognition for its delicious whiskey. Though it’s not considered a classic drink in the traditional sense, it’s becoming increasingly popular among many whiskey enthusiasts and craft spirit aficionados.

What Is the Alcohol Content of Westward Whiskey?

Westward Whiskey has a standard alcohol content of 45% ABV (90 proof). This is consistent across their core expressions, including their Original Single Malt and Pinot Noir Cask Finish, but not their Single Malt Cask Strength, which is 62.5% ABV (125 proof). 

It’s important to note that Westward also occasionally releases special limited-edition bottlings with varying alcohol content, but their core offerings will typically be 45% ABV standard.

What Is the History of Westward Whiskey?

Westward Whiskey was born in 2004 from the vision of two friends: Christian Krogstad and Thomas Mooney. Inspired by Portland’s thriving craft brewing scene, they wanted to create a whiskey that captured the American spirit with a distinct Northwest twist.

This was followed by the bold idea that set this brand’s foundation: marrying American ingenuity with the established traditions of single malt whiskey. They crafted their signature expression, the Original Single Malt, by brewing an American pale ale from scratch using locally sourced ingredients. 

The ale was then double-distilled in custom-designed pot stills and finally matured in new, charred American oak barrels. This process, blending brewing techniques with single malt traditions, resulted in a whiskey that truly does taste unique.

While the essence of Westward Whiskey, exemplified by the Original Single Malt, has remained largely unchanged since its inception, the brand has embraced evolution. Over the years, they’ve expanded their offerings with limited-edition bottlings and cask-finished expressions. These releases show off their versatility and allow them to experiment with different flavor profiles while staying true to their core identity.

Where Is Westward Whiskey From?

Westward Whiskey is from Portland, Oregon. The city’s vibrant craft brewing scene heavily influenced its founders, inspiring them to create an American whiskey that embodies the true spirit of the Northwest. Even today, Westward Whiskey remains true to its roots. The distillery and production facility are still located in Portland, with every bottle crafted with the same dedication and local inspiration that sparked its creation.

When Was Westward Whiskey Created?

Westward Whiskey was created in 2004. With the vision of creating a unique American whiskey from the Northwest, but with a fresh and innovative approach, Westward began their legacy of experimentation by blending American brewing traditions with established single malt whiskey practices, paving the way for a well-regarded American whiskey.

What Types of Westward Whiskey Are There?

While primarily known for their single malt whiskeys, Westward has expanded their portfolio to cater to diverse palates over the years. Here’s a brief overview of their core expressions:

  • Original Single Malt: The foundation of Westward’s offerings, this expression boasts a complex flavor profile with notes of orange peel, caramel, and toasted nuts. 
  • Pinot Noir Cask Finish: This expression takes the Original Single Malt a step further, undergoing an additional finishing process in Pinot Noir wine casks. 
  • Single Malt Cask Strength: Bottled at cask strength, meaning it’s diluted only to reach its bottling proof without further alteration, this whiskey showcases the full, unadulterated character of the spirit.

Westward also occasionally releases special limited-edition bottlings with unique cask finishes or grain variations. Examples of these highly sought-after bottles include their Single Malt Rye, finished in rye whiskey barrels, and their Pinot Noir Cask Strength, offering an intensified version of their popular Pinot Noir Cask Finish.

What Ingredients Are in Westward Whiskey?

Westward’s core expressions, which include the Original Single Malt, Pinot Noir Cask Finish, and Single Malt Cask Strength, all share the same foundation of standard ingredients:

  • Malted Barley: Sourced locally in the Pacific Northwest, the malted barley serves as the grain base, providing the foundation for the whiskey’s flavor profile.
  • Yeast: Westward utilizes craft ale yeast during the brewing process, contributing unique flavor characteristics that distinguish their whiskey from traditional single malts.
  • Water: As with any distilled spirit, water plays a crucial role in Westward Whiskey – they use pristine water sourced locally in Oregon.
  • New, Charred American Oak Barrels: These barrels lend the whiskey its signature amber color and contribute various flavors, including vanilla, caramel, and toasted notes, during the aging process.

It’s important to note that Westward does not disclose the specific yeast strain they use since that is a proprietary element of their unique brewing process and makes their spirit unique.

How Much Does Westward Whiskey Usually Cost?

The exact price that you’ll end up paying for a bottle of Westward Whiskey will change depending on your location, choice of retailer, and specific expression, but here’s a general overview of what you can expect to pay:

Standard Bottles, which include the Original Single Malt will run you about $74.95 to $84.95 per 750ml bottle. Also included in these offerings are the Pinot Noir Cask Finish and Single Malt Cask Strength, both of which can be bought for between $89.95 and $99.95 per 750ml bottle.

