In the book I’m writing about bourbon, I recommended creating a tasting session comparing bourbons from different states. Although 95% of bourbon is made in Kentucky, it can be made anywhere in the USA. I’ve seen bourbon from states as diverse as Utah, Iowa, Montana, and Louisiana, so it stands to reason that states close to Kentucky, like Tennessee and Virginia, also produce bourbon. Given that most use local grain and water, you may find that your newest favorite bourbon comes from Virginia instead of Kentucky!
My chance to make a comparison came with the arrival of a bottle of Deep Creek Reserve Bourbon from Deep Creek Distilling in Chesapeake, Virginia. Chesapeake’s known for its bay, not to mention the delightfully-named Dismal Swamp Canal. Would the proximity of both salt and swamp water add anything to a bourbon made here?
Deep Creek Reserve Bourbon is very much a local bourbon, using purified local water and corn, rye, wheat, and malted barley from a Virginia farm claiming to be the oldest working farm in the United States (although several others from around the country also claim that distinction). The spirit is aged in select barrels from the Appalachian Mountains at 120 proof (60% ABV) and matured in the rickhouse for three to five years. The bourbon is then bottled at 90 proof (45% ABV), with the distiller bottling the bourbon in small batches. Since each batch is slightly different, each bottling has uniquely distinguishing characteristics.
This bottle of Deep Creek Reserve Bourbon has a nose of honeyed sweetness, though far less sweet than many Kentucky bourbons. It has the delightful aroma of a Scotch single malt – it’s definitely a classy bourbon. The same goes for the palate – honey and an extra “oomph” from the 45% ABV. Behind the honey are the expected tastes of caramel, followed by oak and vanilla. There’s some nuttiness, too, and the spicy notes of a mash bill high in rye, though there’s no note describing the grain ratio.
If I were tasting this blind it would make me think of the Scottish Highlands and a Speyside whisky like Speyburn, Glen Grant, or Glenfiddich. That shouldn’t be surprising as Virginia has a significant Scottish heritage, and this drink combines the best of Scottish whisky and bourbon, too.