Clear Whiskey Taste Off: Virginia Regional

Part II: Virginia Regional

Rickhouse Ramblings is holding a four region blind taste off of new make, clear, or white dog whiskey. The field is broken up into four regions based on their location of production: North Carolina; Virginia; Tennessee; South Carolina. We will not be using our traditional Rickhouse Rating for these pours. Instead, we will be judging the nose, mouth, and finish using a 5 star system. The winner of each region will face off in a Battle of the States as we look to find the final champion. This is Part II in the series, concentrating on products from the Commonwealth of Virginia (Part I: Blind Taste Off: NC Regional). Returning for Part II with Christian and Mike is Mike’s brother, Phil.

Special thanks to the First Ladies of Rickhouse Ramblings, Alicia and Stephanie, for handling and organizing the chaos of pouring and delivering all of the samples without tipping off which whiskey was in which glass. We couldn’t have done it without both of you!

The Virginia Contenders

This blind taste off will include a field of four new make, clear, or moonshine whiskey offerings from Virginia. Each whiskey was tasted neat in a Glencairn glass. Here is a list of the four contenders selected, based on availability of products:

  • Belmont Farms Distillery – Virginia Lightning: Located in Culpeper, VA: 100 proof corn whiskey; double distilled; less than 30 days old.
  • KO Distilling – Bare Knuckle American Whiskey: Located in Manassas, VA: 90 proof with mash bill of 60% wheat, 30% rye, and 10% malted barley; Aged 1 day.
  • Twin Creeks Distillery – 1st Sugar Moonshine: Located in Franklin County, VA: 90 proof; distilled from sugar cane and rye.
  • Climax VA Distillery – Climax Moonshine: Located in Culpeper, VA: 90 proof; pot-distilled using corn, malted barley, rye, and sugar cane.
From Left to Right: KO Bare Knuckle American Whiskey, Twin Creeks Distillery 1st Sugar Moonshine, Climax Moonshine, and Virginia Lightning Corn Whiskey

Round 1 Blind Taste Results

Pour #1: The nose on the first pour was initially sweet and corn forward. As we continued to nose the pour, an aroma of fresh hay/wheat became apparent. (Nose – Christian: 4/5 Stars; Mike: 1/5 Stars; Phil: 3/5 Stars) The mouth feel on this pour was a little oily. A sweet yet earthy flavor profile of hay and grass were present. (Mouth – Christian: 3/5 Stars; Mike: 2/5 Stars; Phil: 2/5 Stars) The finish of this first offering was warm and sustaining. As the flavors began to fade, a slight hint of coco powder was present. (Finish – Christian: 3/5 Stars; Mike 3/5 Stars; Phil: 3/5 Stars)

Final Overall Score for Pour #1: 2.66/5 Stars

Pour #2: The second pour presented a sweet nose that was grain forward with a slight earthy/musty aroma. (Nose – Christian: 3/5 Stars; Mike: 3/5 Stars; Phil: 2/5 Stars) The mouth feel of pour two was very light and thin. This pour tasted of heavy ethanol in the mouth with the musty/earthy flavors carrying over from the nose to the flavor profile. Mike noted a slight hint of candy corn flavor. (Mouth – Christian: 2/5 Stars; Mike 3/5 Stars; Phil: 2/5 Stars) This pour had a medium to long finish that was very grain forward. A nice deep burn was present as the flavors quickly dissipated. (Finish – Christian: 2/5 Stars; Mike: 2/5 Stars; Phil: 2/5 Stars)

Final Overall Score for Pour #2: 2.34/5 Stars

Pour #3: Our third pour starts with a sweet corn forward nose. Christian and Phil both detected a slight nutty aroma, similar to that of boiled peanuts. (Nose – Christian: 3/5 Stars; Mike: 4/5 Stars; Phil: 3/5 Stars) Pour three was smooth feeling on the mouth. Sweet on the tongue with a Planters roasted peanut taste. Different, unexpected, and nice. (Mouth – Christian: 3/5 Stars; Mike: 3/5 Stars; Phil: 3/5 Stars) Short yet very dry finish on pour three. A slight burn is present, but it comes later as the spirit moves down your throat. A light taste of peanuts and hay remains. (Finish – Christian: 3/5 Stars; Mike 3/5 Stars; Phil: 3/5 Stars)

Final Overall Score of Pour #3: 3.1/5 Stars

Pour #4: The final pour presented itself with an unexpected and curious nose. A very earthy smelling nose, similar to that of wet mulch or wood. In addition, an aroma of smoke and burned cigarette butts permeates from the glass. (Nose – Christian: 1/5 Stars; Mike: 2/5 Stars: Phil: 3/5 Stars) The mouth feel was a bit oily and thicker than the competitors. A very smoky flavor profile carried over from nose to mouth. A bitterness of smoked corn, dark roast coffee, or burned popcorn are overpowering in this pour. One cannot help but wonder if the mash burned on this batch because we’ve never tasted or smelled anything like this. (Mouth – Christian: 2/5 Stars; Mike: 3/5 Stars; Phil: 2/5 Stars) Pour four brings a medium finish with it that has a decent pronounced burn. Corn and burnt sugar remain in mouth on finish. (Finish – Christian: 3/5 Stars; Mike: 2/5 Stars; Phil: 2/5 Stars)

Final overall score of pour #4: 2.22/5 Stars

Virginia Final Round Blind Taste Results: Blind #1 vs Blind #3

In this round, the glasses with whiskey #1 and whiskey #3 were tasted head to head to determine which we preferred the most.

Fresh pours of both Whiskey #1 and #3 were provided to the panel in Glencairn glasses by Alicia and Stephanie. After several swirls in the glass, tasting, and lots of discussion, Mike loudly proclaimed his winner – and felt it wasn’t even close. Mike was boldly in favor of Whiskey #3 being crowned the Commonwealth of Virginia Clear Whiskey Champion.

Christian and Phil felt both options had favorable qualities and struggled to find the outright champion. Phil liked them both equally and was comfortable with either option being crowned VA Regional Champion. That left the final decision to Christian.

After several additional tastes, swirls, smells, and discussions, a final decision was rendered. And that winner is…pour #3. Read on to see which VA distillery produced our winner for this round.

Virginia Regional New Make/Moonshine/Clear Whiskey Champion

Climax Moonshine

Congratulations to Climax Moonshine, distilled by Tim Smith and the Climax VA Distillery in Culpeper, Virginia. As the Virginia Regional Champion, Climax Moonshine will move on to compete against the winners from North Carolina (Old Nick Williams), Tennessee, and South Carolina.

Who was Who?

  • Blind #1: KO Distillery Bare Knuckle American Whiskey
  • Blind #2: Twin Creeks Distillery 1st Sugar Moonshine
  • Blind #3: Tim Smith’s Climax Moonshine
  • Blind #4: Belmont Farms Virginia Lightning Corn Whiskey

Final Thoughts

Honestly, there was little separation between #3 Climax Moonshine and #1 Bare Knuckle American Whiskey. Both provided an enjoyable, sweet, and flavorful flavor profile that set them apart from the other two. What really set Climax Moonshine apart was the depth of flavor and pleasant nose. It made for a more complex nose than anything else we tried. When we entered this tasting, we had our doubts that Climax Moonshine would be anything more than a light, vodka-like spirit that lacked depth of flavors on both the nose and palate that got it’s notoriety from the Discovery Channel show Moonshiners. We are so glad we were wrong! We look forward to seeing how Climax Moonshine stands up against its counterparts from North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee in the near future!

We hope you will join us for those future blind taste-offs as well!

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