She's Back! October 14th, 2021 marks the Re-Release of Franklin County Distillers COVETED 141 Proof Black Label Virginia Rye Whiskey. While a high proof, this stuff is incredibly smooth. Be sure to tell all your friends, and grab some before it runs out again.
KO Distilling will be releasing their brand new Distiller's Reserve Bottled-in-Bond Rye Whiskey next week at their 6th Anniversary Event, Sept 10-12th. Should make for a tasty way to celebrate!
Davis Valley Distillery in Rural Retreat, Virginia has barrels of aged Virginia Rye whiskey and unaged Rye available for wholesale customers. Visit their website davisvalleydistillery.com/ for details.
Two informative articles on coopering written by Shelley Sackier, Director of Distillery Education, Reservoir Distillery (permission to republish was granted).
Lock, Stock & Barrel: Going All In With Your Cooper
I could write countless articles on the topic of flavor. I could say that as we understand the term today, an easy formula to define it would be scent + taste = flavor.
Or I could argue that biologically speaking, flavor isn’t determined only within the oral and nasal cavities; rather it includes parts of the brain, as well as a person’s sensory memories, personalized palate, and other internalizations. Really, I like to think of the equation for flavor as a list of five ingredients: we’ll keep scent and taste, but we’ll also add a dash of touch, past experiences, and expectations. Now that’s flavor.
Of course, when we think of flavor in this way, it makes sense why spirit makers take such pains to understand their process, scanning all the components that may contribute both intended and undesirable profiles to their final product. Take it a step further, and you find an impressive list of sources to be mindful of, to play with and utilize, or to do your darndest to avoid.
Here’s why wood is a great place to start…
RESERVOIR, UNDER THE INFLUENCE
It’s believed that a whiskey receives between 50 to 80 percent of its flavor profile from the wood it’s aged within. So while it is important to acknowledge the influence of this woody embrace, we should also highlight the impact of those relationships we share with our barrel makers and brokers. To further whittle the field, let’s simply focus on the makers—the coopers and the cooperage responsible for engineering and crafting our sacred barrels.
This month, our team at Reservoir Distillery traveled southwest to Atkins, Virginia, to visit the Speyside Bourbon Cooperage—one of Reservoir’s highly esteemed barrel makers with wood expertise that originated in Scotland, 1947. It was here that we all had the privilege to meet Josh Chandler, Speyside’s plant manager and tour guide extraordinaire. It was also here that we learned just how advanced coopering has become since the days when highly skilled craftsmen practiced the trade by hand.
BURIED WITHIN THE WALLS (OF A BARREL)
As an industry, we’ve come to understand that wood’s weighty flavors are derived from the organic compounds located deep within the wood of each barrel. Its cell walls are comprised of cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignin, each of which contribute the qualities we’ve come to expect and enjoy in our whiskey:
The hemicellulose offers up color and sugars soluble in alcohol, providing the heady notes of caramel. The staves within a barrel, rich with lignin, break down into vanillin, furfural, syringol, eugenol, and lactones—all flavor molecules that give spirits their fruity, nutty, smokey, spicy, and buttery profiles. And one would be remiss not to include the influence of those mouth-puckering, astringent tannins.
Of course, the degree to which these ingredients will present themselves (and therefore affect the flavor profile of your spirit) is dependent upon several factors:
The challenge is deciding where to start first. With countless elements to factor in, will you request something time-tested and results-proven? A cask that falls within the realm of the industry standard and customer approved? Or will you stray outside of those parameters and journey a fresh path like that of a true frontiersman—play with cask shape, alter the toast, the char, or where that heat is concentrated to achieve caramelization?
Will you use a different source of heat—one that might infuse the barrel with flavors unique to its wood? Applewood? Hickory? Peat smoke? An approach to toy with phenols, perhaps?
Will you choose a unique type of wood, pursue oak from lands afar—chasing a distinctively place-based flavor? Or perhaps you wish to move more fully into the land of fringe-like trials and join others searching for methods where your barrel more quickly and efficiently removes some of your spirit’s less desirable compounds.
Whether you work with one of the dwindling number of independent coopers remaining in the world (1,500-2,000) or a larger, modern cooperage like Speyside applying, in their words, “state of the art technology and modern manufacturing principles to the age-old craft of barrel making,” my point is easy to illustrate: Yes, the world is your oyster--but your cooper is your gatekeeper.
The relationship you foster together may be the key to unlocking not just one new shelf of creativity, but access to an inexhaustible library of choice. Leverage that relationship and perhaps you’ll hack the next equation for flavor.
