Founded in 2005, Chesapeake Bay Distillery’s mission is to create spirits of exceptional quality featuring local ingredients and provide value to their patrons. Looks like their mission has already been accomplished; the distillery produces an award-winning ultra-premium vodka and rum lineup that includes Blue Ridge Vodka, Ghost Pepper Infused Vodka, and Chick’s Beach Rum! Thirsty for a bloody mary or mint julep yet?
Formerly located in the industrial corridor of Lynnhaven off of Production Road (about 10 miles inland as the crow flies), owner and distiller Chris Richeson decided to relocate his business and join the growing ViBe Creative District at Virginia Beach Oceanfront. Now at the corner of 17th Street and Baltic Avenue, the distillery is on the site of an old surf shop just blocks away from the oceanfront. After some re-outfitting of the interior, the site is now equipped with a beautiful tasting room and retail space that peers into the production facility, which has a multitude of upgrades for efficiency and increased capacity. The heart of the distillery is their hybrid still, which is capable of producing a 300-gallon batch AND continuous distillation. It’s a necessity for quality vodka and rum production.
Chris is a native to Virginia Beach (if the blond hair and tan didn’t give that away!), and he clearly has an artistic side. This is evident through his frequent support for ViBe Creative District and the 757Collective. Chris also has a technical side; prior to starting the distillery, he worked with Sara Lee in their Beverage division, distilling coffee beans. He also has a background in industrial automation.
Visiting Virginia distilleries often means meeting our makers. Upon arriving to Chesapeake Bay Distillery, odds are you will be greeted with Chris’ warm smile. Pull up to the tasting bar and enjoy a four-part sampling of Chesapeake Bay vodkas and rum, straight or mixed, with a soaring column still behind a glass wall as the backdrop. Since Chris likes to keep things local, he utilizes Willard Ashburn’s Virginia Beach prize-winning bloody mary mixes. For the lemon drops, Chris squeezes lemon juice he freshly makes.
Chesapeake Bay Distillery products are widely distributed at ABC stores around the Commonwealth and carried by many restaurants in the region. Their products can also be purchased at the distillery during your next visit!
Fun Fact: Chesapeake Bay Distillery helps to support local charities such as the Spikes K9 Fund; which helps to care for retiring Special Forces dogs!
*Overview of Chesapeake Bay Distillery Products*
Blue Ridge Vodka (Chesapeake Bay Distillery’s flagship brand): Based on the distillates of regional corn, and GMO and gluten-free, this vodka goes through a unique 3-hour filtration process, rendering a super clean finish with a balance of flavor components from the corn. Blue Ridge Vodka has won a gold medal at the International Tastings Institute.
Ghost Pepper Infused Vodka: The Ghost Pepper Vodka is born from Blue Ridge Vodka. Hand selected, smoked ghost peppers (Bhut Jolokia) are naturally infused, providing the perfect Bloody Mary vodka or a martini for a true pepper head.
Chick’s Beach Rum: This rum was actually started with a bacteria culture harvested on Chick’s Beach. The base material is organic panela sugar, resulting in complex notes.
Photo credit: Jay Paul