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Issue 133 - American Peat Matters

Whisky Magazine Issue 133
January 2016

 

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American Peat Matters

Westland Distillery and volumes of smoke

As Emerson Lamb grabs a hunk of chunky earth, media gather round. It's as if Lamb is holding a press conference in the middle of nowhere, Washington, to show off something special. Other whiskey writers are here – namely Mark Gillespie – for a press junket that also attracted contributors to Playboy, Men's Health and Maxim. And none of us came for the gorgeous boat ride over Lake Union, to buy legal marijuana in the state or to visit the popular topless coffee shops on Washington roadsides. No, we came here for what was in Lamb's hand – American peat.

Yes, that peat. The peat known in Scotland for centuries. The peat not traditionally used in the United States of America. The peat that is protected by US wetland laws.

Lamb co-founded the Westland Distillery in Seattle. Unlike many other so-called craft distillers, Westland does not make vodka, gin, brandy, Bourbon, rum or flavoured products. Westland focuses on one single style of whiskey – American single malt. In fact, it is the largest North American single malt producer, but it would still be in the bottom one third in Scotland in terms of production. But as Taiwan, Japan and South Africa have shown, there's room for single malt production outside of Scotland – by God, just don't call
it Scotch!

But to create an American peated single malt is something dreams are made of. Due to the country's environmental laws surrounding wetlands, it was thought impossible to extract peat from a US bog. However, there we...

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