The Ten: Miles Munroe
Updated: Dec 30, 2020
Name and job title?
Miles Munroe, Head Distiller & Blender - Westward Whiskey in Oregon.
Where were you born, where do you live now? Ann Arbor, Michigan, U.S., home of The Stooges and MC5! I live in Portland, OR, U.S. now.
How do you describe what you do?
I am the keeper of barrels and agent of quality control, leading the blending team and making the decisions on what's ready to drink. I also lead our R&D endeavours.
How much was your last cup of coffee?
I rarely drink coffee; I love it, but the caffeine is just too disruptive.
What is one ingredient that is crucial to you?
Locally grown and malted barley is vital. Without it we'd have no single malt which would be a damn shame.
What does a culinary system mean to you?
It means homeostasis. Every piece of the system has a distinct role yet it all must fit together to make things work. To me, that requires accountability and knowing the system you're a part of from start to finish.
How does your immediate environment affect your work?
I help create a regional product that relies on its provenance. Barley grows very well in the Pacific Northwest and the valley we're in provides an excellent climate for ageing single malt. These natural elements drive the creative decisions made at Westward and most of the makers around Portland. Oregon has a history of preservation and conscientious environmentalism.
Where do you draw inspiration from, in your work? There are winemakers, brewers and chefs that inspire what I do. I spent 10 years in the service industry before being drawn to production where I was a professional brewer first, and the constant push for flavour expression wasn't lost on me at any point. I remember working in fine dining at 19 and having a local baker bring her freshly baked bread to us on her bicycle. While that may all seem a bit precious, it made a huge impact on how I acknowledge origins of ingredients.
What impact do you want to have?
Ingredients, care and talent are the ethos I stand by; the practical impact is to show the world American Single Malt from Oregon - therefore a product of excellence built from those values.
What change do you want to see in culinary system? Many people are drawn into food and beverage environments by moving to where the action is, but I'd love to see more localised scenes. Every place has something unique to offer, developing a relationship with growers and other local makers avoids the caprice nature a food system or scene can often develop. To keep humanity attached to all aspects of the supply chain; I'm convinced that leads to better use and understanding of ingredients.
We ask all our interviewees to send us two photos: one that represents themselves and one that represents their work.