Chesapeake Bay Distillery: Meet Virginia Makers

Established in 2005, Chesapeake Bay Distillery started with the mission of creating gold medal spirits in the Commonwealth of Virginia. As we cut our teeth with vodka, this mission statement easily translated to creating the cleanest spirits possible. For us, success is achieved through being fanatical about maintaining this standard. As a result, Chesapeake Bay Distillery became Virginia’s first gold and double gold craft distillery.

Keeping it Clean

Clean means everything to us. It starts with the distillery and equipment, from top to bottom. Standards continue into the process. Filtering the mash removes yeast before distillation. We also stack the column on all our products, which allows us to remove the lights, nasties that we do not want to drink!

Molecules that are lighter than alcohol tend to come of the still first as it is heated. This includes methanol and many other congeners. With a boiling point of 148F, methanol is easily collected at the start of a run. Much tougher is ethyl acetate. With an all too familiar smell of nail polish remover, we do not start any collections until all traces are removed.  With a boiling point of 171F compared to ethyl alcohols 173F, great care and time are required to remove this solvent using fraction distillation.

Our Vodka

Vodka is the cleanest of all spirits, and we are extremely thankful to our patrons that appreciate the work that we put into maintaining this pure quality. Carbon filtration is a critical step in making Blue Ridge Vodka. We selected a bituminous coal-based pharmaceutical carbon as the substrate for final purification. We love the subdued notes from the plant materials following their 300-million-year entombment as their vanillin notes are released. But more importantly, proper sizing of the micro fractures created during the carbonization allow us to remove even more congeners that are slightly larger than the ethyl alcohol. Isopropyl alcohol is a main target here. The yeast does an incredible job of creating all of the alcohol that we drink. So, occasional missteps in their production, creating these congeners can be forgiven. However, it is our task to craft their removal in our process.

Our Rum

Rum is considered the dirtiest of all spirits. Consequently, our first efforts tasted a lot like, well, vodka. We reined in our standards to create a comparable clean version, Chick’s Beach Rum.

Starting with organic panela sugar maintains the sweet molasses flavors of a traditional rum. Adding bacteria cultivated on Chick’s Beach creates an array of flavor as byproducts of the inoculation. Stacking the column eliminates many of the congeners common in traditional pot still. After their removal, we switch to a two-plate system. This allows many of the deeper rum flavors to come across. We must ease back on the filtration of the rum, as just a little carbon can clean the spirit without removing the congeners that we desire. Finishing off in oak barrels creates a wonderfully mixable spirit.

Our Bourbon

We are a latecomer to the dark spirits category. Please stop by the distillery tasting room and check out our latest creation, bourbon. Deriving a cleaner version of an American staple was a considerable challenge.  By employing our standard operating procedures, we have created an exception spirit worthy of the Commonwealth. 

Our Growth

Over the last decade, we have witnessed incredible growth in the craft spirits industry led our friends at Culpeper Farms Distillery. When we started in 2005, there were 60 distilleries in the country. It seemed like a lot back then! As we have grown, the industry has exploded featuring over a thousand new distilleries. We welcome new colleagues and most importantly, new patrons that have allowed for this growth. By implementing new production techniques and raw materials, the craft movement and Chesapeake Bay Distillery are creating exceptional spirits that you are appreciating.  Thank you.

Tasting Notes:

Spirits of the Blue Ridge Vodka:
Vanilla taffy, spice cake, and mocha custard aromas follow through on a round entry to a dryish medium body with nice sweet cornbread, honey and pepper notes. Finishes with a lively, clean fade. Very nice corn character shines through.

Ghost Pepper Vodka:
Combining the clean nature of the Blue Ridge Vodka with smoked ghost peppers creates a spicy alternative for Bloody Marys and citrus drinks. Chipotle and pepper aromas flow through the nose and taste. Spice follows through the finish.

Lemon Liqueur:
Five hand squeezed lemons complement a Blue Ridge Vodka base. Limited simple syrup creates a refreshing spirit with a surprisingly clean finish. Brings memories of lemonade on a summer day with a kick!

Blackberry Liqueur:
Twelve ounces of fresh, hand squeezed blackberries and Blue Ridge vodka create this exceptional spirit. Great mouth feel and flavors. Loves to cover vanilla ice cream!

Chick’s Beach Rum:
The nose is intoxicating with higher alcohols and a wisp of molasses. A pleasant flavor of molasses and deeper notes tickle the tongue to a clean finish. An incredible start to your favorite summer drinks.

Chesapeake Bay Distillery Bourbon:
A traditional bourbon nose with high corn character. Great mouth feel and flavor are revealed with an exceptional clean finish.