If you’re heading to a bar or restaurant for your fix, prices for individual pours of Westward Whiskey will naturally be higher than retail prices due to overhead costs and markup. Expect to pay between $12 and $20 for a single pour.

What Is the Best Way to Enjoy Westward Whiskey?

Neat or on the rocks. Not only is it the most traditional way to experience Westward’s full flavor profile, it’s also one of the best. For neat pours, simply pour the desired amount into a rocks glass and savor it slowly, letting your palate appreciate the different aromas and flavors. 

Adding a few ice cubes will make it an ‘on the rocks’ drink, which can slightly dilute the whiskey and make it slightly cooler. This is the way to go if neat pours are too strong for your taste.

Westward’s combination of different flavors makes it a good base for lots of cocktails as well. If you’re looking for options, here are a few popular ones:

  • Westward Old Fashioned: This classic cocktail uses Westward whiskey, sugar, bitters, and an orange peel to create a rich and balanced drink.
  • Westward Manhattan: Similar to the Old Fashioned, this cocktail uses Westward whiskey, sweet vermouth, and bitters to deliver a slightly sweeter and more complex flavor profile.
  • Westward Highball: This simple yet refreshing drink combines Westward whiskey with ginger ale and a lime wedge, offering a light and bubbly option.

Westward Whiskey goes great with a ton of different foods, too. Its bold flavors best complement rich dishes like grilled meats, hearty stews, or savory cheeses. It also has fruity notes, which can harmonize with lighter fare like smoked salmon or fruit salads.

While Westward Whiskey is best enjoyed neat or in cocktails, if mixers are more your thing, you can definitely use them to create a more personal drinking experience. Popular mixers to go with it include ginger ale, club soda, or even high-quality fruit juices. 

How to Choose a Good Westward Whiskey

Start by figuring out what your taste is. If you enjoy classic single malt flavors, the Original Single Malt is a great starting point, but for fruity and spicy notes, the Pinot Noir Cask Finish might be a better choice. Alternatively, if an unadulterated experience is what you’re after, the Single Malt Cask Strength gives you the full power of the spirit.

Typically, if you’re new to Westward or whiskey in general, the core expressions will be the best starting points. They are widely available and have a very diverse range of flavors from which you can discover your preferences. 

Once you’re through that, you can move on to the limited-edition bottlings, which are fantastic for experienced drinkers wanting exclusive experiences. Be prepared for potentially higher price points and limited availability, though.

Where Can You Find  Westward Whiskey?

Most well-stocked liquor stores will carry Westward’s core expressions like the Original Single Malt and Pinot Noir Cask Finish. Those who prefer buying online can get it right here at Speakeasy Co from the convenience of your home.

Many bars and restaurants, especially those with a focus on craft spirits, will also have Westward Whiskey available by the pour if that’s more to your taste.

What Are Popular Alternatives to Westward Whiskey?

We recommend exploring other American single malt brands like Balcones from Texas, St. George from California, or Corsair from Kentucky. Each of these has its own flavor profile based on its specific ingredient and aging process.

For a traditional single malt experience, consider Speyside malts like Glenfiddich or The Macallan, known for their smooth and fruity notes. 

Alternatively, if you prefer a lighter and smoother whiskey, explore Irish whiskeys like Jameson or Bushmills, typically triple-distilled for a clean and well-rounded taste.

Westward Whiskey FAQs

Still have questions about Westward Whiskey? We've got you covered.

Is Westward Whiskey Gluten-Free?

While Westward uses barley, a gluten-containing grain, during  the distillation process, most of the gluten protein is removed. Westward states on their website that their whiskey is generally considered safe for people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity.

Is Westward Whiskey “Bourbon”?

No, Westward Whiskey is not bourbon. While it shares some similarities with bourbon, such as being aged in new, charred American oak barrels, it’s actually different in a number of ways. Mainly, it’s not bourbon because Westward uses malted barley as its primary grain, whereas bourbon must use at least 51% corn.

Is Westward a Good Whiskey for Beginners?

Westward’s Original Single Malt can be a good starting point for whiskey beginners since it’s relatively smooth and has an approachable flavor profile. However, if you’re entirely new to whiskey, you might consider starting with a lighter-bodied spirit or trying a Westward Old-Fashioned cocktail – the sweetness and dilution will ease you into the experience.

The Secrets of Westward Whiskey: Uncorked

manhattan cocktail with westward whiskey in two glasses with ice

That covers just about everything about Westward Whiskey, from its unique history and approach to its diverse offerings and all the different ways to enjoy it. We went through everything from its standard ingredients and popular variations to where to find it and how to choose the perfect bottle for your taste, leaving no barriers between you and your whiskey. 

With that said, to all the seasoned connoisseurs and beginners alike, we hope we’ve helped you figure out whether Westward Whiskey is the one for you!

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