Virginia Highland Malt will be our second brand and it brings us a step closer to making single malt in Virginia. Our Eades Double Malt was made entirely in Scotland with three expressions – Islay, Speyside and Highland. Each contained two of the finest single malts finished in complementary wine casks. These gold medal whiskies were truly small batch and have essentially sold out. (You can still buy the last bottles in Massachusetts and New York City.)
Bottling of Eades Double Malt came to an end because single malts can no longer be exported in bulk from Scotland. But, with our Virginia Highland Malt we have a fantastic new malt that we can offer to discriminating whisky drinkers on an ongoing basis.
The Creation of Virginia Highland Malt Whisky
To make this whisky, we started by acquiring an aged, vatted Highland malt from Scotland that was already delicious to drink with complexity and luscious acacia honey and ginger notes. To enhance its quality and to give it the taste of our Commonwealth, we then finished it in French oak wine barrels used to age Virginia port-style wine made at a vineyard a few miles from our distillery.
In acquiring the malt that we would finish, we had several requirements. We wanted Highland malt since that taste profile best predicts what we plan to create at our Virginia Distillery with our own malt distillation. It needed to have some age to provide a nice base. Finally, we had to really like the way it tastes. Fortunately, our Eades brand had provided us with numerous contacts in the Scottish distilling industry to help acquire the needed malt.
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For finishing our whisky we considered barrels from several varietals, but ultimately decided a fortified wine had several advantages: 1) the right flavor notes with complexity not found in most table wines, 2) consistently high quality of the barrels and 3) beautiful rich color.
The three months or so spent in these barrels adds notes of dark chocolate and raspberry jam on biscuits (The kind we make in Virginia; not the ones served with tea in England). In addition it transformed the whisky from the color of chardonnay to a deep, copper color.
Fortunately, we found a great partner in Strong Spirits of Bardstown, Kentucky and the good fortune to be operating in the age of Federal Express. Strong Spirits could store our whisky from Scotland, help finish the first batch in our Virginia wine casks and bottle the finished product. We trucked our 60-gallon wine barrels (ensuring they did not dry out) to Strong’s warehouse.
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Entrusted with the fine whisky from Scotland, we first had to make sure that our concept and barrel choices were good ones. One barrel would be the test. We transferred the spirits and waited for the first weekly four-ounce sample to arrive via FedEx. Good news. No sulphur or other undesirable taste or off odors that sometimes accompany wine barrels, and the whisky’s color was quickly changing -- to a color that at that stage could only be described as pink.
As the months passed and the samples arrived the taste grew more interesting and the color was deepening to copper. After the first few months and multiple trips to the Bluegrass State, we knew we were on the right track and confidently transferred the rest of the whisky to French oak wine barrels used to age Virginia port-style wine.
Our labels will say “Bottled by the Virginia Distillery Company in Bardstown, KY”. Naturally we wish it could have said Lovingston, Virginia, where our distillery is located but we take comfort that Kentucky was originally just western Virginia when Thomas Jefferson was governor and that the next bottling will be in Virginia. (Our license was issued in August, too late to move the operation back to Central Virginia. )
Finding Virginia Highland Malt Whisky
We bottle next week and the first shipments will go to New York City, Washington D.C., Massachusetts and Germany. The suggested retail price will be $54.99. Of course prices will vary. Once again Virginia will have to wait. Since the Commonwealth is a controlled state, we have to present this new whisky to the Virginia ABC for approval and acceptance in October. The earliest it will be on the shelves in Virginia is early 2013. Please wish us luck as we make our application. We are working with a Washington D.C. retailer who ships spirits to make our whisky available to those from other states allowing mail-order alcoholic beverages.
Hope you get one of the first bottles. In fact, I hope they become rare collector’s items by virtue of the fact that we are able to conduct all our future bottling operations in our lovely home in Nelson County, Virginia. No offense to Kentucky by the way. Our home county is named for Governor Thomas Nelson, who reversed the course of the Revolutionary War for Virginia and later chose to move to what is now Kentucky. He has a county named for him there as well. Bardstown is in that Nelson County. So, it’s all in the family. Sort of.
Here’s how you can order our new Virginia Highland Malt Whisky:
Schneider's of Capitol Hill