These days, there’s an ever-growing number of American single malt whiskeys on shelves, and they’re made from coast to coast. No matter the state of origin, though, these whiskeys all share one thing in common: They’re a reflection of their region, making use of local grains, unique smoke sources, and even regional oak for barrels. In Seattle, Washington, Westland Distillery highlights its Pacific Northwest homeland via the fifth release of Garryana—so named for the native Garryana oak in which its aged. Elsewhere on the list, arresting expressions of local grains are showcased in single malts from Whiskey Del Bac, Stranahan’s, and St. George Spirits.
While American single malt has yet to nail down formal regulations, it’s resulted in a style that’s overflowing with originality, unbound by any one definition. With hundreds of distilleries making American single malt, the creativity looks well primed to continue. For now, check out these high-scoring single malts from the Spring 2021 Buying Guide, which all have a lot to say about where they’re from.
High-Scoring American Single Malt Whiskeys Deserve a Place in Your Glass
Westland Garryana (5th Edition)
91 points, 50% ABV, $150
Virgin Garry oak matured 36% of this peated single malt, and 64% was matured in new American oak. Whiffs of powdered candy, bonfire smoke, grilled meat, dried strawberries, and antique shop on the nose. A robust, diverse palate features vanilla, allspice, cooked peaches, black tea, candle wax, and bitter chocolate as the smoke drifts into the background but never leaves, lingering into the finish to play against notes of honeycomb, vanilla cream, and cooked red fruits. (5,625 bottles) —David Fleming
Bonus: Westland Colere (1st Edition) was also reviewed, scoring 88 points.
Whiskey Del Bac Distiller’s Cut (Fall 2020 Release)
91 points, 57.25% ABV, $80
Sweet, smoky brisket, brown-sugar bacon, vanilla bean, nutmeg, buttered pecans, milk chocolate, dried strawberries, and spearmint swirl on the expressive nose of this mesquite-smoked single malt, and there’s more of the same on the palate: minty freshness, nutty milk chocolate, vanilla, dried red fruits, and sweet smoke. The oak turns mouthwatering into the peppery, cinnamon-hot yet minty-cool finish, where vanilla smoke lingers longest. (785 bottles) —Susannah Skiver Barton
St. George (Lot 20)
90 points, 43% ABV, $100
The 20th annual limited release of St. George Spirits’ American single malt. An aromatic, citrusy nose is almost tropical, with complex notes of rancio, lemon peel, melon, mango, confectionery powder, and candle wax. The palate is floral and delicate, with subtle sweetness and overlays of lemon cake, vanilla frosting, and white pepper. Balanced fruit, vanilla, and notes of baking spice on a long finish. —David Fleming
Stranahan’s Blue Peak
89 points, 43% ABV, $43
The nose starts with pleasant floral and lemon peel overtones as well as an herbal note, leading to aromas of macaroons and confectionery powder. Sweet notes of lemon cookie, sugared almonds, and cinnamon ride across the palate, with water coaxing out spice and bitter chocolate. Fresh vanilla cookies punctuate the finish, with an integrated array of baking spice, tiramisu, chocolate babka, cinnamon bun, and lemon. Balanced, complex sweetness melding with citrus and spice. —David Fleming