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  • Barreling Through the Speyside Bourbon Cooperage

    I never miss an opportunity to visit historical museums or villages set up to recreate bygone days. Seeing people dressed in antiquated clothing performing essential tasks with obsolete tools is not an experience I scoff at, rather I find I’m reflecting on the great advancements made over the short decades behind me.

    Last week, our team traveled southwest to Atkins, Virginia to visit the Speyside Bourbon Cooperage—one of Reservoir’s highly esteemed barrel makers. And it was here we all had the privilege to meet Josh Chandler, Speyside’s plant manager and tour guide extraordinaire. And it was also here that we were educated as to just how advanced the coopering industry has grown since the days when highly skilled craftsmen practiced the trade by hand.

    We here at Reservoir impress upon our customers the strength and influence of provenance, as all our ingredients—i.e., anything that influences our flavor—comes right from our little patch of earth. Virginia has a singular taste, and we capture every drop, scent, and organic compound that allows us to say our whiskeys’ flavors are “terroir-driven.”

    A significant part of that distinctively place-based flavor comes from the organic compounds deep within the wood of each barrel, as the staves that comprise a five, ten, or a 53-gallon barrel are rich with lignins, which break down into vanillin, eugenol, furfural, and lactones—all flavor molecules that give our spirits their spicy, fruity, nutty, and buttery profiles. And as the majority of trees Speyside Cooperage utilizes come from Virginia forestland, we grow increasingly enthusiastic to share what we now recognize as true Virginia bourbon flavor.

    We pride ourselves on highlighting Reservoir’s unique process of ‘grain to glass’ whiskey making, but we’d be remiss if we did not back farther up—a step or two behind where that timeline begins. I’ve written before about one of our stave mills—The Ramoneda Brothers in Culpeper, Virginia—and Speyside operates several of their own mills as well, but I’ve yet to take you on a tour of how our barrels are assembled. It’s an eye-opening peek into a marvelous carpentry journey you shouldn’t miss.

    Founded in Scotland in 1947, the Speyside cooperage has impressive lineage, coming from a long line of traditional and highly skilled barrel makers. Estimates of remaining coopers worldwide are around 1,500—2,000.

    And for as lovely the venerable and time-honored practice of coopering by hand is, where barrel makers apprenticed for approximately seven years before being capable of raising seven casks a day, Speyside has applied, in their words, “state of the art technology and modern manufacturing principles to the age-old craft of barrel making.”

    Here in Virginia, those new design principles allow them to utilize equipment safer for the environment and their employees, use less energy than older manufacturing processes would require, create less waste and pollutants, and build stronger, better barrels than ever before.

    Not only are the barrels they produce casks of the highest quality, but the company concentrates on their overall footprint left behind after manufacturing their product. Speyside has been recognized for their sustainable log buying practices, and every scrap of byproducts is either sold to other manufacturers or utilized inhouse via recycling techniques.

    So, we here at Reservoir feel fortunate not only to partner with a company whose gilt-edged product helps to make our whiskies shine with a depth and breadth of flavor we’re determined to offer our customers, but also because their level of standards resonate deeply with ours: Offer the world the best you have.

    And there you have it. Another glimpse into our process. I hope it will serve to educate, entertain, but more important, enrich your next sip of whiskey. Let’s all raise a glass to these men and women of great skill. Because they’re building better barrels, we’re bottling beautiful bourbons!

    ~ Shelley Sackier

    Director of Distillery Education

     

     

     

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  • Blow by Blow: Reservoir’s Collaboration with Jens Pulver – Evil100

    Currently, the world is inundated with celebrity endorsed bottles of beer, wine, and spirits. There is a deluge of the glamorous, the glorious, and occasionally the infamous all popping up with a jug of something that now alluringly sports their name. But how many of these notables skipped the beakers and went straight to the bottles?

    Reservoir loves doing collaborations, but occasionally we have an opportunity to do something extraordinary and incredibly fun. When we heard that someone we admired, was expressing admiration for something we created, we knew a few heads should meet to exchange a few compliments. But what we didn’t expect was the deep interest and curiosity that came from American retired professional mixed martial artist, undefeated boxer and kickboxer, and the inaugural UFC Lightweight Champion, Jens Pulver. 

    Jens is the type of guy who defines hungry. Whether in the ring, across the mat, or on the air, Jens’s successes seem to stem from the trifecta of observation, development, and execution. The remarkable thing that follows is a ripple effect of his genuine enthusiasm. If Jens likes what he’s doing, no doubt everyone around follows suit. He’s that infectious.  

    So, when Jens graced our distillery’s doorstep, it wasn’t to be greeted by a photographer who would snap a fancy photo to slap on a label and call it a day, rather he filled that day with watching, learning, and deciding—again, that trifecta in action.

