• Reservoir's Year in Review

    As with any business, it’s easy to get wrapped up in the importance of forward focusing. We set new goals, light the fires of creativity, and generally keep our calendars jam-packed with work we know will churn out great whiskies and activities that will excite our patrons.
    But we paused this week to glance behind us. A long look back over 2019 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 you were there for much of it and helped to make it happen.
    We’ve put together an infographic—a buffet of all the buzz from our last year working to bring you exceptional products and memorable experiences.
    Scroll below for a tiny trip through time.
    We can’t wait to help fill your 2020 with another series of amazing snapshot moments.
    Hope to see you soon!
    ~The Reservoir Team
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  • Infectious Optimism

    No doubt, the ground beneath all our feet is shifting—and this time not because we’ve had one or two sips too many.
    The impact of the current pandemonium is unsettling, uncomfortable, and unwelcome, and yet … seemingly unavoidable.
    The team here at Reservoir has had countless impromptu brainstorming sessions where we’ve found ourselves asking the same questions you and your work and home families have been mulling over:
    How can we protect ourselves?
    How can we help our neighbors?
    Should we start Game of Thrones from the beginning once more?
    The answer to the first one is a no-brainer in that our team must be responsible and self-regulate.
    Some of us work on the production room floor and are surrounded by nothing other than the alembic—copper pots and stills that trickle out our nectar.
    Some of us work in the warehouse with simply countless casks for company.
    Some are nose-deep in spreadsheets—the paying of bills, the ordering of materials, the modeling of the future.
    And some work as the conduits—not to transmit maladies, but rather to keep us all connected: the outreach, the education, the engagement.
    Thus far, we are full steam ahead in all areas, and we count ourselves lucky to be so. If things should change, we’ll let you know.
    The answer to the second question is equally as important, as we are part of a community, a symbiotic relationship that is of paramount importance and resolutely worth protecting.
    As the scaffolding of our previous life is alarmingly dismantled, we’re all searching for that which remains tethered. We crave what is familiar, what is dependable, and what is trustworthy.
    Staples are key—we’ve discovered that by now. But however you define the essentials—milk, eggs, bourbon—it may vary from household to household. And running out of that which provides us either the day’s necessity of calories, or the night’s indulgence of a calming dram is something we’d all like to scratch off our list of worries.
    Currently, like your grocery stores, your ABC stores are still operating. And Reservoir is still open for bottle sales as well. We may not sell toilet paper, but we equate ourselves with just as much comfort as your Charmin.
    Obviously, we’re all searching for ways to stave off infection, and if our elixir of life can in any way eradicate the life of this virus, then, by all means, we’ll use it.
    And lastly, that whole Game of Thrones thing? Let’s just say there are probably an incalculable number of things you can do to take a break from the news:
    - Pull some weeds—it’s meditative
    - Watch all those Ken Burns documentaries you’ve been putting off—armchair education and travel
    - Play a family board game of LIFE—and talk about life.
    And toast to it—with whatever you have—every precious, sometimes taken-for-granted drop of life.
    Stay well, be focused, problem solve.
    We’ll get through this together.
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  • A Gold and Silver Lining

    I think it’s safe to say that we’re in a state of flux.
    Change has touched all of us—its long fingertips stretching across the globe and unsettling our well-worn and comforting routines.
    We all have stories—or will have stories—and it’s of paramount importance we share them.
    Our stories bind us together. The chapters in the Book of Life.
    We wanted to share a page of Reservoir’s story and give you a quick “back of the jacket flap” peek into what’s unfolding here at the distillery.
    Yes, our team is still making whiskey—a reliable, dependable comfort we’re determined to provide. But we’re making more than that.
    We’re brewing up disinfectants— hand sanitizer for all locals, for businesses, for industry.
    We’re handing out soap from neighboring hotels—a partnership that has proved touching and surprising.
    We’re raising money for the Holli Fund—an organization that supports individuals in the Richmond-area food service industry who are going through this wretched economic crisis.
    And we’re dishing up a steady stream of fortifying words, encouraging our neighbors to work together, help one another, and offer what they can.
    So perhaps Fate glanced over her shoulder at just the right time and caught a glimpse of what we’ve been doing. Maybe the universe decided a boost to our “spirits” would keep us on track.
    Receiving the notice that our whiskies were awarded seven medals in the San Francisco World Spirits Competition could not have come at a better time.
    Our ryes received two gold medals.
    Our bourbons won three silver.
    Holland’s Milkman snagged a silver too.
    And our wheat now sports a bronze.
    The judges state that not only are these medals a testament to our hard work, but that they are universally recognized indicators of exceptional quality and craftsmanship.
    We think it shows that we care.
    We care about our craft, our customers, and our community.
    We hope, in some measurable way, we are making more than whiskey. We hope we are making a difference.
    ~ Your Reservoir family
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  • A Blessing from Old Blighty

