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  • Writer's picturePeter Miles

'Courage and Conviction' Components

Virginia Distillery’s Bourbon, Sherry, and Cuvee Component Single Malts.

Virginia Distillery Company released their flagship American Single Malt whisky, named ‘Courage and Conviction’ in 2020. This whisky is a blend of three different maturation barrel types, 50% ex-Bourbon, 25% ex-Sherry and 25% ex-Cuvee wine barrels. (Cuvee, as used here, is a term applied to a winery’s premium blend of red wines from their own red grape varietals. Their ‘crème de la crème’ so to speak).

Take a look back in this blog for a review of ‘Courage and Conviction’ from around that date.

As a leader in this new whiskey category the Virginia Distillers ‘Courage and Conviction’ product has gained a lot of attention. Around 2022, they also released bottlings from each of the individual barrel types that make up the blend. The ABV is 46% on all versions.

Having the ‘flagship’ on the shelf I have now also managed to get my hands on samples of all three components, so I thought I would do a comparative tasting.

Ex-Bourbon Barrel: The lightest color of the three as you might expect. The nose is very delicate, clean with a faint aroma of toasted grains. The taste profile is crisp, yet delightfully clear of any phenols often associated with younger bourbon cask single malts. Some melon, vanilla and a touch of caramel come through together with the faintest hints of apple peel. Smooth and reserved on the tongue. Overall it is subtle and sophisticated. Verdict: Right in my wheelhouse.

Ex-Sherry Barrel: Significantly darker in color. Not surprisingly, the nose is richer. Berry and orchard fruit notes but faintly musty. There is also a vague ‘cooked green veggies’ overlay. The taste profile is dominated by a ‘dry sherry’ flavor, balanced by some berry sweetness. However, an astringent ‘viney’ note emerges. It reminds me a lot of a cheap MacCallan. Verdict: Sorry, some may like it, but I am not a fan.

Ex-Cuvee Barrel: Slightly darker still than the Sherry version. A very pleasant red wine aroma. On the palette this version has more body and viscosity than the other two, leading to an excellent mouth coating feel. Dark berries and a touch of spice. Some hints of wood sugars. Distinct natural sweetness and smoother than the sherry version. A very drinkable whisky. Verdict: Makes a great dessert whisky.

The Flagship Blend: The subtle nature of the bourbon cask component is easy to overwhelm on blending and I think that has happened to a small extent with the ‘flagship’ 50/25/25 blend. It is however, not a bad balance. After playing around with blending these whiskies, I would personally favor leaving out the Sherry component altogether and blending a 2/3 bourbon and 1/3 cuvee whisky. This preserves the subtle bourbon profile at its core but adds a very compatible, restrained overlay of smooth, red wine richness for greater complexity. Ideally leave the blend in a 'marrying vat' for a month or two before bottling.

Latest and greatest: More recently Virginia Distillery has added premium 5 yr old single barrel, uncut versions of these component whiskies to their range. I suspect that these would be very interesting to try if you want to shell out around $150/bottle.

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