It’s the preferred drink of industry titans, kings, and presidents. Connoisseurs of the smooth, amber liquid have included Winston Churchill, Abraham Lincoln, Frank Sinatra, and Mark Twain, who once said, “Too much of anything is bad, but too much good whiskey is barely enough.” Whiskey’s origin traces back more than 1,000 years, when migrating monks carried their distilling skills to Scotland and Ireland. Over the centuries, men have called upon the magical elixir to numb and heal—at other times, to muster the courage to propel themselves into battle.
Whiskey, in its many forms, rides hand-in-hand with huntsmen and ardent sports fans alike. A Mint Julep at the Kentucky Derby, a dram of Glenfiddich after a day of shooting, a Jack & Coke in the shadow of Death Valley. No matter the competition, the refinement of this favored spirit is making waves deep in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
When distilling spirits, the trickiest step is knowing when to cut the heads, hearts, and tails. Separate the good from the bad. Cull the headache-inducing swill, from the tongue-watering savory. As America’s craft micro-distilling boom hits a decade in age, critics are doing the same. One spirit manufacturer continuously makes the “hearts” list: Virginia Distillery Company. “I’ve always had a good taste for whiskey. It’s become my passion,” admits CEO Gareth Moore. “Whiskey is something that has to be slowly distilled, with a lot of folks working together, using patience and persistence, to create a great product. My father would be very proud.”
Gareth is a first-generation Irish American, following through with his father’s quest to create a fine, single malt whisky. Dr. George Moore purchased some equipment and property in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains in 2011, but sadly passed away before a first batch matured.
Since 2015, the distillery has been producing an award-winning Virginia-Highland series, blending its homemade whisky with whisky from Scotland. This fall, with Prelude: Courage and Conviction, Dr. Moore’s dream has become reality. Virginia Distillery is debuting its first product made 100 percent on-site from malted barley—which makes it a Scottish-style single malt. “Being an Irishman, my dad was full of good stories and interesting sayings,” reveals Gareth, George’s only son. “He always said to have ‘the courage of your convictions.’ If you have conviction in something, a deep-standing belief and you think you’re right, then let that fuel your actions. Let that be your courage. We named our flagship single malt for him.”
Gareth and team, which includes his mother, mentors, and distillery director Ian Thomas, call upon old-world mastery with new-world technology to produce their whisky. Virginia’s hot summers and cool winters influence the aging process beyond Scotland’s cooler climate, which adds nuances to each offering. In addition, the whisky is aged for no less than three years in sherry, bourbon, and Cuvée wine casks. The different wood profiles deliver notes of caramel, butterscotch, spice, and vanilla to Courage and Conviction.
The varying casks also bring opportunity. “We now have our flagship single malt whisky,” shares Thomas. “Beyond that, we have the flexibility to showcase the different cask types and different flavors with selected blends, limited-edition releases, and single-cask releases. We want to showcase single malt and what it’s capable of.”
Gareth can’t help but smile, knowing his late father would be pleased. “He would treat this like a child,” the devoted son says nodding. “He’d be very proud of creating it, knowing all the hard work that goes into making it. Immigrants bring their traditions and recreate them here. This is a tradition I’m proud to be a part of.”
Virginia Distillery Co. whiskies are available in Greenville at All About Spirits and Bouharoun’s Fines Wines & Spirits, along with Harvard’s Liquor & Wine and All American Liquor in Greer. For more information, visit vadistillery.com.