Johnny Cocktail has been VERY busy!

There are many more posts to come so stay tuned. This Blog is getting ready to see quite the face lift!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Wasmund's/Copperfox Distillery & 1,000 Oak Barrel Company

In a Shot:  I bought a locally produced whiskey barrel for my Dad's birthday and took him to a local single malt distillery.

It all started with a regular named Jim who came into the restaurant one day and told me about a Single Malt that is made in Sperryville, Virginia.  Working in a restaurant that focuses on using local products, I couldn't help but be intrigued.  I immediately went and bought a bottle of Wasmund's Single Malt Whisky.  Not knowing much about them I also looked into their website and discovered that these guys were the real deal.  Rick Wasmund, his wife Chelsea (whom he met working on his 12th batch of whisky and married on the completion of his 37th batch), long time friend Sean and his Management Of Malt all run this distillery around the clock. 

Rick toured all the popular and successful distilleries in the united states and followed up with touring Scotland and even doing an internship with the Bowmore distillery which is one of the last remaining distilleries to malt there own barley.  What Rick makes here is not a Scotch nor a Bourbon rather a unique American spirit.  He malts his own "Thoroughbred" Barley on site which was created by the Small Grains department in Virginia Tech, Blacksburg Virginia.  A local farmer named Billy Dawson of Bay’s Best Feed in Heathsville, Va now grows the barley for them in bulk.  The next major difference they do than other distilleries is when the barley is in the kiln, instead of flavoring the grain with peat, he is using toasted Virginia grown apple and cherry wood chips.  The product is aged in charred American oak barrels where further "chipping" insues as toasted wood chips steep in the aging whisky like bags of tea.

What you end up with is a whisky that is sweet, fruity, hot and packed with smokey wood tones that completely set it apart from anything else on the market.

While in Cape May for my Birthday last year, Mary bought me a rye whisky making barrel kit by Wasmund's.  I barreled my first aged spirit November 12th 2009.

In between this time I made a decision to get Dad his own barrel for his birthday (With the plan on taking him to the Wasmund's distillery).  I asked him if he ever owned a distillery what would he call it and he told me he'd call it Gray Fox so I found an old Kojima Fox Logo (I'm still a big video game nerd!) and searched for a place that made barrels and came across one that luckily is located in Manassas so I didn't even have to get it shipped to my house.  I wish I brought my camera to this place, these guys have a really interesting warehouse and they actually make the barrels for Wasmund's as well so it was totally perfect.  You can buy essences of things that you can put in your barrel to make your own versions of anything from Absinthe (with real wormwood in it!), Southern Comfort to Maker's Mark or Glenlevit and everything in between it.

Dad absolutely loved it!

The tour at Wasmund's was absolutely fascinating.  The whole family had such a great time and there was something for everyone along the way up there.  Historical Sperryville had stuff for the civil war buffs, Thorton's Grille was a total foodie's delight, the Blue Ridge Mountains and farms for my wife and the antique shops along the way for the whole family.  The distillery though was great, we met the whole Wasmund family and got to walk through everything.  We tasted the barley as it was malting on the floor, sampled corn for a future 'bourbon mash' style whisky they are experimenting with right now, smelled and handled the apple and cherry wood chips from the hot smoking kiln room (top and bottom) to the barrels and stills to the tiny barrel house in the back.

They could only let us smell the spirit from the barrel but not taste as Virginia has laws preventing you from doing it.  The bottle is sealed with a wax top which they apparantly fulfill by using this old crockpot! 

We picked up some of his latest batch (Number 38) and he signed some bottles & barrels for us then we were on our way.

Saturday, April 24th I bottled the rye spirit (Rick Wasmund said that he thought it'd be perfect right now) and I just barreled a new Wasmund's single malt spirit that I will probably age till the end of summer or early fall.

Tasting:  Let me begin by saying that the un-aged rye and single malt 'spirits' aka moonshine are absolutely vile!  They are raw ethanol and are very hard to palate (both are 124 proof!), but inspecting both I was able to still identify that overtly smokey, woody and sweet flavor from those cherry and apple wood chips. 

When tasting the 5 month aged Rye whisky that I made, the ethanol and heat were still very present in the sample.  The fruity notes came a long way out in contrast to the original moonshine and adding a few drops of water completely blew the vanilla and sugary wood into the forefront.  There is a strong sense of cereal which is no doubt due to the rye.  After allowing this one to oxidize and allowing the water to blend with the dram there is a dark cherry, warmed orange marmalade and just struck matches surfacing.  A smell of pipe smoke and jacket makes a subtle appearance as well.  Straight is not for the faint but I have to admit, once cut with a little water, I have not done too bad a job!

Of course, Rick's is better than mine!  Far softer and elegant on both the nose and palate, batch 38 boasts just smoked tobacco and vanilla intermingled by that familiar grilled toasted wood chips, caramel covered spiced apple and cooked fruit flavor that makes it so unique.  There is also a Virginia soil reminiscent thing happening with Wasmund's every time I drink it.  The smell of it reminds me of rural Powhattan Richmond, my Aunt Annette, Uncle Brian, Cousin's Hunter and Michelle's house I'd visit during the summer growing up.  Those late summer days where I'd head over to the gazebo at the foot of there dock ready to jump in a paddle boat and swim over to this anchored floating wood palate that sits in the middle of there lake.  That dock, that floating wood, that oily warm, Virginia summer sticky heat and all the smells of people grilling around us with the flowers and the fruits from people's picnic lunches.  As Rick says on his website, it isn't a whisky that speaks for itself - It SINGS!


Click Here to Visit Wasmund's Distillery Located in Sperryville, VA
Click Here to Visit 1,000 Oaks Barrel Company Located in Mannassas, VA


  1. great post man! the whisky is excellent

  2. Thanks for creating such a wonderful post about us! I'm so happy to see such positive feedback about the tours and the whisky. Please come out to see us again.
    --Chelsea Wasmund

  3. Thank you very much for stopping in and checking out my blog guys! That was very thoughtful, just yesterday I was informing a gentleman about your distillery that didn't know you were there. Told him all about the tour and told him to visit your website. You are making a forward thinking product and I am 100% in your corner! Cheers!