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The Story of Copper Fox

Not every school boy builds a whiskey still in chemistry class, but as a teenager in upstate New York, Rick Wasmund did. He always dreamt of running his own business that would sell around the world. After many years spent giving financial advice to others he decided it was time to break free and, one fateful Scotch Whisky tasting later, he decided to take the plunge.

Whilst in Scotland, he was accepted for a six-week, internship at Bowmore Distillery, where in return for board and lodgings he learned to malt barley and the process of whisky production.

When he returned, he went to work laying the groundwork to produce his signature fruitwood-smoked whiskey. In 2004, after a few false starts and a partnership deal with a distillery that fell apart, he finally began to build his Copper Fox Distillery in a former apple packing plant.

As we know, all good things take time…on Jan 1, 2005, he moved into the new distillery building, and began equipping it with its own floor maltings, kiln room, fermenters and pot stills from Vendome. The first malting took place in November 2005 and in Jan 2006 he fired up the stills for the first time. At last, whisky was being produced.

This was whisky that embodied Rick’s main innovations. The flavouring of the malt using the smoke of selected, smouldering fruitwoods (local apple and cherry trees instead of peat.) Rick also began using hand chipped and toasted fruitwood chips in the aging process to add a range of natural flavours, a technique widely used in winemaking but not in the whisky world. His other innovation was he use of a strain of barley developed at Virginia Tech’s seed development farm and grown by local Northern Neck farmer, Billy Dawson. The whisky is aged in old Virginia Gentleman barrels continuing the ‘spirit of Virginia’ and is never chill filtered to preserve the complete flavours and essence of this local grain.

Recent expansion has brought in ferment capacity to run the stills every day and the range has expanded to include both single malt and rye whiskies. The rye has a unique mash bill of 2/3 rye, again from Virginia, and 1/3 of Rick’s special malted and smoked barley. Although the copper spirit pot still can only produce one barrel at a time, the new capacity does mean that the distillery output should soon exceed ten thousand cases of spirit.

 

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