wife, Angela, became its Chairwoman, and his son, Gareth,
was named CEO. Gareth’s wife, Maggie, is the Chief Experience Officer.
the courage of your convictions’ was a saying George often repeated to friends
and family. His credo became our core principle and the name of our newest
American Single Malt whisky line, Courage & Conviction.” – Virginia Distillery Co.
Three weeks ago, I had the opportunity to participate in a tasting panel hosted by Amanda Beckwith, the distillery’s Lead Blender. It was a chance to
sample six of Virginia Distillery Co.’s expressions.
isn’t the first or second time I’ve encountered Virginia Distillery Co. In
2020, when I was reviewing for Bourbon
& Banter, I had a chance to write about Prelude: Courage
& Conviction and what was then called Virginia-Highland Whisky Port Cask. Interestingly, the Scotch Whisky Association
(SWA) forced the name change, citing that consumers might mistake the Virginia
whisky for being Scotch.
Distilling Co. sources only two-row barley for its distillate. Barrel entry is
125° for its whiskies; the smallest barrels used are 53 gallons.
was sent all six whiskies when I participated in the tasting panel. I took
detailed notes intending to compose a review for each. The results of that #DrinkCurious
one commonality was each whisky was poured neat into a Glencairn glass. Now,
the differences can be revealed.
first expression is Courage
& Conviction American Single Malt Whisky.
This is the distillery’s flagship expression. It carries no age statement, but it
is between five and six years, per Amanda. It is comprised of a distillate of
malted barley, which was aged in former Bourbon barrels (50%), Cuvée casks
(25%), and sherry butts (25%). A 750ml package is about $65.00 and bottled at
46% ABV (92°).
liquid was golden and produced a thick rim. Slow, wavy tears flowed from it.
aroma was fruity with smells of green apple, apricot, and pineapple, which was
joined by a dollop of vanilla. When I drew the air through my lips, I found
Palate: The mouthfeel
had a silky texture. Pineapple, butterscotch, and vanilla formed the front,
with apple, pear, and honey at the midway point. On the back, it tasted of
rum-soaked fruitcake and oak.
Finish: A bit
of oak remained, but butterscotch burst through like the Kool Aid™ Man, and it
didn’t want to let go. As he ran away, the rum-soaked fruitcake closed the show
for a long finish.
Bottle, Bar, or Bust: The
flagship whisky made one heck of an introduction. Flavors melded and shifted
beautifully, and even the proofing was correct. I fell in love with the finish.
A winner for sure; it is well worth the investment and takes my Bottle
second expression is Courage
& Conviction American Single Malt Whisky – Bourbon Cask. It carries no age statement and is made of a
distillate of malted barley aged in undeconstructed former Kentucky Bourbon
barrels. A 750ml package costs about $75.00 and is bottled at 46% ABV (92°).
whisky appears as bright, liquid gold. A medium rim released a wavy curtain of
complicated aroma of green apple, floral, lemon citrus, cookies, and cedar teased
my olfactory sense. Pulling the air through my lips enhanced the vanilla.
whisky had a buttery mouthfeel. The front of my palate discovered vanilla,
apple, and pear. The middle tasted banana, while the back featured charred oak,
clove, and ginger beer.
oak, black pepper, and clove were tamed by vanilla and banana flavors. In all,
it was a long-lasting finish.
Bottle, Bar, or Bust: I found
Bourbon Cask to be much different than the flagship expression. However, it was
still good, just not great. As it commands a $10.00 premium over the flagship,
I rate this a Bar.
third expression is Courage
& Conviction American Single Malt Whisky – Cuvée Cask. It carries no age statement; however, Amanda
indicated it was at least five years. The distillate comes from malted barley, aged
in cooperages that formerly held Spanish and Portuguese wines. Those barrels
were deconstructed and underwent an STR (shaved, toasted, and re-charred)
process. A 750ml package costs about
$75.00 and is bottled at 46% ABV (92°).
in color, Cuvée Cask fabricated a massive rim and wide tears.
nose was complex with smells of raspberry, pineapple, banana pudding, orange
peel, vanilla bean, and baked goods. My mouth found the air to be heavy with
Cask’s texture was rich and thick. Thoughts of a dreamsicle crossed my mind as
the liquid hit the front of my palate. The middle offered sweet tobacco leaf
and leather; at the back, I tasted coffee, almond, and chocolate.
medium-long finish left me with vanilla, leather, clove, and oak.
