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SODO's Westland Whiskey named Sustainable Distillery of the Year

We go the extra mile in Seattle when it comes to sustainability. We shop from local artisans, farmers from within our zip code, and the family-run ice cream parlor down the street. We’re recycling experts and we understand what salmon stewardship looks like. But how do our sustainable ideals translate into our libations?

Enter Westland Distillery, the 2022 recipient of the Sustainable Distillery of the Year award from Icons of Whiskey magazine. How does a distillery make sustainable whiskey? Co-founder Matt Hofmann lent us his expertise to graze just the surface of the incredible sustainable practices Westland Distillery uses. Grab a glass, settle into a cozy chair and learn how one Seattle distillery is leading the way in sustainability.

Starting at the beginning, Westland whiskey is American Single Malt made from barley, and 90% of it is grown in Washington.

"It’s actually a lot better for growing barley than Scotland, believe it or not," Hofmann explained of local farmland.

Westland’s sustainability model has tons of benefits, but three stand out:

  • Economic benefits to the farmer
  • Being safer for the environment
  • Creating flavors in whiskey that aren’t possible using commodity barley

Westland’s focus has always been on highlighting flavor, which means the commodity market doesn’t suit their fancy.

"The commodity grain system is about having all farmers across the country grow the same type of barley and for it to have all the same features, no matter where it was grown. What makes us unique is that we have sought out and pushed more sustainable agricultural systems that are non-commodity based," Hofmann said.

Barley is a bit of a magical crop, especially to farmers in Skagit Valley. There, it serves as a rotational crop. Growing barley adds carbon back into the soil, it breaks disease cycles and the root structure breaks apart clay soils, Hofmann said.

Not only is the barley beneficial to the farmer and makes more fertile soil, it makes for incredible flavor profiles in the barley, achieving the primary goal of Westland Whiskey. With some excellent help from the WSU Bread Lab, Skagit Valley Malting, Linc Malting, Mainstream Malts, and a handful of local growers in Washington, Westland is developing new varieties of barley.

"For us, this is the future. By 2025, we hope to be 100 percent off the commodities market and using 100 percent regenerative systems," Hofmann said.

Westland’s sustainability reaches far beyond farming practices, too. The production process has some key elements that support the effort. Whiskey ages in casks, and Westland's Garryana line chills in casks made from naturally felled Garry oak, the only oak native to the Pacific Northwest. Hofmann explained not only is Westland not cutting any of these trees down, they’re replanting Garry oaks to help replenish the native tree’s dwindling numbers.

And soon, the sustainable efforts made by Westland could extend into local breweries and restaurants, too. This fall, Westland will begin to capture the carbon dioxide that naturally occurs during the whiskey fermentation process. Your brews and other fizzy drinks could be carbonated with Westland’s CO₂.

The sustainable aspects of Westland Distillery’s ingredients, production and future plans are massively detailed and thoughtful. If you like reading reports, check out the 2020 Sustainability Report. Alternatively, dedicate one (or several) afternoons to Westland Distillery’s tasting room in SODO, where the experts will happily fill you in on the incredible sustainable details of the whiskey you’re sipping. What better way to support sustainability than drinking whiskey?

If you’re looking for truly exceptional whiskey or want to learn more about how a distillery can be sustainable, pop into Westland Distillery’s tasting room in SODO at 2931 1st Ave S. The tasting room does whiskey flights, full-spirit cocktails and small bites. It’s open from 1 p.m. until 7 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, noon until 7 p.m. on Saturday and noon until 6 p.m. on Sunday. Check in with the Westland Whiskey Instagram to keep up with special events and releases.