Review: VA Distillery Co. and their Port Finished Virginia Highland Malt
VA Distillery Co. Port Finished Virginia Highland Malt Whisky
Single Malt Whisky aged and sourced from Scotland - Finished in USA
Batch #4 375 ML. Distillery Direct
Batch By Design 750 ML. Loch & K(e)y Exclusive Bottling
To begin, I don’t think I have enough good things to say about this distillery, the company and the concept behind their introductory and flagship bottle of their Port Finished Highland Malt Whisky. For anyone who may not bury themselves into this (sometimes very confusing) whisky world as much as I do, or not yet familiar with this company, an explanation of what makes a “Virginia Highland Malt” may be in order. In short, the distillery sources Single Malt Scotch from the Highland region of Scotland and further ages it a bit longer here in the USA using ex Port-style wine barrels from Virginia wineries before it is finally bottled up and sold to us. It cannot legally be called Scotch since it wasn’t completely produced in Scotland, but does not quite qualify as an American single malt either since it wasn’t born here.Thus, you have a Virginia Highland Malt. For an up and coming distillery getting on its feet and waiting for its own produced spirit to age into whisky this is nothing short of brilliant, at least by my whisky business standards.
Even though I had already picked up a bottle of this whisky that was an exclusive for the Loch and K(e)y Society I decided to purchase another (knowing it would likely be at least a little different) straight from the distillery after paying a visit and taking a tour. So here I thought it only right to offer up and compare them both and for this writeup. Dare I say shootout?
Batch #4: Distillery tasting notes - “On the nose, caramel notes mingle with darker tones of dried fig and raisin, along with slight vanilla and barrel spice. On the palate, a balanced finish appears, with a hint of cocoa, toffee and toasted oak.”
For me the fig note is one of the first characters I find on the nose. Soft at first but with a little bit of time to let it open up it becomes clearer and clearer with cinnamon and baking spices following that rich dark fruit Port-style aroma. A drop of water brings more spice to the top and opens the whisky a bit more. Hearty and bold, but still delicate enough to pick the layers apart from each other. Very nice!
Batch By Design L & K Exclusive: With a smaller and limited bottling such as this there are no official tasting notes able to be easily found. But, I can tell you the folks behind L & K certainly know how to pick ‘em. While the distillery’s own Batch 4 was a marriage of whisky that was finished in barrels from five different VA wineries, this Batch By Design bottling only used a marriage of four. For those not as familiar with this kind of practice essentially L & K and other high end retail shops are given the opportunity to pick out and choose their “recipe” of whisky that they’ll sell as their own exclusive. Sometimes it is a marriage such as this while often other times, depending on the distillery and type of whisk(e)y, it can be one individual and specific barrel that is picked to be bottled.
I digress... While all the depth and richness of the darker fruits are there with a bit of that lovely fig note, there is a surprising bit of tropical sweetness over the top with this bottle that gives a very nice brightness. Raisins, banana and baking spices all mix up wonderfully together leaving a great finish. However, with a tiny drop of water, everything becomes amplified, especially the tropical and spice aromas. A truly great whisky!
In the end I do love them both with each offering its own unique profile. But... if this was to be an official shootout and I had to name a winner. The L & K would be it. Opportunities for exclusive bottlings like this are a fantastic way to find yourself something with that little extra pop, and this one is certainly a prime example!
As a lover Scotland (and their whisky of course) I am vey happy to see the time and care being given by the VA Distillery company to pay homage, produce, and educate their customers on whisky, how it’s done across the pond, and how they are now putting their own twist on it while keeping its integrity. Bottom line, I have a feeling that we will all be seeing a lot of great things to come from these guys and if you find yourself in VA and within visiting distance of the distillery, do yourself a favor and pay them a visit. You’ll be glad you did!
In the mean time find yourself a bottle of their Port Finished Virginia Highland Malt or their other releases that are starting to make themselves available and enjoy!
More information about Virginia Distillery Co. can be found at www.vadistillery.com