AN INTERNATIONAL whiskey and wine collaboration years in the making has been toasted in the North East.
Luxury US whiskey producer Westward teamed up with seventh-generation Rutherglen winemakers Stanton and Killeen Wines to launch Vintage Muscat Cask Whiskey.
Three years in the pipeline, the new offering celebrates both tradition and innovation.
The Westward Whiskey Vintage Muscat Cask will be sold through The Whisky Club from Friday, December 1.
Westward Whiskey and The Whisky Club have worked together since Westward launched on the Australian market four years ago.
Westward's famous Original Whiskey has been finished in Stanton and Killeen's Classic Muscat casks, which were shipped from Rutherglen to the US.
Stanton and Killeen's award-winning Classic Muscat is a blend of Muscat with a minimum 12 years of age.
Each cask was hand-picked to complement Westward's Original product.
The Whisky Club head of whisky, Seamus Carroll, said they brought together the best producers in the world to make the product.
"We quite literally had to travel the world to make this happen," he said.
"For the first time ever we've brought legendary Australian muscat casks to the other side of the world to be filled with this world-class whiskey.
"Between Westward having a cult following amongst whiskey enthusiasts, and the Christmas flavour notes making it a great gift for anyone who enjoys whiskey or wine, we know this will sell out fast."
Westward Whiskey master blender Miles Munroe said they pursued perfection throughout a slow process without any shortcuts.
"While the Westward Vintage Muscat Cask was born in Oregon, it wouldn't be the whiskey it is without being raised in Australia by the renowned Stanton and Killeen winemakers," he said.
"This exclusive release pairs our dedication to flavour innovation with the tradition and passion of Stanton and Killeen, and is a delicious example of what can be created by exchanging ideas, aligning our visions and enjoying each other's company all in the name of making incredible whiskey."
The process begins by brewing an artisanal US ale from scratch using locally malted barley, ale yeast, and slow, low-temperature fermentation. It is then distilled twice in custom low-reflux pot stills designed to create a robust spirit, which transfers the fresh, flavourful ale into whiskey.
Once the liquid is matured to perfection in new lightly charred American Oak barrels selected to accentuate the bold characteristics of the whiskey, the Westward Whiskey Original is transferred into Stanton and Killeen Vintage Muscat Casks.
The whiskey is finished for another year to benefit from the four distinct seasons in Oregon.
Stanton and Killeen Wines managing director Wendy Killeen welcomed the innovative partnership.
"We have been producing award-winning wines for seven generations and 145 years, and similarly to Westward, we are exceptionally passionate about artful blending traditions and constantly innovating, to create unique and extraordinary drops that people haven't tasted before," she said.
Westward Whiskey Vintage Muscat Cask can be enjoyed neat, on the rocks or paired with festive fare such as plum pudding or pumpkin pie.
Rutherglen restaurant Grace Bar and Eatery curated a clever Christmas-inspired lunch to launch the whiskey at Stanton and Killeen Wines on Friday.
While the prawn starter and pork belly main tapped into Australian traditions, the exquisite pumpkin cake dessert was an artful nod to the US.