Whiskey Reviews: Copperworks American Single Malt #39 And #40

, | May 17, 2022

Editor’s Note: These whiskeys were provided to us as review samples by Copperworks Distilling. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review. It should also be noted that by clicking the buy link towards the bottom of this review our site receives a small referral payment which helps to support, but not influence, our editorial and other costs.

What’s a new way you can help protect waterways and save salmon? By drinking the first-ever Salmon-Safe whiskey! The Copperworks American Single Malt Whiskey #39 is produced from grain grown in a way that protects the watersheds and rivers that salmon need to survive. This is the first whiskey made from ingredients grown with the Salmon-Safe certification.

Copperworks distilled the Release No. 039 from 100% barley grown by HT Rea Farming in Walla Walla, a region well known for its wine but less so for its other agricultural products. HT Rea Farming is a fourth-generation, family-owned farm based in Milton-Freewater, Oregon, that manages land on both sides of the Columbia River.

To be considered Salmon-Safe, HT Rea Farming created buffers and minimized tilling to restrict runoff and erosion. For Copperworks, HT Rea Farming grew the barley type Genie without irrigation. Genie is a two-row spring barley that produces above average yields when grown without irrigation in the Pacific Northwest, according to studies performed by Washington State and Oregon State Universities. LINC Malt in Spokane malted the Genie barley.

Owner and founder Jason Parker transitioned from brewing at various well-known Seattle locales such as Red Hook and Pyramid to found his own distillery not far from Pike’s Place. He drew heavily from the Scottish tradition, setting up shop in a maritime-influenced city with custom-made copper pot stills. Although the whiskies are crafted according to Scottish single malt traditions, there’s an obligatory American twist (American-grown malt and oak).

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A founding member of the American Single Malt Commission, Copperworks, much like neighbors Westward in Seattle and Westland in Portland, has gone beyond the basic requirements of the Commission and has experimented with locally sourced grains. Like Westland, too, Copperworks considers itself a brewery first: making Scotch Ale and Pale Ale that’s distilled and aged into whiskey. The whiskey was distilled and aged for 36 months in new charred American oak barrels. The second whiskey is sold out, but is a single cask bottling of Copeland barley grown in Skagit Valley in Washington State. The grain was smoked with Washington State peat. Only 201 bottles were produced.

Copperworks Distilling’s Whiskey Release 039

Copperworks Distilling’s Whiskey Release 039 (image via Copperworks Distilling)

Tasting Notes: Copperworks American Single Malt Whiskey #39

Vital Stats: Aged for three years in new charred American oak, 50% ABV, mash bill: 100% non-irrigated, Salmon-Safe malted barley, SRP $59.89/750ml bottle.

Appearance: This whiskey is moderate amber with a golden honey and green undertone.

Nose: The nose here is moderate in strength, opening with some chemical and industrial notes that suggest peat, such as wet wool and Vaseline. I had to revisit this a few times as the industrial note bordered on unpleasant when first opened. With time and oxygen, this, or at least I, have come around. Underneath the opening notes, there are pungent fruit notes like apple juice, overripe pears, and yellow pineapple. It has a musty note like old library books with a hint of champagne vinegar, brown sugar, dried lemon zest, and tropical hard candies in the background.

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Palate: The whiskey is light and airy on the palate. It has a tropical aroma like fresh hops and candied lemon peel. The tannins are very mild. This is a very tropical and fruit-forward whiskey on the palate, which contrasts nicely with the chemical aromas. I pick up notes of candied pineapple, banana peel, celery salt, and melted dark chocolate. The finish is hoppy, like a West Coast IPA with lingering notes of raw sugar and dark chocolate.

Score: 4.5/5

Tasting Notes: Copperworks American Single Malt Single Cask Whiskey #40

Vital Stats: Aged for five years in new charred American oak, 65.5% ABV, mash bill: 100% malted barley, SRP $76.49/ 750ml bottle.

Appearance: This whiskey is deep brown, almost bordering on mahogany in color.

Nose: The aroma is more intense than the No. 39 with concentrated notes of glue, English hard cider, matchsticks, and iodine. It leans sour in aroma, like a fine drinking vinegar. Ripe pear and vanilla extract are evident.

Palate: This, too, is light and airy on the palate with a stronger peppery sense from the higher proof. The tannins are a touch stronger. The flavor on the palate is a mix of sweet, spicy, and chemical. There are notes of sour cherries, yellow peaches, golden toast, roasted corn, and fresh paint. I detect a faint smokiness like bacon fat on the finish. The peat profile is distinctive from Scottish peated whiskies, with a more sulfurous and truly smoky aroma. It’s balanced well against the fruit profile.

Score: 4/5

Final Thoughts

These are intriguing and well crafted spirits, though I found the Copperworks American Single Malt Whiskey #39 better not only for its flavor profile but also for its environmentally-friendly production. The hop-like aromas are so unusual in whiskey as to add interest and it’s smoother on the palate. Copperworks American Single Malt Single Cask Whiskey #40 is a fabulous and compelling spirit worthy of savoring if you are so able.

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Suzanne Bayard

Suzanne Bayard struck out to the West Coast with her now husband almost a decade ago to explore the intersection of wine and policy in its world-class wine regions. She manages a Portland, OR bottle shop by day as the wine buyer and newsletter editor. She is also the Director...