I took Friday afternoon off and drove over to Purceville where I had signed up to help a local distillery with their bottling.Catoctin Creek only started up in 2009 as Loudoun County's first distillery since Prohibition and already has a great reputation with its products, having accrued a collection of awards and accolades.
Every so often they ask volunteers to come in and assist with bottling. These events fill up fast so I was pleased to get in on Friday.
And then it was time for the tastings. We all hurriedly sat down and patiently waited as the shot glasses were passed out and the delectable fluids poured.
Whiskey is essentially distilled beer but without the hops, only rye is used. When the beer is fermented it goes into the still and once the desired temperature of 80 degrees is achieved, the alcohol vaporizes and the steam travels to a condenser where it is converted back to liquid. The process has 3 parts, head, heart and tail. Heads is before 80 degrees is reached and the alcohol during this part of the process isn't consumed but used for cleaning. The heart part of the process contains the sweetest alcohol and is where all the good stuff comes from. As the heart loses its sweetness and gradually becomes bitter, this is the cut off and the end part of the process is called the tails, which is saved and can be run through the process again.
The first whiskey off the still is clear, isn't aged, and this becomes Mosby's Spirit. Scott referred to it a Virginia's legal moonshine.We had a taste of this which hit the spot and then waited expectantly for the next pour.
Lastly, we tried the Watershed Gin which also had a lovely aftertaste. Then for an additional treat we were given a taste of a maple syrup sold in the store. I'm not a big fan of maple syrup as it's so sweet, but this had been aged in the used whiskey barrels, it was heavenly and prompted a lot of lip smacking.
The distillery also makes a Pear Brandy, branding being distilled wine, and since we weren't offered a tasting of that I decided to take a chance and purchase a bottle. A splendid decision, I discovered as soon as I got home!