Wasmund’s Single Malt American Whisky appeared on the scene in 2005, before either Craft whiskey or American Single Malt really had much meaning in the industry. Rick Wasmund, inspired by his experience interning at the Bowmore distillery in Scotland, decided to see how fruitwood smoke – as opposed to peat smoke – would affect malted barley. His experiments resulted in the founding of Copper Fox Distillery in Sperryville, Virginia. Copper Fox not only has its own maltings – a rarity for any distillery in the world, even Scotland – but also malts 100% of its own barley. The barley is a 6-row hybrid grown locally, is smoked (“gently”) using fruitwood smoke (apple and cherry wood), and at least some of the whisky is aged with toasted applewood chips inserted into the barrels. They claim to be (and may very well be) the only distillery in the world that matures whisky over applewood. The distillery uses copper pot stills and distills in very small batches.
The whisky is not chill-filtered, and is bottled at a robust 48% ABV. The malt is young – 14 to 18 months in ex-bourbon according to the website, although they claim that the insertion of wood chips speeds aging. I kind of doubt it’s very effective.
Nose: Scorched wood and charcoal up front, followed immediately by pungent banana. (Oh God, not the banana…) Yup, now all I smell is banana. I have since learned that this aroma is “isoamyl acetate”, which doesn’t make it any better. After a rest in the glass, the banana has transformed into banana-flavored cardboard with a side of bland woodsmoke (like the effect of a far-distant forest fire) and a medicinal iodine note. Blech.
Palate: Thin bodied. An intense tongue burn kicks in right away, followed by pear drops and other hard candies, applewood smoke (yay!), and marshmallow.
Finish: Short. Pleasant, with fruitwood smoke, mild banana, and light menthol. Fades quickly with candy notes (banana Runts, I think).
With Water: A healthy splash of water does little for the aroma. On the palate, it brings up a little more fruit and tames the tongue burn. Water isn’t really needed here.
Overall: I can’t recommend anything after writing the word “Blech” in the tasting notes. That said, the whisky is what it says on the tin. There is definite fruitwood (apple, primarily) smoke, and it’s malty. That said, the travesty of isoamyl acetate and cardboard on the aroma can’t be saved by fruit and smoke on the tongue. This bottle has a wide price range, with outliers in the bottom of the range around $30. I think $30 is a fair price for this which means I might feel cheated paying $45. That said, someone who is less sensitive to that awful banana note might really enjoy this.