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  • Writer's picturePeter Miles

Copper Fox and Reservoir Limited Editions Tasted!

Virginia’s Reservoir and Copper Fox Limited Editions.

Every distillery has its core range of whiskies, its bread, and butter. Among those is likely to be their ‘flagship’ whisky, the one distinctive bestselling whisky that has established their reputation.

Some distilleries are happy enough producing just these core whiskies, with new ones few and far between.

Then you have those distilleries, where they just cannot stop experimenting, though ‘tinkering’ might be a better word. One of the outcomes, if the experiment is deemed successful enough, is the release of a ‘limited edition’, normally sold at a premium price.

There are two main stages of whisky making that are ripe for experiments, the grain mix, and the maturation. It is in the maturation that offers the most serious options for whisky experimentation. The use of new or used wooden barrels to mature or mellow the whisky has a long and complex history that is still being written. Suffice to say here, the concept of maturing in one ‘basic’ barrel and then ‘finishing’ in another more ‘exotic’ barrel has become increasingly common over the last few decades.

Today we taste two such whiskies produced here in Virginia. The first is the Reservoir Holland’s Milkman and the second is the Copper Fox Cognac Finished Rye.

Reservoir Holland’s Milkman

See previous blogs for some background on this distillery. This is the third style (?) in the Holland series. The base of these whiskies is the ‘Holland’ bourbon blend of 70% corn, 15% wheat, and 15% rye. The Milkman follows up post blending with finishing in a 53-gallon barrel previously used for aging Ardent’s Milk Stout.

Ardent is a neighboring brewery in Richmond’s Scott’s Addition neighborhood and Milk Stout is a traditional English Style beer containing milk sugars (lactose) that provide a rich creamy and sweeter taste than dry stouts such as Guinness. They were the original ‘liquid lunches’ for English workers, who poured some milk into their stouts for nourishment, back in the 1800s. You have heard of stout finished in bourbon barrels, now we have bourbon finished in Stout barrels.

Basics: A 70% corn, 15% wheat, 15% rye blend. Each individually matured in ¼ barrels for around 1-2 years and then blended and finished in a single Milk Stout barrel for another year. ABV = 53.5%, Batch 2 - 2020 , Bottle 89 of 144, NAS, $125/750ml bottle

Color: Mahogany: 1.6 (Whisky Magazine Scale)

Swirl: Looks high viscosity, with distinct and large ‘legs’ running down the glass.

Nose: Strong and earthy, with aromatic spices, dried dates, crushed nuts, cloves, and exotic woods. Pungent and foreboding. Very unusual.

Taste: Follows up on the aroma, very rich with wood tones, cinnamon, cloves again, and other spices to the fore, hints of smoke, hints of mulled dry cider, and unsweetened tea. Almost ‘medieval’ somehow.

Finish: The taste goes on forever.

Verdict: Extraordinary stuff. Not a comfort whisky or daily sipper, but if your brain needs a jolt this will do the trick. No idea how you get this kind of flavor profile from that kind of mash bill and finishing barrel.

Copper Fox Cognac Finished Rye.

Again, see previous blogs for some background on this traditional distillery. Copper Fox produces a range of rye’s including a great port-style finish and this, a cognac barrel finished version. The use of a cognac barrel is an interesting move away from the usual port and sherry finish but has been seen in recent years along with Rum barrel finishing for selected bourbon and scotch products. However, I could only find a couple of other examples of a cognac barrel-finished rye, one from Sagamore Spirit and the other from High West.

Basics: The base rye has an unusual 2/3 rye and 1/3 malted barley mash bill. The maturation is achieved initially in a bourbon barrel with smoked fruitwood and oak wood chips added, then a second bourbon barrel, and then into a used cognac barrel for 4 years. ABV =50%, Batch R. NAS, and at $185 for a 750ml bottle, this is one of the more expensive ryes I have tasted.

Color: Auburn: 1.5 (Whisky Magazine Scale)

Swirl: Delicate in the glass, with a fine ring and narrow ‘legs’ running down the glass.

Nose: Polished wood with hints of dried fruit on a spice background. Perfectly seamless and wonderfully sophisticated

Taste: Relaxed and very smooth, coating the tongue with a subtle fruit sweetness and some wood tannins, then the rye spices gradually build with some nice warmth, but never gets fiery. Decadent and very well balanced for a rye.

Finish: Medium to long length with the rich fruit and spices gradually fading away.

Verdict: A very sophisticated yet easy-to-drink whisky. One to offer the boss when she visits for dinner.

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