An interesting thing about Virginia’s Reservoir Distillery is that its three main expressions – a wheat whiskey, bourbon, and rye – are each distilled from a one grain mash bill. The wheat whiskey and rye are distilled from 100% of their namesake grain. Their bourbon is made from a 100% corn mash bill.
Reservoir Distillery differs from many mainstream distilleries in other ways. It utilizes open-top fermenters, and the process of fermentation can take between 6 and 11 days, which is a long time. Distillation happens in a small pot still versus a column still. Their whiskies are matured in new, charred quarter casks, presumably for “quicker” maturation versus the standard 53 gallon barrels used elsewhere. The wood for those barrels come from Virginia trees.
All three expressions are at least two years old, have been bottled at 100 proof, and are from Batch 1 from 2018. Let’s see how they taste.
The nose is rather bold for a wheat whiskey, with hints of brown sugar, buttered wheat bread, and a slight young grain character. The entry starts sweet with more of that brown sugar and sweet wheat from the nose. It’s followed by a dusting of cinnamon sugar and orange essence. Some oak tannins take hold afterwards, but not to a dominating degree. The finish is short, with cedar shavings and spice.
Reservoir’s Wheat Whiskey has a decent nose and palate, but falls a little short on the finish. The wood from the small quarter casks really show their grip on this part of the tasting. 6/10
Different. And Oaky. It’s how I’d describe the nose on this 2-year-old bourbon made from 100% corn. There’s a young grain character intermingled with fresh oak. Dark caramel and some vanilla add much needed familiarity to this young whiskey. Taste-wise, we start things off with lots of young oak and oak tannins, along with burnt sugar and cola concentrate. The young corn note from the nose all but disappears on the palate. However, the bourbon has a heftier body than the wheat whiskey. Those pesky quarter casks dominate the finish with more astringent oak tannins and sweet resin.
Another case of the smaller quarter casks dominating the spirit in every aspect of the whiskey. 5/10
Wait… we might be onto something with the rye whiskey. The spicy grain shines through on the nose with hints of cloves, anise, and dill. Some toffee adds a bit of sweetness. The palate is surprisingly balanced. Hints of toffee, oak spice, rye toast, and citrus provide a pleasant drinking experience. The long finish features maple syrup, oak spice, and a feint hint of fresh mint.
I’m not generally a fan of young rye, but I certainly like this expression. As I mentioned in the tasting notes, this is rather balanced, whereas the wheat whiskey and bourbon are dominated by the quarter casks’ oak notes. Maybe this is a case where those grains by themselves don’t hold up to the large spirit to wood contact ratio those quarter casks provide. This rye whiskey not only stands up to the quarter casks, it embraces them. Delicious. 8/10
Though not a fan of Reservoir Distillery’s bourbon and wheat whiskey, I’m extremely curious of how those whiskies would taste if matured in standard barrels as opposed to quarter casks. If they ever do, I’d love to try them.
One exercise I’d encourage is to blend these whiskies after tasting them separately. I found 4 parts rye, 1.5 parts wheat, and 1/2 part bourbon work rather well together.
Thanks to Reservoir Distillery for the samples. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.