And now, an eye-opening peek into a marvelous carpentry journey you shouldn’t miss.
Barreling Through the Speyside Bourbon Cooperage
I never miss an opportunity to visit historical museums or villages set up to recreate bygone days. Seeing people dressed in antiquated clothing performing essential tasks with obsolete tools is not an experience I scoff at, rather I find I’m reflecting on the great advancements made over the short decades behind me.
Last week, our team traveled southwest to Atkins, Virginia to visit the Speyside Bourbon Cooperage—one of Reservoir’s highly esteemed barrel makers. And it was here we all had the privilege to meet Josh Chandler, Speyside’s plant manager and tour guide extraordinaire. And it was also here that we were educated as to just how advanced the coopering industry has grown since the days when highly skilled craftsmen practiced the trade by hand.
We here at Reservoir impress upon our customers the strength and influence of provenance, as all our ingredients—i.e., anything that influences our flavor—comes right from our little patch of earth. Virginia has a singular taste, and we capture every drop, scent, and organic compound that allows us to say our whiskeys’ flavors are “terroir-driven.”
A significant part of that distinctively place-based flavor comes from the organic compounds deep within the wood of each barrel, as the staves that comprise a five, ten, or a 53-gallon barrel are rich with lignins, which break down into vanillin, eugenol, furfural, and lactones—all flavor molecules that give our spirits their spicy, fruity, nutty, and buttery profiles. And as the majority of trees Speyside Cooperage utilizes come from Virginia forestland, we grow increasingly enthusiastic to share what we now recognize as true Virginia bourbon flavor.
We pride ourselves on highlighting Reservoir’s unique process of ‘grain to glass’ whiskey making, but we’d be remiss if we did not back farther up—a step or two behind where that timeline begins. I’ve written before about one of our stave mills--The Ramoneda Brothers in Culpeper, Virginia—and Speyside operates several of their own mills as well, but I’ve yet to take you on a tour of how our barrels are assembled. It’s an eye-opening peek into a marvelous carpentry journey you shouldn’t miss.
Founded in Scotland in 1947, the Speyside cooperage has impressive lineage, coming from a long line of traditional and highly skilled barrel makers. Estimates of remaining coopers worldwide are around 1,500—2,000.
And for as lovely the venerable and time-honored practice of coopering by hand is, where barrel makers apprenticed for approximately seven years before being capable of raising seven casks a day, Speyside has applied, in their words, “state of the art technology and modern manufacturing principles to the age-old craft of barrel making.”
Here in Virginia, those new design principles allow them to utilize equipment safer for the environment and their employees, use less energy than older manufacturing processes would require, create less waste and pollutants, and build stronger, better barrels than ever before.
Not only are the barrels they produce casks of the highest quality, but the company concentrates on their overall footprint left behind after manufacturing their product. Speyside has been recognized for their sustainable log buying practices, and every scrap of byproducts is either sold to other manufacturers or utilized in house via recycling techniques.
So, we here at Reservoir feel fortunate not only to partner with a company whose gilt-edged product helps to make our whiskies shine with a depth and breadth of flavor we’re determined to offer our customers, but also because their level of standards resonate deeply with ours: Offer the world the best you have.
And there you have it. Another glimpse into our process. I hope it will serve to educate, entertain, but more important, enrich your next sip of whiskey. Let’s all raise a glass to these men and women of great skill. Because they’re building better barrels, we’re bottling beautiful whiskies!
Rye Oh My! Rediscovering one of Virginia's favorite spirits.
The Virginia Rye Whiskey Trail gets some love in the August edition of Virginia Living magazine. Thank you! Click on the bottom photo for a larger view of the article.
Just Announced. George Washington Rye Whiskey Tastings - Saturdays in September.
Sample George Washington's Virginia Rye Whiskey and other distilled spirits made in the reconstructed Distillery using 18th-century distilling methods and techniques. Tastings occur at the Distillery and tickets are required. Discounted tickets are available for members.
For tickets and information, click here.
Virginia.org just created a new logo for Virginia Rye Whiskey Lovers. Gotta love it!
I had the chance to spend an hour with Scott Harris, co-founder with Becky Harris, of Catoctin Creek Distillery in Purcellville, VA. He gave me the full-tour and chatted with my about their plans to add new equipment later this summer that will more the double their production capabilities. He also gave me a taste of their wonderful Rabble Rouser Virginia Rye. I see why folks love it so much and it flies off the shelves when available. Pictured is the Distiller's Edition 92 proof Virginia Rye I purchased for my home bar, it's the favorite of the crew at Catoctin, and will be much enjoyed by myself and friends in the coming weeks. Catoctin Creek is a great operation with a warm and friendly team. Well worth a visit by anyone who loves great whiskey.
