Richmond’s local craft spirits are emerging and thriving in Virginia’s capital. You’ve probably tried a few without even knowing while dining around town. I have even written about some cocktails in previous articles that boasted these gems. It’s definitely time to get to know them a little better.
Let’s start with Reservoir Distillery. This place is packed with charm in its Scott’s Addition home. They’ve been part of the area for 11 years. For those of us who are natives of Richmond, that means Reservoir has seen Scott’s Addition transform into the thriving social evolution it’s become.
In a conversation, I asked what made them stand out and made Reservoir special?
“We’re one of the only distilleries that make single mash bill products. Everything we make at Reservoir is based on one or more of our Founding Bottles – 100% Wheat Whiskey, 100% Corn Bourbon, and 100% Rye Whiskey. From there, we have a lot of fun with different finishes and collaborations. That’s where being small and where our neighborhood really has its advantages – we get to partner with great breweries like Ardent Craft Ales to use their barrels for finishing some of our most sought-after bottles like the Hollands series.”
Paula: What if someone is new to whiskey, can you tell us a little bit about your flavors?
Reservoir: “Our wheat is the softest of our three Founding expressions. We call it our “Beginner Whiskey.” The aromas give off hints of port, oak, honey, and caramel. The flavor profile is slightly sweet with hints of orange peel. Our 100% Corn Bourbon is the most traditional of our expressions. The aromas are vanilla, chalk, corn, and toast. The flavor profile is medium to full body with hints of char, pencil shavings, coffee, and pecan. It has a wonderful sweet cherry finish. Our Reservoir Rye has a cult following. It smells of honey, crème brulee, rye spice, yeast, and orange. The flavors are dark chocolate forward, anise, and spicy leaving with a dry finish of cola and molasses. I know we aren’t supposed to have a favorite child, but the Reservoir Rye is my personal favorite.”
You can visit Reservoir Distillery on your own to try all the different spirits in their tasting room at 1800 Summit Avenue, or you can pick up a bottle for your personal enjoyment in ABC stores. Don’t forget to follow them on Instagram @reservoirdistillery.
What about some completely different spirits? Belle Isle Moonshine handcrafts a line of premium moonshine and has popped up in cocktails all over fourteen states. The possibilities are endless, and they now offer patrons hundreds of unique cocktail recipes on their website.
The moonshine varieties are being used all over Richmond restaurants as a staple liquor like gin, or vodka. I asked, did they have any idea they would be so widely used?
“We always dreamed that Belle Isle would be the catalyst for moonshine finding its rightful place on bars and in homes across the nation, right there next to vodka and gin. However, we never could have expected how creative bartenders would be with our product! We’ve seen Belle Isle used in about every cocktail imaginable, from margaritas and martinis to Tiki drinks and orange crushes. What we’ve learned is that when you work with a spirit that tastes great, the possibilities are endless.”
Just recently, they created Belle Isle Canned Cocktails, which can be found in restaurants and grocery stores across Virginia. They were made in response to the canned cocktail popularity, making cocktails easier and more acceptable. Each flavor is bubbly, full of real juices and all-natural flavors but light on the calories and sugars, big on the taste and still contains their premium moonshine. You won’t find any artificial colors, sweeteners, or flavors in their products. They strive to environmentally conscious and true to the flavors.
“We choose to use organic ingredients and sourced locally whenever possible. We source the honey used in our Honey Habanero and Cold Brew Coffee infusions from Waynesboro, VA. We use locally grown organic habanero peppers when they are in season. The coffee beans come from our partners at Blanchard’s Coffee Roasting Co., who source a Certified Fair Trade, Organic, Rainforest Alliance-approved bean blend from Honduras. We take a lot of pride in the ingredients we work with and do our best to recycle and reuse them. Local chefs reuse our habaneros to create hot sauces, and we donate the infused coffee beans as composting material to nearby farms.”
Belle Isle Distillery does not have a public tasting room, but you shouldn’t have any trouble finding their products everywhere! Here is a sample of one of their autumn-inspired cocktail recipes:
Cuffing Season Cocktail Recipe
- 1 oz. Belle Isle Blood Orange
- ½ oz. Laird’s Applejack
- 1 oz. apple cider
- ½ oz. lemon juice
- 2 oz. sparkling wine
We also need to mention another local, James River Distillery. Spirits lovers can visit them at 2700 Hardy St, Richmond, VA. Enjoy a tour and tasting six days a week.
They came into the scene with their first spirit, Commonwealth Gin, in late 2014. They then followed that with nine more spirits. The entire process takes place in the Richmond distillery. Their grain is Virginia grown, and they are committed to producing high-quality craft spirits.
“We have the widest range of locally made spirits. Three gins, a potato vodka, five rums, and the only aquavit made in Virginia are distilled and bottled in our Richmond distillery. We really do have something for everyone. Each of our spirits has a unique aroma and flavor profile. Hops and cantaloupe in our Commonwealth Gin and oyster shells in our Oster Vit Aquavit are just some of the unique ingredients we use. The unique ingredients in each spirit lead to interesting and adventurous cocktails.”
I look forward to visiting again and seeing what they come up with for the holidays.
I can’t talk about Richmond’s distilleries without mentioning one of my favorites, Virago Spirits. I’ve talked about them a few times in the past, and I love their inviting tasting room, their fantastic staff, and their Four-Port Rum. They’ve recently come out with a Modern Gin with Oolong Tea. Their website describes it as “Lively, layered aromas of cracked peppercorn, freshly-cut grass and cinnamon offer a beguiling introduction to this captivating gin. Presenting a counterpoint to more citrus-forward gins, the palate is suffused with piquant notes of Szechuan pepper balanced against the fragrant herbaceousness of Oolong tea, lemon, and grapefruit zest and sweet anise before fading into a long, savory finish.”
Do not miss visiting Virago Spirits, they are amazing. You can read more about Virago Spirits here.
Hopefully, you will decide to try out all of these unique Richmond craft spirit distilleries. You will not be disappointed with what the city has to offer.