Months later, the Westland transaction still bothers me, because I loved what they were doing and independent distilleries are the underdogs you root for. It’s nothing against the conglomerates; I just love the little guy, shop at small businesses and generally support ma-and-pop places.
Co-founder and distiller Matt Hofmann read the story and requested I publish his response. Please see his unedited letter below.
I appreciate your sentiment with regards to independence, but I would like to address your post to give you reason to be hopeful about Westland’s future.
Independence is a funny thing. In many ways, I’ve never experienced it. Westland’s origin is rooted in some ideas I had in how we could make a true American single malt, and my fellow co-founder Emerson’s conviction that we could take it to market. I come from humble beginnings and certainly did not have the millions of dollars available that it takes to start a distillery. All of the ideas that I had needed to past muster, first with Emerson to see if it was feasible to implement and then ultimately with his family who invested in the business. We were fortunate that his family had the vision to see what we saw, the potential for this business and for the approach that we were taking, but none of that happened independent of explanation. We had sound reasoning for the decisions we were making and though to many people it may have looked like we had carte blanche to do as we wished, I can assure you that the decisions were always substantiated by something, backed by reason and purpose. I’ve never been independent outright.
We’ve been able to achieve a lot in the past six years. Our actions you’ve listed, from using Washington State peat, to Oregon (Quercus garryana) oak, the new varietals of barley, and the many other things most folks have yet to see weren’t just the whims of Emerson and I. They were all actions that led to a larger picture of what Westland could be and what we could contribute to the world of single malt whiskey. From top to bottom, from the Lamb family ownership on down, everyone believed in the mission of this company and can see the vision that we now all share. Emerson left the business sixteen months ago and since then I’ve worked closely with his family and our new CEO Andrew Madderson to make sure they understood where this business was going. In fact, our vision has only sharpened recently and it’s culminated in releases like our Garryana bottling that were finally tangible manifestations of what we’ve been striving to achieve. And there is so much more yet to come.
The decision to sell the business was not mine to make, but I’m genuinely happy to have Rémy Cointreau as our partner going forward. I’m staying on with Westland, as is my whole team, and we’re looking forward to charting the course for years to come. The Lamb family have done great things for this business and we will be forever grateful for what they’ve done to help us get to this point. They’ve been very hands-off as investors, so long as we stuck to our plan and had good reasons for the decisions we’ve been making. Rémy Cointreau believes in this business and what we stand for. Just look at their website and you can see how committed they are to the concepts of authenticity, terroir, and long-term thinking that we preach. But they also believe in letting this style of business continue to develop naturally, as demonstrated in how they’ve handled Bruichladdich. They’re excited to help us where they can, but only if we ask for it.
For the cynical folks out there just know this: Talk may be cheap for some people, but not for me, and not for Westland. When I say that Westland is going to continue doing the exciting things we’ve been doing, to continue to bring these new ideas to life, and to push the single malt whiskey industry forward, I mean every word of it. This commitment will be backed up by action, and myself and the incredible team here are hard at work on fantastic things you have yet to see. We remain independent in spirit as long as our ideas have merit, and I’m happy to report that Rémy Cointreau is as excited about our ideas as anyone else. The best is yet to come at Westland and we look forward to sharing it with you all in the future.