Copper Fox® Distillery was formed in January of 2000. In the years prior the seed of an idea planted in my brain on how you could make a distinct and wonderful whisky by using special fruitwood peat, and fruitwood barrels in the traditional whisky making process. The seed germinated as I explored most all the distilleries in the U.S. and the more I took in, the more I thought my ideas could work. By spring of 2000 I decided I needed to go to Scotland, home of over 130 distilleries and some of the best whisky in the world. The seed sprouted and began digging in its roots. My Scotland trip was magical and inspirational beyond belief. I walked through rainbows, climbed castle walls, and met some of the nicest, most helpful people you could ever want to know.
I came away with three things:
- a great appreciation of the skill, passion, dedication and perseverance,
- a reinforced conviction that my ideas were in fact new to the whisky world, and unique enough that we could make a commercially viable, distinct product,
- an offer for a 6 week internship at Bowmore Distillery on Islay.
The little seed was now a sapling and Bowmore was a huge learning experience. It is one of the few distilleries in the world that still malts their own barley. They gave me a cottage with the front door in the town and the back door into the distillery. I worked a piece of each 3 shifts, six days a week. I absorbed all I could, took notes, talked to all the men that combined held more than a century of whiskey making experience. Of course I'm proud of our innovations, but I am keenly aware of the fact that I'm standing on the shoulders of a great many courageous, passionate and brilliant individuals and I try to be ever thankful for the trail they blazed.
After Scotland (fall 2000) it was time to come home continue with experiments, get a business plan on paper, and start turning the plan into action. Copper Fox Distillery Enterprises, L.L.C. was formed and we entered into a contract to purchase an existing Virginia distillery. As part of the purchase plan we agreed to develop a new product under their license using my ideas, labor, grain and barrels. This was launched into the marketplace as “Copper Fox Whiskey” in early spring of 2003. It was the first Applewood chip-aged whisky in the world. By fall the product had achieved some modest success and a loyal following.
By the fall of 2004 we located contracted and received local zoning approval for our current facility in Sperryville. Jan 1, 2005, we moved in and began constructing our still and processing equipment. We malted our first batch of barley in November 2005 and in Jan 2006 we fired up the still for the first time. This, at last, was a product that embodied my main innovations:
- the flavoring of the malt using the smoke of selected, smoldering fruitwoods (instead of peat), and
- using hand chipped and toasted fruitwood chips in the aging process to add a range of natural flavors that was not only new, but fantastic to the taste.
The raw Single malt spirit was brought forth and we knew it was very good. The name “Wasmund’s Single Malt Whisky” was chosen for obvious reasons. In August 2006 we bottled our first batch.
Our seed of an idea had grown to finally bear its first sweet fruit. As I wrote some years ago, “At Copper Fox, we have a particular passion for whisky.” The story continues— I hope you can be a part of it by raising a glass every now and then and sharing our passion with your friends!