COURAGE & CONVICTION
Batch: Dr. George G. Moore (2020)
MASH BILL – 100% malted barley
PROOF – 92
AGE – 3+ years in used sherry, cuveé and bourbon casks
DISTILLERY – Virginia Distillery Company
PRICE – $85
BUY AGAIN? – Very glad to have this bottle, and I’ll indeed get another when it’s a few years older.
In response to my notes on a Westward American Single Malt posted this past July, a reader of this blog suggested I give this new American single malt from Virginia Distillery Company a try. I looked it up and was immediately impressed by the level of transparency presented on the distillery’s website. There was everything from the expected—age statements, mash bills, the casks used for aging, its being non chill filtered—to unexpected minutia like exact milling and fermentation data, precise number of each barrel type used in the blend, a chart of temperature fluctuations in weather over the aging periods, changes in the amount of proof gallons in the barrels from start to finish…
I had never seen this level of transparency from any distillery. Ever. I ordered a bottle of Courage & Conviction that very day.
At uncorking, I wasn’t terribly impressed. It was not bad. It tasted young and fairly familiar—strong but not deep, complicated without yet achieving complexity. But I’ve experienced innumerable whiskies that made a mediocre first impression at uncorking, only to then air out into something much better, even incredible, occasionally spectacular. So I let the bottle sit for a couple weeks.
Here now in brief are notes taken two weeks after uncorking and three pours into the bottle, tasted in a traditional Glencairn.
COLOR – a nice soft yellow, with glints of porch-light amber, picking up and refracting other colors nearby
NOSE – very fragrant, the aromas reach out of the glass and across the table, peaches and cream, fruity in a way I associate with Irish whiskey, nicely blending the diverse cask influences with the malted barley
TASTE – malty, fruity, floral, a bit of lemon zest in some almost tart caramel, a nice red fruitiness from the sherry and cuveé casks, strong vanilla from the bourbon casks, and a crisp minerality that comes from I don’t know what
FINISH – warm and tingly, with the bright lemon-zesty caramel and vanilla notes gently fading alongside nice chocolate malt notes, everything very soft but with a crisp edge around it
OVERALL – though literally young, it’s quite mature in its sensibility and complexity, offering a rich and refreshing experience
I am so glad I let this air out a bit. Just two weeks and a couple pours in, it’s a radically different experience than at uncorking. The young whisky seems to have matured rapidly with time and air. Tasted blind I might have guessed it to be an Irish whiskey. Something in the combined cask maturation brings back sense-memories of past Redbreast and Red Spot bottles I’ve enjoyed.
There is a young brashness to it, with the depth of integration between flavors still seemingly in process. But that is tempered by a depth from the blending. It makes me reflect on the difference between age and maturity. A person can be very young yet very mature. A person can also be even quite old yet not terribly mature. Age does not guarantee depth or breadth any more than youth guarantees shallowness. This whisky captures something of these paradoxes—young in years and in some respects rough around the edges, yet full of multiple intelligences and insights.
On some sips the edginess I get from this single malt conjures raw wood splinters, and yet on most sips it’s that very pleasing mineral edge one gets from good crisp white wines. So although Courage & Conviction might benefit from the depth of further aging, at 3+ years it has already achieved a notable complexity, offering multiple aromas and flavors in variation as it airs out in the bottle and glass.
Virginia Distillery has produced a very different American single malt than others I’ve tried recently. Westward and Old Potrero are utterly rambunctious in their boldness, for example. By contrast, Courage & Conviction is far more relaxed in its approach. There is variety and intensity of flavor, but it seems more content to sit back patiently rather than hurling itself forward.
The price is significant. Though it’s on par with the other two brands I mentioned, those come at twice the age. So I’ll not likely go for this again until it’s reached the 6-year mark. Given what Virginia Distillery has achieved in only 3+ years, I’m guessing they’ll have something truly stunning on their hands by the time that’s doubled.
In short, Virginia Distillery is definitely an operation to follow. Their transparency is unmatched. Their bottling and labelling is positively statuesque. Their whisky is really good, with room to develop and grow. And this introduction gives me every reason to keep tabs on them as they do.