I had the opportunity this past week to take pictures of Three Monkeys Farm 13 beautiful acres of Organic Danko Rye being grown in Loudoun County, Virginia. Almost ready for harvest, I was told by Trent Tebbe that his crop should come in right around the 4th of July. Hopefully we all get a chance to taste it in a nice Virginia Rye Whiskey someday. www.facebook.com/Three-Monkeys-Farm-LLC-115609805312449
Double Gold at the San Francisco World Spirits competition for Filibuster Straight Virginia Rye. Let the party begin! https://filibusterbourbon.com/
Congratulations to all the Virginia Rye winners in this year's competition.
Double Gold - Filibuster Straight Rye
Gold - Copper Fox Sassy Rye Single Malt
Gold - Ragged Branch Napotnik Reserve Staight Rye Barrel Proof
Bronze - Ragged Branch Straight Rye, Bottled in Bond
Silver - Phenomenal Spirits RY3
Silver - Reservoir Rye
Silver - Reservoir Hunter & Scott Rye
Another Virginia Rye gets the Gold in San Francisco. Ragged Branch Distillery - "We are extremely proud to announce that we took home another Gold Medal at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition. This year it was for Napotnik Reserve, a barrel proof, private select version of our Straight Rye Whiskey." http://raggedbranch.com/
Article from the new issue of Chilled magazine on Catoctin Creek's local sourcing methods used to produce Virginia Rye. Click here to read
This limited release from Twin Creeks Distillery is Peg Hatcher's. A primarily rye base with a wee bit of corn, then aged in white oak barrels. It's named in honor of their Grandpap Peg Hatcher, a kingpin in “The Great Conspiracy Trial of 1935” and old-time fiddle player who roamed the hills and hollers of Franklin County, Virginia. An true artisan. https://twincreeksdistillery.com/
Today, Three Crosses Distilling Company of Powhatan, Virginia released it's second Virginia Rye this year, Noble Hound. Go for a visit and a taste!
The newly arrive Spring edition of Whiskey Advocate includes a nice article on Distiller's Whiskey Clubs from around the country. One of those featured is Virginia's own purveyor of Rye, KO Distilling in Manassass. Congrats to the KO Team. KO Distilling – Manassas, VA
The new issue of Craft Spirits just arrived and Catoctin Creek's new release of Rabble Rouser Bottled in Bond Virginia Rye got a nice shout out. Congrats on the press for a well deserving whisky.
In this four part pod casts series Whiskey Lore takes you inside the mind of one of Virginia's master distillers of rye Steve Bashore, behind the scenes at the Historic George Washington Distillery at Mt. Vernon, and through the history of how George Washington and his Scottish-born farm manager James Anderson came to launch one of the largest commercial distilleries in America during the late 1700's.
Interviewer Drew Hannush takes you on a wonderful trial of discovery of a great Virginia Rye whiskey tradition.
Part One: Dr. Jim Ambuske and Jeanette Patrick discuss Washington's management style, his distiller and distillery, and some of the myths that surround him.
Part Two: The story of Scotsman James Anderson and his journey to becoming George Washington's distiller
Part Three: Downstairs Interview with Master Distiller Steve Bashore
Part Four: Upstairs Interview with Master Distiller Steve Bashore
Ragged Branch started making their Straight Rye Whiskey several years ago after ending up with a surplus of rye on their farm near Charlottesville. They worked with Master Distiller Dave Pickerell to design the recipe, heavy on the rye and no corn in the mash bill. First released in bottles at the distillery in the fall of 2019, and now the first Bottled-in-Bond 100 Proof offering available at Virginia ABC stores, joining their flagship Signature and Wheated Bourbons.
Ragged Branch Virginia Straight Rye is drier and spicier than our bourbons. You get layers of dried fruit, almond, and maybe a little sweet tobacco.
Virginia Rye Whisky producer Catoctin Creek Distilling Company has spent US$1 million on new equipment to triple its production capacity.
Story from THE SPIRITS BUSINESS written by Nicola Carruthers
Catoctin Creek was founded by husband and wife Scott and Becky Harris in 2009. Based in Loudoun County in the north of Virginia, Catoctin Creek produces whiskey, gin and brandy. In January 2017, Svedka Vodka owner Constellation Brands acquired a minority stake in Catoctin Creek.
