Distiller: Copper Fox. ABV: 48%. Age: 14 months. Price: $40-45.
Virginia’s Copper Fox Distillery has been at the American single malt game for a while, relatively speaking: their Wasmund’s Single Malt first hit shelves in 2007. The distillery’s trademark is using fruit woods both to smoke their grain, and in maturation (wood chips in the barrel). We recently reviewed their Copper Fox Rye (see axisofwhisky.com), which I think works wonderfully. There seems to be something about the natural robustness and spice of rye grain that often works well with unusual finishes–see High West’s Midwinter Night’s Dram, etc.
So what about the Wasmund’s Single Malt? It’s made with all Virginia barley, aged a mere 14 months with the aforesaid apple and cherry wood chips in the barrel, and bottled at a healthy 48% ABV. On the nose: smoked prunes. Bitter orange. A little murky, a little syrupy. And there’s a rubbery note that I struggled to identify until it hit me right between the eyes: fresh tennis ball!
Palate: wow. There’s a lot going on here. Tons of clove. Wet cinnamon stick. Vanilla bean. Citrus, but also on the dry side. Heavy body. With the super-saturated flavors, this nearly shades toward an amaro. The finish adds black pepper and orange rind.
Overall, it strikes me as a fine argument for American single malt as a genre all its own, one that revels in wildness and unpredictability. I enjoyed this most drinking it not alongside Scottish single malts, or even more traditional, scotch-style Americans, but as a sui generis sipper. It definitely deserves attention from adventurous mixologists too: it’s got body, punch, and a ton of citrus and spice elements to play with.
Here’s to breaking the mold, friends! Cheers! -BO