“Gee, I love Westland Garryana.”
–said everyone, always.
The nose offers the kind of density and complexity whose literary counterpart is Joyce or Faulkner, or whose horological counterpart is the Rattrapante. We get the meat of a plum, sent through a centrifuge, and then inserted into the heart of a purple heirloom tomato. Purplumato! There’s also the tang of a Himalayan salt lamp with a 150-watt incandescent bulb screwed in. Or maybe it’s a proof-of-concept Werther’s candy consisting of a fruitcake pressed and buffed to the size and luster of a large opal. As I sit back to consider it all, I get the smell of a baseball thwacking into a catcher’s mitt. The wisps of batter’s box dirt mixed with Lena Blackburne Baseball Rubbing Mud fill my nostrils with anticipation. That whistle from the Houston dugout means I can just keep my bat on my shoulder for this next pitch.
Improbably, the mouth is even denser and more complex. For a moment I think I should get a thesaurus, but my Muse tells me “you got dis” and I decide to wing it. This is densified and complexificated! [Stephen: “John, tell the Muse that you do not, in fact, ‘got dis’ and use your regular words.”] Right! Well then, this is a ruminative dram—can I say ruminative? I’m saying it! Because it takes time to open and unpack. And when I open the suitcase I find broiled bacon, bourbon barrel staves, and a sherry head used as a shield in the school play, “Grendel, the Misunderstood Monster.” Then spices fire in all the directions you’d expect from a non-union fireworks show on a hot summer night. There’s sage, thyme, coriander, tree bark, echinacea, shoe leather, a plug of tobacco worked over by an alpaca, and lidocaine spray.
The finish begins with a hallucination of Large Marge, from Pee Wee’s Big Adventure. She found love in the arms of the Sta-Puft Marshmallow Man. But it was in a straight-to-video obscurity that everyone associated with it now disavows. With apologies to Sir Charles Barkley, we are getting Round Mounds of Rebounds, as the mouth redounds to the finish, and the hound astounds as the nose abounds. Then, as if by magic, the finish snaps together as crisply and cohesively as my thoughts about the Westland Distillery itself. I feel like I finally get it. Westland puts the “ft” in “craft whisky.” Without it, it would be cray. [Bill: “He’s waiting for applause, isn’t he?” Stephen: “Yup. He has expected-applause-face written all over his upper lip.”] Something in this whisky plays like a New World counterpart to peat. And that’s nothing less than a frog’s wetsuit for four-season surfing. I feel like I can taste the burnt and charred barrel, but it’s more appetizing than this suggests. Perhaps sachets of Herbs d’Provence is really what the cooperage guys call their secret sauce. “More like Peaches & Herbs d’Provence, amirite?” I say to the master cooper, who looks down at his feet rather than say what he should have said: “Reunited / and it feels so bien!” Oh, he would have gotten an eternal high five for that one. Eternal!
On the scale of songs that do what they say–
The Westland Garryana 4.1 is “Shake Your Groove Thing” by Peaches & Herb–A big reason it has one foot in the American Disco Songbook and the other foot in popular culture is the inexorable bass line that Scott Edwards came up with during a lunch break. That riff is the Garryana oak embracing the joyful exuberance of the spirit within.
–Our thanks to Westland for the sample!