As master distiller for Seattle’s Westland Distillery, Matt Hofmann has served as the face of the movement seeking to create an official category for American single malt whiskey—one that’s regulated and protected by the TTB (Alcohol and Tobacco Tax & Trade Bureau)—for almost a decade. Finally, these efforts are paying dividends.
The new definition, or Standard of Identity, states that American single malt must be distilled at one U.S. distillery, and must be mashed, distilled, and aged in the United States. Among other requirements, the whiskey must be made from 100 percent malted barley and matured in oak barrels not exceeding 700 liters. Beyond the protection the definition provides to distilleries, it adds a sense of legitimacy and relevancy for the burgeoning category—consumers can trust what’s in the bottle, shop owners can display and group bottles with ease, and bartenders can expound on what they’re serving up and why.
“We all benefit from having a single, unified definition to work from,” Hofmann says. Hofmann co-founded Westland in 2010, steered the distillery through its acquisition by Rémy-Cointreau in 2017, and remains at its helm today, where the plan moving ahead is to continue leaning into its lofty local focus. The distillery has developed a full supply chain for locally grown barley, from university-backed research programs to farmers and maltsters.
Westland also uses Pacific Northwest–sourced Garryana oak for some of its barrels and has been patiently waiting to release a bottling made from local barley smoked using local peat. “I’m hopeful that people enjoy many of the limited releases we have coming in the next few years, especially our new peated whiskey, Solum, made with local peat from near our distillery in Seattle,” he says. Its first edition is slated for a 2023 release, as a bottling that’s both at the cutting edge of American whiskey, and one that’s potentially representative of the now-legally defined American single malt whiskey category.
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