Review: Love Scotch? This Virginia Distillery Might Be Your Best Stateside Alternative.
Courage & Conviction is a Blue Ridge take on a fine single malt
What we’re drinking: Courage & Conviction American Single Malt, first and second batch
Where it’s from: C&C hails from Virginia Distillery Co, a Lovingston, Virginia-based distillery that’s won acclaim for its inventive Virginia-Highland Whisky releases, which marry homegrown single malts with whisky sourced from Scotland — a hybrid then finished in an array of casks (port, cider, chardonnay, etc.).
For their flagship Courage & Conviction, the 100% malted barley release is aged for a minimum of three years in bourbon (50%), cuvee (25%) and Sherry (25%) casks, with the temperature extremes in Virginia allowing for quicker maturing than, say, a like-minded whisky in Scotland (the angel’s share per year at Virginia’s distillery is between 6-12%; it might be 1% for our Scottish friends).
The first release in the Courage line was dedicated to Dr. George G. Moore, the founder of Virgina Distillery. The second batch is an homage to the late Dr. Jim Swan, a whisky legend who essentially mentored every great new distillery located in a warm-weather climate over the last few decades — including Virginia Distillery Co.
Why we’re drinking this: If you geek out on whisky, Virginia Distillery’s site showcases a ridiculous amount of info on each release, from a complete breakdown of each barrel type to fill/dump dates to graphing the temperatures these barrels underwent every season.
“We had the data in existence already and hadn’t seen any other brands provide that level of depth in their product information,” explains Gareth H. Moore, Virginia Distillery Company’s CEO. “We wanted to share the full distillation, maturation and sensory data and be fully transparent about what goes into each batch.”
As well, we’re intrigued by the idea of transporting the methods (and pot stills) used to create a great single malt Scotch into the Blue Ridge mountains; the whisky itself is crafted from local spring water and North American-sourced barley and, as mentioned, subject to a unique climate. Add in that array of interesting barrels, and you’ve got a spirit that pulls ideas from the old world but also takes into account its locality while adding a sense of global adventure.
How it tastes: While the two C&C releases (Moore, Swan) appear similar, there are differences. “There are subtle nuances, and we do hold over a portion of the previous batch to assist with building a core profile in each subsequent batch,” explains Moore.
Batch #1 is a light gold in color, with some salted caramel on the nose and lovely spice notes (ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon) and a bit of orange on the palate.
Batch #2, the new Dr. Jim Swan edition, is a shade darker, with heavy notes of butterscotch and fruit (I picked up red berries, Moore suggests grilled peaches). The spice elements we discovered in batch #1 are more prevalent on the finish here.
Overall, in spite of the whisky’s youth, these are bright, complex and unique releases that seem to hit the right notes for fall — they’re a bit strong for summer and maybe not burly enough for cold weather, but the fruit and spice notes suggest an autumnal walk-in-the-woods character (or walk-in-the-woods flask companion).
Fun fact: Wanna try before you buy? The distillery is distributing an impressive 120,000 (50ml) bottles around the U.S. for sampling purposes, in lieu of off-premise tastings.
Where to buy it: Due to the pandemic and changing booze laws, Virginia Distilling Co. was able to adopt a direct-to-consumer model for both in-state delivery and shipments to 37 other states. So go here and get a bottle.
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