In the words of the late, great Tom Petty, the waiting is the hardest part. And when it comes to aging whiskey, there’s a lot of waiting involved.
At Virginia Distillery Company in Lovingston, Virginia, they’re patiently waiting for their signature product – an American single malt whisky made with locally sourced water and malted barley – to finish mellowing out in sherry, cuvée, and bourbon casks. They expect it to be ready in 2020.
In the meantime, the distillery folks aren’t just staring at the casks and periodically glancing at their watches. The company’s Virginia-Highland whiskies combine single malt whisky made in their Blue Ridge Mountains distillery with aged single malt whisky imported from Scotland. The blend is then aged in wine, cider, or beer casks from Virginia wineries and breweries.
The resulting whiskies are fairly unique in that they’re young products with regional roots that also possess the qualities of a traditional aged scotch.
The good folks from Virginia Distillery Company were kind enough to send me a couple of samples, and today we’ll try out chardonnay cask-finished whisky.
Chardonnay Cask Finish
For this expression, the whisky rests for 8 to 20 months in casks sourced primarily from Virginia wineries.
On the Nose
The chardonnay influence is apparent right from the start. Big notes of apple, pear, and lemon. More subtle are some chocolate notes.
On the Palate
The fruit-fest continues. Apple and pear are joined by grassy, heathery notes, along with oak, vanilla, and a hint of maple. Creamy and fairly smooth.
The smoothness quickly gives way to a full, hot finish. It’s the only part of the experience that isn’t satisfying.
A few drops of water serve to cool down the finish and give the whisky a more dynamic mouthfeel, while also bringing out some of the chocolate notes that are apparent at the start.
For a cocktail, I wanted to use ingredients that would complement the whisky’s fruity chardonnay flavors while bringing the vanilla and chocolate notes to the fore. I turned to Aperol for a floral, citrusy bitterness, and my own orange cordial to provide touch of sweetness.
This might sound like a whole lotta orange, but the Aperol pairs well with the whisky and brings out some of its earthier flavors.
2 oz Chardonnay cask whisky
½ oz Aperol
½ oz orange cordial (homemade, but Dry Curaçao would work well)
3 generous dashes Fee Brothers Aztec chocolate bitters
Stir with ice, strain into a chilled coupe glass. Garnish with an orange twist.
Note: I received a complimentary bottle of Virginia Distillery Company Chardonnay Cask-Finished Virginia-Highland whiskey for the purpose of writing a product review. No one from or associated with Virginia Distillery Company influenced this content.
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