Smokin' good Virginia whiskey

SPERRYVILLE, VA -- Virginia has been getting more recognition in recent years for its improving and expanding wine sector. But most students of American history will say "whiskey" well before "wine" when it comes to identifying the Commonwealth's

That's a heritage Rick Wasmund of Rappahannock County is trying to uphold with his own single malt whiskey, about which he's quick to tell anyone who wants to listen, "This whiskey doesn't speak for itself, it sings."

Wasmund's Copper Fox Distillery is located opposite his first business, Copper Fox Antiques, here. It is in the small maze of pots and tubes that he now spends much of his time along with his mother, Helen, and friend Sean McCaskey distilling their whiskey a batch at a time.

What makes Wasmund's whiskey unusual is that he has a different way of insitlling it with a special flavor, somewhat in the manner of Scotch whisky distillers who incorporate the aroma and flavor of peat smoke in their drinks.

As he explained it to a reporter for the Culpeper Star Exponent, "Wasmund stumbled upon his innovation seven years ago while burning some rotting cherry wood, on his property at Pelham farms in Middleton, Virginia. 'It was really just one of those "Eureka" type of moments,' said Wasmund. 'I realized how good the smoke smelled when it struck me that I had never heard of a whiskey made with fruit wood." As Wasmund investigated further, he found that fruit wood had indeed not been used to flavor a whiskey."

That led to a trip to a six-week internship to help produce Scotch at the Bowmore Distillery on the island of Islay. And, that, in turn led to the founding of Copper Fox LLC and a business deal with Virginia Lightning, an existing distillery in Culpeper. The first Copper Fox whiskey was produced but the business partners' deal went bad and still is mired in legal action.

Wasmund and Sean McCaskey re-started the whiskey-making project, using a combination of cherry and apple wood, the smoke from which permeates the whiskey. They distilled their first official batch in January, then called Wasmund's Single Malt Whiskey.

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