Whiskey Review: Virginia Highland Malt Whisky

, | March 31, 2016

Editor’s Note: This whiskey was provided to us a free sample to review by the party behind it. The Whiskey Wash, while appreciative of this, did keep full independent editorial control over this article.

You may find yourself wondering if you misread the title of this review upon first glance. Indeed, Virginia Distillery Co. Port Finished Virginia Highland Malt Whisky is a Highland Scottish whisky which has been imported and barrel aged in Virginia utilizing wine casks from that very state. Independent Scotch bottlings are not altogether uncommon overseas, yet can be seen as more of a novelty in the United States.

Virginia Distillery Co. has created what is essentially their own take on an independent bottling of a Highland whisky. The distillery brings the spirit over from Scotland as a a finished six year old whisky. It is one main distillery they get the whisky from and, because of export rules, a very small amount of another distillery’s spirit is added to move it from the single malt designation to the malt designation.

The distillery, looking for ex-port barrels to finish the whisky in, works with local wineries in Virginia such as King Family Vineyards to source their casks. Depending on the winery, the cask could be an ex-bourbon barrel that has had Virginia port-style wine previously in it.
Virginia Highland Malt Whisky

Virginia Highland Malt Whisky (image via Virginia Distillery Co.)

Independent bottling can serve as an avenue by which a label can define and grow its brand while simultaneously building its own distillery. This appears to be the case with Virginia Distillery Co. The company has been constructing their own distilling operation complete with hand-constructed copper pot stills in addition to a visitor center – which is already open – in order to create and present their own unique take on an American single malt. The planned American single malt is expected to deviate from the port-finished single malt they currently feature, and they current have about 200 casks if it aging right now, primarily ex-bourbon barrels

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In the interim, this current release is available in the Virginia Distillery Company visitor center in Lovingston, Virginia, and in select markets located predominantly in the eastern United States.

Tasting Notes:

Vital Stats: 46% ABV (92 proof), no age statement, 100% malted barley, around $55 per 750 ml. bottle.

Appearance: Red mahogany, medium legs.

Nose: Brandied cherries, nougat candy, oak, and cinnamon.

Palate: Rich nougat, tart cherry, tobacco, light notes of cocoa, rather thin mouthfeel.

Finish: Very dry, slow, and not especially intense burn.


The nose on this whisky is reminiscent of being in a study built into a very old home, filled with leather furniture, its walls lined by countless books. There is a warmth to it which is inviting and counters the sweetness nicely. There is an unmistakable wine quality to the nose combined with oak tones which make the port finishing quite apparent before tasting. The mouth feel is a bit thin, but the flavors are rich and combine sweet and savory notes in good proportion.

This would make a very good dessert whisky, particularly during the winter holiday season. I found the elements to be combined and balanced well, with a precision which is to be appreciated. This is a combination which could easily become too busy to properly enjoy, had they been combined by less competent hands.


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Joshua St. John

When not sampling whiskey, Joshua St. John can most likely be found running the trails of the Pacific Northwest surrounding his home in Portland, Oregon. A lifelong world-traveler, Joshua was first introduced to single malts while visiting distilleries in Scotland, and continues to explore the world through the countless interpretations...