    Jens first tasted our whiskey while streaming one of his play-by-play broadcasts of someone else’s fight, sharing his opinion on the techniques and skills of those who are hopeful to hear his thoughts on how they might improve. His manager, Brian Buttler, sat there with Jens, enjoying his hand-made smoked Old Fashioned, having used a whiskey Reservoir had made for him within our custom program.

    At some point, a glass swapped hands, a light bulb went off, and Jens made the decision that something else just might take the place of his traditional mason jar often filled with apple pie moonshine.

    We were thrilled to be a part of Jens’s next level of discovery. Of course, we’re chuffed to hear that people love our products, but there’s something extra special about a person deciding they like it so much they want to create a whiskey specific to them to share with all likeminded friends.

    After learning about our processes, Jens then spent time in the “lab.” Surrounded by pipettes, cylinders, beakers, and barrels, he then worked with our distillers to build a formula where eventually the spirit he created was as unique as the spirit he possesses.

    And now we’re here to introduce an incredibly special bottling that sprouted from those sessions. Imagine sweetened notes of barley and corn blending with Reservoir’s iconic wheat and rye. We’ve secured the best hand-picked Kentucky barrels to marry with our finest Virginia Reservoir casks—a formidable whiskey we call Evil100. With a nose of tropically scented bread and toasted caramel, rich butterscotch emerges with an ever so slightly spicy finish. Technically, this whiskey is a knockout combination and packs a powerful 100-proof punch.

    One last note: Our launch for Evil100 is June 1st (shipping or distillery pickup is June 1st), but we'll have 1000 Jens Pulver signed bottles online for pre-sale starting May 28th (outside of Virginia, click HERE). Get 'em while you can, as you never know when the "next round" will come about.

    A massive thanks to Jens and Brian. We’ve enjoyed ourselves immensely and now we’re totally hooked on a new whiskey that has knocked our socks off.

    Cheers,

    ~ Reservoir

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  • The World, Whiskey, & Winning

    As if World Whisky Day could not get any better, we here at Reservoir are celebrating by releasing one of our whiskies that literally just won a double gold medal at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition.

    Holland’s Blade Rummer is a creative, international collaboration between Reservoir Distillery and select Jamaican rum distilleries. Blade Rummer’s mash bill is still the same 70% corn, 15% wheat, and 15% rye as our Holland’s Ghost (having fully aged separately in our five-gallon casks for 2 ½ years before being blended). Once we’ve imported our rum barrel, we let our blended whiskey soak in that sugarcane sunshine for an additional two years to create a truly unique take on a Reservoir bourbon.

     

    If we needed any more “proof” that this whiskey is appealing to a universal palate, we’d say we received it when discovering that the only way to snag a double gold medal is when every judge on the 40-person panel simultaneously gives the whiskey a gold. Now that’s worth toasting.

    • Nose: Slightly minty and sweet like peppermint and burnt sugar. Warm cornbread.
    • Body: Sweet caramel/toffee with an herbal elixir feel
    • Finish: Rising warmth and sweetness turns to spicy cool wintergreen

    The fifth batch of our Limited Time Offering, Holland’s Blade Rummer, is ready to fill your glasses and rise to the sky in honor of celebrating World Whisky Day (May 15th) with friends across our planet.

    We definitely think this addition to our Holland’s limited time lineup is “jumping with the irie vibes!”

    Available at Reservoir Distillery and online (here) starting May 14th

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  • Lifting Hearts Through Art

    Lifting Hearts Through Art

    I think we can all agree that breaking the law is something most parents advise their kids against doing. But I’m going to guess that artist Ed Trask’s parents may have looked the other way knowing that the illegal mural paintings the young student created around his high school was an action worthy of testing the law.

    And lucky for countless people all around the globe, as Ed has painted his brazen and powerfully vibrant murals—both illegal and commissioned—from sea to shining sea. Those of us in Richmond feel especially privileged to see the growing collection of brilliantly washed walls around our city because Ed calls Richmond home.

    We here at Reservoir feel particularly honored to be collaborating again with Ed (visit the distillery to see his LOVE works mural!) on his latest charity project along with Jason Lefton of the incredibly innovative laser etching shop Big Secret.

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    Ed is going to create ten sets of two glasses and two bottles—glassware etched with his artwork and then filled with Reservoir whiskey. The backdrop of etched glass, when placed together, will reveal the landscape of one of Richmond’s historic landmarks, the arched CSX A Line bridge—a true piece of architectural beauty stretching across the James River. These sets will then be auctioned from Ed’s Instagram (@edtrask) and Facebook accounts for the 10 days leading up to Christmas—one on each day.

    If fate and fortune bend in your favor, you can win this auction bid and then thereafter, Ed's remarkable talent will get to work, and your bottles will ultimately display his etched artwork, hand-rubbed with gold. Funds collected from each set will be delivered to the Holli Fund—a charity organized to help support individuals in the Richmond-area food service industry who are experiencing an economic crisis.  