    If we can all agree on one thing, it’s that we usually can’t agree on much of anything.
    But, as we at Reservoir are always up for a challenge, we urge you to cross the threshold into our flourishing neighborhood and not find something wholly agreeable to your palate.
    Scott’s Addition—a district of Richmond, Virginia—is our local patch of earth, and one that, when we aren’t in the midst of a pandemic, pulses with vitality and showcases an ever-expanding collection of breweries, distilleries, cideries, meaderies, and eateries.
    Yes, Reservoir Distillery was fortuitous to be one of the founding fathers of this little borough, having put down our tap root in 2008, but word got out about the potential for this fixer-upper industrial zone and slowly but surely, the air was filled with the sound of entrepreneurs hammering away as they put up their shingles.
    Over the years, we’ve been honored to have been featured in several amazing publications including, most recently, Ferment Magazine, the UK’s biggest selling beer publication.
    Richard Croasdale, award-winning feature writer and editor of Ferment, traveled across the pond to eat and drink his way through several of Scott’s Addition’s current establishments—The Veil Brewery, Blue Bee Cidery, and Ardent Craft Ales to name a few. And after meeting with Jay Carpenter and Dave Cuttino, Reservoir’s owners, they may have made putting pen to paper a touch tricky after a “dealer’s choice” tasting menu.
    Clearly, Mr. Croasdale has recovered, and I think you will agree after reading his feature article, that Scott’s Addition is a place full of kindred spirits (or beers, or ciders, or vitals!). We are so happy he stopped in for a visit and can’t wait to see the fine establishments of Scott’s Addition bustling again. Hope to see you soon!
    ~Cheers from your Reservoir Family
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  • The Milkman Returns!

    All of us here at Reservoir have certain whiskies that we claim we’d rush to grab if the distillery were on fire and we could snag only one bottle. Between the lot of us, I think it’s fair to say there’d be a solid sampling of everything we make, so at least history would not be lost nor forgotten.
    Funny enough, one thing we haven’t been able to put out of our minds for months is the memory of what Holland’s Milkman tasted like, as it was a whiskey we made and then sold in record time.

    So, when it was proclaimed that our second batch was finally ready for bottling and release, countless hands thrust their Glencairn glasses into the air toward the bottle over a chorus of, “GIMME!”
    It’s really that good.
    Holland’s Milkman was the second in line of a series that included Holland’s Ghost—a request to recreate an old 1960’s dusty to satiate the palate of the owner of Virginia’s largest whiskey bar, and Holland’s Bladerummer—where we finished our blend in a rum barrel for an extra 12 months.
    But the Milkman has its own story.
    With a silky-smooth blend of 15% Wheat, 70% Corn, and 15% Rye, we aged this whiskey for 2 years in quarter casks and then finished it off with a final 12-month nap in a 53-gallon Ardent Milk Stout Barrel.
    Milk stouts are dark, thick ales with low carbonation. They have notes of sweetened coffee, espresso, and chocolates. When first mass produced in England in the early 1900s, they were marketed as a healthy tonic for invalids and nursing mothers.
    Now we certainly wouldn’t go so far as to claim this whiskey will cure all that ails you, or that any infant should cut their teeth with a wee nip in their milk, but no doubt, this whiskey has put a glint in our eye and returned a skip to our step.
    Breathe in a whiff of dry chai spices, honey, and cedar. Relish the taste of clove, sweet tea, and luscious dark chocolate. And finish that sip with a lingering spicy heat that slides home the flavors of cinnamon and cocoa.
    To purchase this once a year treat, come visit the distillery for a curbside purchase. Or secure yours online by clicking right here.
    Come try Holland's Milkman while it lasts, as it is gone in a flash!
    Here’s to your health. May it be long lasting.
    ~Your Reservoir Family
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  • Hidden Magic: On Writing a Technical Manual of Whiskey Making

    The Meticulously Precise and Non-Magical Way to Make Whiskey

    I’m nearly finished writing another book.
    This one won’t be published for the public though. It’s a technical manual.

