When your favourite bottle shop calls to suggest a whisky dinner you’d do well to answer. Just Liquor in Ashfield has been supplying our sake and Japanese whisky for years, so we heeded the call when owner Wen invited us to a tasting event ($100/head) with the folks from Westward Whiskey. We joined a set of serious drinkers each swilling a Westward old fashioned on the footpath outside of New Shanghai. Once safely ensconced within the red walls of their private dining room, we were taken through a range of four single malt offerings that really challenged my notions of American whiskey.
They’re made in the American Northwest—Portland, Oregon to be precise—an area with a cool, wet climate like Scotland. Seventy per cent of America’s grain is produced in this area, along with more than a hundred different craft beers. Their standard Westward American Single Malt (RRP $125/700ml) is made on two-row malted barley, has a lick of salinity. It’s brewed like an American pale ale with slow fermentation and aged in new American white oak barrels that are heavily toasted but lightly charred. It drinks beautifully as an old fashioned made with honey (rather than sugar syrup) and salt because the vanilla and brown sugar notes that make this a soothing way to consume whiskey are already there. The Westward American Single Malt Pinot Noir Cask ($160/700ml) takes it somewhere fruity with red currants, plums and a little fruit cake: not quite my bag. However I would happily get lit on the Westward American Single Malt Stout Cask ($155/700ml) where pecan pie and more intrigue on the nose with petrochemical peat bog and roasted grain. Have some distilled water on hand if you opt for the Westward American Single Malt Cask Strength ($180/700ml): it was a bridge too far for me with peppery, tobacco leaf and sesame notes.
We were kept upright through our early whiskeys with san choi bay ($12/4), great prawn spring rolls ($9.80/4) and spring onion pancakes ($8.20/4). By the time we got to platters of steamed and fried dumplings my tastebuds were pretty blown. Shanghai-style stir-fried Chinese rice cakes ($13.80) were the standout on the final stonker-you plate of salt and pepper prawns ($29.90), crispy tofu with salted egg ($23.90) and Yangzhou combination fried rice ($15.80). Not quite the meal I would have chosen — too much fried food and too light on vegetables for me — but probably the meal anyone drinking this much whiskey in one setting needs. I walked away with two bottles of Westward whiskey both sold at a special discount price. Can’t wait for the next tasting!