Whiskey Review: Copper Fox Rye - The Whiskey Wash

Whiskey Review: Copper Fox Rye

Copper Fox Rye

Copper Fox Rye. Photo by Margarett Waterbury, copyright The Whiskey Wash.

Founded in 2005, Copper Fox Distillery is, if not exactly venerable, at least of a certain age when compared to other American craft distilleries. And after more than a decade in business, they’re expanding in a big way.

Earlier this year, Copper Fox opened a second distillery in Williamsburg, Virginia, one of the state’s top tourist destinations. The facility is spread across nine buildings that once comprised a historic motel, and will include separate buildings for malting, distilling, aging, and bottling (and, of course, a tasting room). According to founder Rick Wasmund, the new facility will quadruple Copper Fox’s capacity.

Despite the changes, Copper Fox is sticking with their core product line: mostly whiskeys made from own-malted grain and incorporating fruit woods using various methods, including fruit wood smoked grain and fruit wood chips used in aging.

Copper Fox Rye is no exception. This 17-month-old release is made from a two-thirds rye, one-third malted barley mash bill, with the malted barley component consisting of 60% applewood smoked malt, and 40% cherrywood smoked malt. It’s double-distilled on copper pot stills, and aged using “a progressive series of new and used apple wood and oak chips inside used bourbon barrels, and finished in a second used bourbon barrel,” according to the label. Copper Fox Rye is not chill filtered (in fact, none of Copper Fox’s spirits are), and my sample was bottled on March 1, 2016.

Tasting Notes: Copper Fox Rye Whisky

Vital Stats: 90 proof, 17 months old, 2/3 rye and 1/3 malted barley. Retails around $47 for a 750ml bottle.

Appearance: Deep copper

Nose: This smells nice! Lots of dry, crisp notes of rye grain – pumpernickel bread crust, cracked black pepper, and cinnamon stick. The smoke comes through as a clean, crackling campfire built out of dry, slightly resinous wood.

Palate: Also yummy. Lots of cinnamon, but without that false, Atomic Fireball kind of cinnamon quality found in many craft ryes. The malted barley is definitely detectable, and a bit raw tasting, but instead of reading as musty it provides a nice sweet background for the rye to play against. The finish is subtly herbaceous, with a peppery snap and ginger heat. Sweet char emerges in the somewhat hot and ashy finish.

Final Thoughts:

This is an interesting thing to taste. The wood from the chip-intensive aging procedure is less pronounced than in their single malt (perhaps it’s just better matched by a more robust rye mash bill), but again, I can’t shake the feeling that they might have been better served by just putting it in a regular barrel for 17 months. 

Score: 82/100 [SHOP FOR A BOTTLE OF COPPER FOX RYE]