    I’ve never done a technical manual before; therefore, this genre has been entirely new to me.
    I was at one point informed, technically speaking, technical manuals do not fall into a “genre,” Shelley.
    Disappointing news.
    I was also at one point informed that my other skills of fiction writing were, although appreciated, inapplicable with this work.
    “What do you mean?” I’d asked, halfway through the job.
    Please do not allow the machinery to have any “dialogue.”
    Hugely disappointing news.
    In my mind, everything is conversing with anything beside it. Refrigerators hum, clocks tic, boats roar, tea kettles whistle, grills hiss, frying pans spit, drains gurgle—I could go on.
    There is conversation with their purpose, with their function, and it is our choice to tune in if we desire—or maybe it’s just a special type of non-worrisome derangement those of us who practice anthropomorphizing inanimate objects experience every day.
    So, okay, the mash tuns, the fermenters, the stills, and bottling equipment will not be engaged with any discourse. Fine.
    Also, no need to “set the scene.”
    Wait. What? No “Once upon a time”? No “In a galaxy far, far away”?
    No “Imagine if you can, a farm field in Virginia filled with rows of waving grain. Corn so tall, so yellow, so sweet. Wheat so soft, so feathery, so—”?
    No. Also, just list the manufacturer of each piece of equipment. No need to give colorful backstory that creates a uh … biography for them.
    Damn. But the still is an old copper Armagnac pot which surely, if you’d allow me to research, has the most fascinating history, connecting it to a village in Gascony, and likely to some illicit brandy making where people’s lives were at risk for defying the king’s orders and skirting around the excise men, right?
    No. Louis XVI died in 1793. The still was made in 2006. Write that down.
    No excise men?
    *insert cold stare here*
    Fine. Hard facts only. It has been an arduous road to travel. It has been serial numbers, maintenance schedules, standard operating procedures, operator responsibilities, quality controls, ingredient specification sheets, safety protocol, system malfunction detection. It has been measurements, sampling data, testing methods, recording methodology, and out of the realm of tolerance identification.
    No language describing the invention of any equipment, the trials and tribulations of the inventor, the recognition, the accolades, the race between rivals to patent first, to reach the market, to make a name and reap rewards.
    No timeline of history, the tales of great machinery malfunction and mishaps that caused strife, or injury, or daresay ... death.
    Nope. Just operator files.
    It’s ‘if blank, do blank.’ Or ‘when this, then this.’ It’s ‘measure now, record here.’
    There’s no beginning, middle, or end.
    It is not a story, not a narrative, no plot.
    None of the machinery barely scrapes by, screeches to a halt, or belches out for attention.
    The manual is meant to be informative. Concise. Crystal clear. It is meant to provide a “just in case” scenario for an event like a catastrophic pandemic wiping out all previous operators’ ability to fight through throngs of apocalyptic zombies to appear at the facility, allowing any stranger to eventually walk in off the street, discover the book and easily, effectively, and effortlessly pick up where we left off.
    No, Shelley. It is meant to use as a teaching guide for new employees.
    Yeah, that too, but my take could be plausible (I mumble quietly).
    So, I study each piece of equipment. I learn its function. I define its specifications. I describe its purpose. It is thirsty work as I crawl around, beneath, above, and inside many of them. I watch them perform. I study their mechanisms. I research their optimal modes.
    And I learn … they are still magical.
    I learn it from listening to the operators as they describe their years of experience working with each station.
    The grain will stubbornly clump and ball if you don’t chase it with the paddle in the cooker. It likes to hide right in that corner.
    If you don’t clamp down the hose securely, the impellor pump turns into a raging snake that’ll spit hot mash on every square inch of the production room floor.
    You see that steam rising from the strip still’s parrot spout? We call that the dragon’s breath.
    I did find a story. The story of waking up the yeast before releasing it into its comforting, warm bath, of performing the tightly timed choreography between pieces of machinery as they demanded immediate attention to avoid calamity, of discovering that the general consensus was for many of the processes you just had to feel it, smell it, taste it, gauge it. The machinery had its tells, and a good operator was sensitive to them and could anticipate results because of the accumulated years of a bonding relationship.
    Making whiskey requires procedural care, yes. It’s a recipe. It’s a step by step adventure that when timed perfectly churns out a salable product.
    But to me, and to others, the machinery is responsible for the alchemy, the head-spinning potions, the conjuration that leads grains to glass, this honeyed, headying elixir.
    But the manual will not reveal that magic. The manual will not even hint at it. The manual conceals the story.
    Except it’s there. We just don’t capture it within the pages that keep the secret safe. It is for others to read between the lines, to unearth the buried story within it.
    If they find it after the zombie apocalypse.

    ~Shelley Sackier
    This story was also published to Moonshine University
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