Monday, October 22, 2012

Autumn in Shenandoah

This is my third autumn on the East Coast, and I still believe that October makes this place a very beautiful place to live (in much the same way that August in Seattle erases all memories of the other 11 chilly and soggy months along the Puget Sound).  Every October in DC demands a trip out of the city to appreciate the fall display put on by the rolling Virginia Mountains. Shenandoah and the Blue Ridge hills are lovely all year round, but they shine in the bright oranges, golds, reds, and yellows of the current season.

This past weekend was peak leaf time, meaning that the colors were out but the leaves hadn't fallen yet.   I had the privilege of riding down there in a convertible Saab with excellent company, a most civilized way to see the Virginia countryside. But first we made a much anticipated visit to Virginia's only Whiskey Distillery - Copper Fox in Sperryville. We happened upon the distillery during a prior Shenandoah trip but sadly found it closed. This time we planned ahead and made it there during tour hours. It was amazing!  I'm barely a whiskey neophyte, but I know enough to appreciate an artful process, and the making of this whiskey truly was art. The barley is sourced locally, they are the only distillery in the U.S. that malts their own grain, and they have a sauna-like room for smoking the barley. And the actually distillation is quite the chemistry experiment. Then comes the aging and eventually you have a bottle of a very fine scottish-style whiskey (for short picture version of process, see below). Copper Fox is unable to sample their wares on site, but fortunately they are widely available in the DC region.

Grains malting, meaning spending 5 days on the floor sprouting a little. 
After malting, some time in a smokey hotbox,  and a few days in an open vat, the now grain mash goes into this boiler. 

And this point I got a little confused (it's a complicated process), but from the boiler, the liquid that comes off the top goes through this still and then the product (which is very alcoholic) goes through this barrel and is ready to be put into barrels (for whiskey) or into bottles (for strong spirit). 

The whiskey goes into former bourbon barrels, where it hangs out for about a year and looses about 1/3 of it's volume. 

After Copper Fox, we headed up the mountain and onto Skyline Drive. Unfortunately my phone was on it's last little bit of battery, so I didn't get as many photos of the foliage and beautiful sunset as I would have liked, but trust me, it was great.

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