    When asked about the charity choice, Ed recalled his punk rock band touring days and highlighted the importance of restaurant work in his life stating that, “Restaurants gave a backbone to all touring musicians. You come back from a tour and you could find a shift in between gigs. Waiting as a profession was respected, but it was my steppingstone. It made the wait time so much better, and it made me who I am.” Counting on these restaurants for his livelihood he added, “Collaboration is everything. We can’t see these restaurants go out of business.”

    Reservoir agrees. We’re putting together a special bourbon rye blend—a nod to Ed’s favorite grain combo when tinkering as amateur blender and one he regularly made for himself at Millie’s Diner when working at the Richmond beloved eatery long ago. A second bottle will hold our barrel aged bourbon finished off in a Burgundy Grand Cru wine cask, a spirit as unique as the artist himself.

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    If you’re unfamiliar with Ed’s work, then definitely head to Instagram/Facebook to see a wide variety of it, or simply Google Ed’s name and read the countless articles written about many of his mural installations. Here is a website that showcases some of his gallery work. Better yet, if you’re lucky enough to live in Richmond, take a drive around the city. Coming upon one of Ed’s paintings is often like coming round the bend to see the reveal of Emerald City—awe-inspiring, and oftentimes jaw-dropping.

    Then join in the auction excitement starting at 5pm on Monday, December 14th  and see if you can be one of the ten lucky recipients of our exciting project uniting artists and craftsmen, a collaboration where we lend a hand to help lift others.

    The happiest of holidays to you and yours!

    ~ Reservoir

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  • Milk and Honey? Nope--Milkman and Yummy!

    Growing up in Wisconsin, nearly everyone I knew either had a milkman, or was a milkman. And by that last bit, I mean was a farmer.

    Mornings were either “rise from bed at 6, throw on your robe, and gather the two or three bottles of full fat milk sitting on your front stoop,” or “rise from bed at 4:30, throw on your barn clothes, and go milk the 150 cows waiting to fill all those bottles for tomorrow’s front stoop deliveries.”

    Whichever version you experienced, milk was everywhere, and the milkmen were held in high regard.

    This might explain why I am incredibly nostalgic when we here at Reservoir release another scrumptious barrel of Holland’s Milkman.

    The process to make this silky liquid confection is one involving collaboration from our friends at Ardent Craft Ales—an award-winning brewery that is spitting distance from Reservoir Distillery in our cozy Richmond neighborhood called Scott’s Addition.

    Ardent snagged a 53 gallon ex-bourbon barrel and filled it with their chocolaty imperial milk stout. Once they dumped the stout, they rolled that beautiful barrel to our front door where we then immediately filled it with 15% wheat, 70% corn, and 15% rye whiskies from 2 ½ year old 5 gallon barrels. We then tucked it away in our warehouse allowing it to snooze through the headlines of nearly two years. The milk stout that previously seeped into the bourbon-soaked wood then mingled and married with the blend of our whiskies, creating mouth coating, soul warming flavors of milk chocolate and butterscotch.

    When you pass a glass of the Milkman beneath your nose, notice the sweet pipe tobacco as the childhood memories of a Tootsie Roll tug at the back of your mind. Let your tongue dance with the touch of hot pepper spice and finally be lulled with the warmth of a deeply rich cocoa finish.

    With the bliss of 252 bottles from that 107-proof barrel, we feel confident we have enough to share at least through the start of this winter season. You can find a bottle to warm up your holiday spirits from our online shop, or by popping on down to the distillery and finding some season’s greetings in person.

    As I spend a minute or two studying the Milkman’s lovely label, I am reminded of those days of old seeing Mr. Holland dressed in his sparkling white milkman’s digs and carrying his morning delivery up to everyone’s front stoop. But I have to say, if my childhood milkman’s bottles were filled with Reservoir’s milk stout finished bourbon, his daily orders would have tripled across the board.

    Raise a glass with us in a heart-warming toast to December, and remember to ask yourself, Got Milkman?

    Cheers!

     

     

     

     

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  • Reservoir's Year in Review!

    Yes, many of us would like to see the back of 2020, but we here at Reservoir are determined to find a silver lining wherever we cast our view. Last year we set new goals and were challenged to light the fires of creativity in a whole new way. No doubt we also kept our calendars jam-packed with work we knew would churn out great whiskies.

    This week we invite you to take a peek at the past with us. A long look back over 2020 made us realize just how busy we’ve been, and just how excited we are with how much we’ve accomplished.

    We wanted to share those accomplishments with you—because whether you were there in person, virtually, or in spirit, we know you helped to make it happen.

    We’ve put together an infographic—a buffet of all the buzz from our last year.

    Scroll below for a tiny trip through time.

    We can’t wait to help fill your 2021 with another series of amazing snapshot moments.

    Hope to see you soon!

    ~The Reservoir Team

     

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