The expansion plans have been ‘well underway’ for more than a year, Catoctin Creek said. The upgrade is set to be completed in late June 2021, after initially being delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“As we continue to grow Catoctin Creek as a national brand, we must ensure we have enough whisky inventory to support future demand,” said general manager Scott Harris. “This equipment expansion will guarantee our production capacity keeps up with sales for the next few years, at least.”
Read the full story here: Catoctin Creek Expansion
VinePair Top 50 Best Spirits of 2020
4. Filibuster Dual Cask Finished Rye
From an under-the-radar craft Virginia distillery, this is a world-class rye. Its immediately distinctive personality challenges the notion that rye is simply bourbon’s “spicy” cousin. Instead, the full spectrum of the grain’s qualities are highlighted in this whiskey’s 90 percent rye, 10 percent malted barley mash bill. Long before any prickle of spice, there’s lively dill and a cleansing spray of spearmint. Next comes the faint bite of pumpernickel, toasted caraway seeds, and then — finally — the palate is met with a pleasant prickling sensation. Without doubt, four years aging in charred American oak and a finishing period in sherry and French wine barrels have added depth and complexity. But it’s the grain, fermentation, and distillation that really shine in this celebration of rye whiskey. Average price: $44.
Read the full article:
See the full review of Filibuster Dual Cask Finished Virginia Rye:
Catoctin Creek Distillery receives praise for another wonderful Virginia Rye.
We are delighted that Roundstone Rye 92 Proof "Distiller's Edition," which rated 94 points in January of this year, was selected for Wine Enthusiast's Top 100 of 2020! In fact, we were the third highest rated rye whisky in the category! - Catoctin Creek
Kara Newman writes: "This single-barrel rye is suitable for sipping or a dessert pairing. Look for bold sugar-cookie aromas and confectionary richness on the palate: vanilla, cocoa, hazelnut, maple sugar and mocha. The moderately long finish is marked by lemon peel and nutmeg."
Shelley Sackier, Director of Distillery Education at Reservoir Distillery in Richmond, VA shares a wonderful piece on The Culpeper, Virginia Ramoneda Brothers oak barrel stave mill. The mill produces white oak barrel staves and accompanying products for the whiskey and wine cooperage industry. Originally published on Moonshine University.com
“You can see the piece within the piece.”
I know that might sound a tad cryptic, but this was a phrase uttered nearly simultaneously by both Vic Ramoneda and his employee, Bill DiSantis, as we all bent over a freshly cut plank of wood in the Ramoneda Brothers Stave Mill in Culpeper, Virginia.
“Do you mean like Michelangelo and the whole, ‘The sculpture is already complete—it’s there in that block of marble’ kind of thing?” I asked them both.
I laughed. They nodded politely at the joke. And then agreed, “Exactly.”
As Director of Distillery Education for Reservoir Distillery, I was neck-deep in wood science research, and this was my first on-site introduction to one of the most instrumental parts of our spirit making process--barrels. Without their participation and interaction, we have nothing but distillate to bottle; and although I think the gin-clear liquid that trickles from our copper pot’s parrot spout is remarkable in its flavors and aromas, it is not our final goal.
For the rest of the story: https://moonshineuniversity.com/the-ramoneda-brothers-stave-mill/
2 oz. of Virginia Rye Whiskey
3 dashes Blackwater Orange Bitters (Made in Virginia)
Splash of Mt. Defiance Absinthe (Made in Virginia)
1 sugar cube
Rinse a chilled old-fashioned glass with the absinthe, add crushed ice and set it aside. In a shaker, stir the remaining ingredients over ice and set it aside. Discard the ice and any excess absinthe from the prepared glass, and strain the drink into the glass. Add the Lemon peel for garnish.
In the American Whiskey Rye flight of The Spirits Business Autumn Blind Tastings, Filibuster Dual Cask Rye secured a Gold award for its “warming vanilla, toffee, caramel with just a hint of unexpected spice on the finish”. Congratulations on another award and a wonderful Virginia Rye!
Filibuster took home a total of three Gold Medals.
The Gold medals came thick and fast as we worked our way through the American Whiskey segment, starting with Filibuster Dual Cask Bourbon, which delivered “overripe tropical fruits” on the nose with “vanilla and loads of oak” on the palate”.
In the American Whiskey – Rye flight, Filibuster Dual Cask Rye also secured a Gold award for its “warming vanilla, toffee, caramel with just a hint of unexpected spice on the finish”.
Filibuster Boondoggler also walked away with a Gold in the American Whiskey – Single Grain flight, thanks to its aromas of “chestnut peels, some fruitiness and baking spices” and “charged fruitiness on the finish”.
Stories about Virginia Rye Whiskey, its makers and supporting organizations and individuals. as well as related distilled spirits industry news.