Bottle, Bar, or Bust: Considering
how much I savored the flagship. Cuvée Cask blew it entirely out of the water. An
audible “Wow” escaped my lips. Everything about this American Single
Malt screamed luxury. It is worth $75.00, perhaps more. Obviously, this snagged
my Bottle rating.
fourth expression is Courage
& Conviction American Single Malt Whisky – Sherry Cask. It carries no age statement and is made of a
distillate of malted barley, aged in Fino, Oloroso, and Pedro Ximénez sherry butts.
A 750ml package costs about $75.00 and
is bottled at 46% ABV (92°). The world-renowned and highly respected Nancy Fraley
was involved in its blending.
whisky presented as a dull gold with a thick rim. Long, crooked legs worked
their way back to the pool.
Nose: As I brought
this glass to my nose, it was as if I entered an orchard with blueberry, strawberry,
plum, and cherry. The fruit was then
drizzled with chocolate. As it worked through my lips, chocolate-covered
raspberries were rather seductive.
buttery mouthfeel led to plum, cherry, and stewed apricot on the front. The middle
of my palate encountered raspberry, almond, and chocolate, while the back
tasted of tobacco, oak, and white pepper.
white pepper I just tasted turned black, accompanied by oak, raspberry, and chocolate.
It was a medium duration.
Bottle, Bar, or Bust: The
fruity notes were expected but far more complex than I had prepared for. I
found the mild-to-sharp spice transition at the end fascinating. I usually love
sherry-influenced whiskies, and Sherry Cask did not disappoint. I’d be thrilled
to have this in my whisky library, so a Bottle rating is well-earned.
From here, we go to the
fifth and sixth expressions. These are produced under the VHW Series
banner. The difference from the Courage & Conviction series is that VHW
uses Virginia Distilling’s distillate and a portion of Single Malt Scotch from
the Highland region.
The fifth pour is VHW
Cider Cask Finished Whisky. The 100% malted barley-aged whisky was finished
in barrels sourced from Virginia cideries, notably Potter’s Craft Cider
and Buskey Cider. The finishing cycle was between eight and 20 months. A 750ml package costs about $40.00 and is
bottled at 46% ABV (92°). Nancy Fraley was involved in its creation.
whisky was the color of pale straw. A microthin rim had to be formed several
times before I could even find it, as thick, wide tears fell immediately.
aroma was raw honey, apple, vanilla, and raisin. Drawing it through my lips
gave me the sensation of apple crisps.
Palate: A thin
and airy consistency rolled through my mouth. The front of my palate tasted apple,
citrus, and honey. The middle offered graham crackers and walnut. Flavors of
cinnamon, dry oak, and leather pulled up the rear.
Finish: A brief
finish featured honey, citrus, dry oak, clove, and cinnamon.
Bottle, Bar, or Bust: I’m a
fan of hard ciders. Aside from a cocktail, it is the only other adult beverage
I drink with any regularity. Cider Cask was meh. It wasn’t bad; it just
wasn’t impressive. At $40.00, you may want to try this one first before
committing to a bottle. That makes my rating a Bar.
Finally, we get to VHW
Port Cask Finished Whisky. The 100% malted barley-aged whisky was then
finished for a year in 70% of barrels sourced from Portuguese bodegas that held
both tawny and ruby port wines and 30% Virginia port-style wine. A 750ml package costs about $40.00 and is
bottled at 46% ABV (92°). This expression also involved Nancy Fraley. There is
no age statement, but it is about seven years, per Amanda.
is the second time I’ve visited the Port Cask Finished Whisky. Spoiler alert:
Three years ago, it earned my Bottle rating. Let’s see how it fared this time.
whisky presented as an orange amber as it formed a thin rim that collapsed into
a wavy curtain.
chocolate attempted to envelop strawberries, cherries, and plums. Those plums
held onto the air as I pulled it into my mouth.
mouthfeel was oily yet dry. I know that’s hard to fathom, but it is what I experienced.
At the front, the whisky tasted of plum, raisin, and strawberry, while at
mid-palate, tobacco and cocoa flavors dried things out. The back offered leather,
coffee, and oak.
Finish: A long,
dry, tingly finish left me with dark chocolate, saltines, French oak, and a
kiss of smoke.
Bottle, Bar, or Bust: After I
tasted the Port Cask and took my notes, I reread my review from 2020 to see if
I found the experience similar. There were a few differences here and there, but
for the most part, my palate remained true. My conclusion is the same; it deserves
every bit of that Bottle rating.
Final Thoughts: Between
the six, I’d rate them in the following order:
Cuvée Cask, Port Cask, Flagship, Sherry Cask, Bourbon Cask, and Cider
My Simple, Easy-to-Understand
- Bottle = Buy It
- Bar = Try It
- Bust = Leave It
Whiskyfellow encourages you
to enjoy your whisky as you see fit but begs you do so responsibly.