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Drink · April 13, 2015

Served Neat: Meet the Smoky Rye Whiskey That Bogart Would Drink

In order to explain why this whiskey is unique, a brief history lesson is in order. Rye whiskey, by definition, is made with a mash of at least 51% rye (whereas bourbon is made with at least 51% corn). This lends it a dry and spicy flavormuch less sweet than bourbon, and somewhat reminiscent of a peaty Island Scotch. Though popular during the 19th century, rye whiskey almost vanished over the course of Prohibition, and while a recent resurgence has led to some high-quality spirits, modern rye still lacks the variety of its pre-Capone ancestors.

This brings us to Copper Fox, a small-batch distillery in the backwoods of Virginia. Not content to produce an ordinary whiskey, the team used a blend of 66% rye and 34% barley: A higher proportion of rye than in most mainstream whiskies. They enhanced this unique mashbill with special distilling techniques: The barley is hand-malted (a very tedious process), then smoked with a blend of wood chips to give it a rich, smoky flavor. The whiskey is aged in bourbon barrels stuffed with apple and oak wood chips, and is non-chill filtered, which gives it a robust flavor and a dark, hazy color.

What does this all mean? Between the unique distilling process and the notable absence of corn, Copper Fox has far more bite than even the smokiest bourbonthe flavor is savory, spicy, and surprisingly complex. The bouquet smacks of orange peel, tobacco, and nutmeg, along with the blend of smoked woods. The first few sips are intense, with notes of spice and citrus, and mellow out to a slightly sweet finish of charred oak and dried fruit.

All in all, Copper Fox is a singular liquor, and a worthwhile experience for any whiskey enthusiast. Serve it neat, on the rocks, or in a simple cocktail if you want to dial it down: We recommend a Sazerac or a classic Manhattan. Just be sure your feet are firmly planted, and your sleeves are rolled up to the elbows.

Interested? Pick up a bottle here.


Nathaniel Nagy

Copywriter, cold brew advocate, purveyor of handcrafted birthday haikus since 2009.