Virginia Distillery Company: Meet Virginia Makers

Author: Gareth Moore, CEO for Virginia Distiller Company

With one look at a Virginia Distillery Company bottle of whisky, there’s no guessing where our home is. After all, we’re not just making whisky here at Virginia Distillery Company – though that’s a lot of what we do – we’re also realizing a dream.

My father, the late Dr. George G. Moore, had a great passion for two things: single malt whisky and his adopted home of Virginia. After years of building a successful business in both the U.S. and Ireland, he combined those two passions when he founded Virginia Distillery Company in 2011. Since his passing in 2013, I’ve had the opportunity to work with my wife Maggie to carry on his legacy and make a whisky my father would be proud of in beautiful Nelson County, Virginia, a part of Virginia he loved.

Why Nelson County? Well, we think the Blue Ridge Mountains provide the perfect climate for the world’s finest distilling. Unlike Scotland where the temperatures are moderate year-round, the hot summers and cold winters here in Lovingston, Virginia, mean that we see a higher rate of evaporation. The temperature spikes we experience throughout the year mean we draw more complexity out of the barrel in a shorter amount of time than our Scottish counterparts. With Virginia’s hot summers and cool winters, the spirit and oak interact more frequently as the cask expands and contracts. Flavor is developed through this process as the wood pushes nuances into the spirit with each movement. Our new warehouses aren’t temperature controlled, so we can really take advantage of our Virginia climate in everything we do.

Our Virginia Single Malt Whisky is made from 100% malted barley and aged in ex-bourbon, Sherry and treated wine casks that have been resting since November 2015. The resulting product will be an American Single Malt Whisky, produced using malted barley and water from Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains.

Until that time, we’re offering our Port Cask Finished Virginia-Highland Whisky, which arrives as a malt whisky from the Scottish Highlands and is married with our own produced whisky made onsite. The aged whisky is finished in port-style wine casks sourced from local Virginia wineries, like King Family Vineyards and Veritas.

Since we still have a little way to go until our Virginia Single Malt Whisky is ready, we’ve had some time to experiment – both with single barrel releases and with partnerships we’re proud to have developed throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia.

We introduced our first release in the Commonwealth Collection in fall 2016, a series in the distillery’s line up of whiskies featuring a variety of finishes through partnerships with Virginia wineries, cideries and breweries. The first release in the series was a Cider Barrel Matured Virginia Highland Malt Whisky (Cider-Finished), featuring Virginia Highland Malt cask-finished in Potter’s Craft Cider barrels. 

Our second release in the Commonwealth Collection was introduced in May 2017, a Chardonnay Cask Finished Virginia Highland-Whisky, finished in casks coming from Grace Estate Winery, Michael Shaps Virginia Wineworks and Paradise Springs Winery. We’re looking forward to continuing these partnerships across the Commonwealth in the future.

We’ve also been able to give back. In April 2017, we released the Nelson County First Responders Single Cask (Coffee Finished), a whisky dedicated to the hardworking First Responder teams in Nelson County, a group that’s near and dear to our team’s heart. We got to witness the First Responders’ heroic efforts firsthand in November 2016, when there was a forest fire on the hillside behind the distillery. As a thank you to all who responded to assist, we donated the net proceeds from the sale of First Responders whisky to local Nelson County First Responder teams. It’s worth mentioning that this whisky was made possible through another Virginia partnership. Trager Brothers Coffee used an ex-bourbon cask from Virginia Distillery Company and did a cold brew coffee soak. After emptying the coffee from the cask, whisky was added and left to completed finishing for 18 months.

In June 2016, we launched The Virginia Whisky Experience, an offering unique to Virginia Distillery Company that includes a whisky museum, video and production tour. This hour-and-fifteen-minute experience educates guests on the origins of single malt whisky in Scotland as well as in Virginia, and includes a walking tour of the production facility. Visitors can see whisky-making in action, and a tutored nosing of the Virginia Highland Malt is offered as well as seasonally-inspired cocktails in the Visitors Center.

While we love being able to offer such an educational experience onsite, without a doubt, our favorite thing is being able to welcome so many people into the place that we call home.