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Belle Grove - 1797

Nose: This has scents of alcohol and smoke. It reminded me of the scent you get from some scotches but with some mild rye undertones. Palate: The first impression on the first sip is one of smoke. This isn’t a bourbon and doesn’t taste like a bourbon. It has more scotch-like qualities, so it is a “chunky” and thick flavor mix. It has a thin, watery mouthfeel, but it has a moderately long finish, that lingers in the back of your throat and leaves residual tastes that seem spicy, oaky, a little cinnamony and smoky. I think because this isn’t a bourbon and doesn’t have the normal bourbon flavors, I’m having a hard time shifting gears to pick out the taste of this one. Later sips bring out flavors of corn that point to this being a younger whiskey. It doesn’t burn but it has a warming aspect to it that is slightly harsh. It seems to have some rye in it, but the smoke overpowers those flavors. Comment: This is s “tough” whiskey, meaning it isn’t gentle and some may not find it an easy sipper. I think that people’s opinions on peaty scotches (me included), are that you either like it or not. I don’t know that there’s any in-between. 1797 is NOT peaty…..but…it is smoky. Despite not liking peaty scotches, I do like smoky ones, so I like this, even though it is very different and not something I could drink all the time (like yesterday’s Four Roses). I would put this squarely in the try-it-before-you-buy-it camp. This 90 proof whiskey comes out of the Copper Fox Distillery in Sperryville, VA. It is based on the VA grains and recipe used 2 centuries ago by the owner of the Belle Grove Plantation in VA, which was one of the largest plantations in the Shenandoah Valley. The mash bill includes the normal corn and malted barley but this one also includes oats….which may explain some of the unique tastes going on. Because this comes from a boutique distiller, it is a little pricey, in the mid $40 range when I got it. The distillery itself is in a complex of older buildings and makes for a nice tour and tasting destination, if you happen to be in the area. The folks who run it seemed very pleasant and they have nice “see-how-we-do-things-here” approach that people like to see. Now…..Copper Fox also now has a facility in Williamsburg, VA….which may be very different. A friend (and whiskey drinker) who has been there was not as impressed with the Williamsburg products. He describes the products he tasted there as “moonshiney” and generally not good. We have a a pretty similar palate and he’s a pretty experienced whiskey drinker, so I have to believe that there is something different going on at that facility, compared to the one in Sperryville. There were hints on the Internet that they make different products there (including a “shine”), so that may account for this? I think this might be another good factor in recommending “try-before-you-buy”. That, and the fact that the only place you can buy 1797 is at the distillery (or, at least it was at the time I got it).

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