DSR – VA – 009: Three Crosses American Small Batch Whiskey
Company/Distillery: Three Crosses Distilling Company
Location: Powhatan, VA
Mash Bill: Blend of sourced whiskey and an in-house high-corn mash bill consisting of corn, rye, and malted barley. The sourced whiskies carry similar mash bills as the in-house.
Age Statement: 2 Years
Proof/ABV: 80 Proof/40% ABV
Color & Viscosity: This whiskey has a soft chestnut color. The first pour was a little hazy in the tasting vessel. After a swirl, legs develop without haste and quickly glide down the belly of the Glencairn glass.
Purchase Price: $38.99 from the VA ABC Store October 2020; 750 ml
Bottle Label Information:
“Three Crosses American Small Batch Whiskey”
“Three Crosses Distilling Co.”
“Produced and Bottled by Three Crosses Distilling Company, Powhatan, VA”
“Batch: 31 | Bottle: 299 | Aged: 2 yrs | Bottled by: =)”
“Whiskey made from bourbon mash, artfully matured using the time-tested solera aging process.”
“Three Crosses Distilling Company is a veteran-owned, family run craft distillery in Powhatan, VA. In our attempt to be a good corporate citizen, a portion of the revenue from every bottle will go to support community outreach and mission work.”
Three Crosses Distilling Company
Founded in 2015 by John and Michelle Davenport, Three Crosses Distillery is located about 30 miles west of Richmond, Virginia in the small community (342 people in 2018) of Powhatan, Virginia. Why Powhatan, you ask? Besides being a prime location to procure high quality locally grown grains for distillation, Mr. Davenport is quick to point out that historically, during Prohibition, Powhatan rivaled famously known Franklin County for the production of illegally made distilled spirits. Powhatan found itself located in a prime location to transport these illegal libations into Richmond, Washington D.C., and other neighboring towns. Therefore, building a distillery in Powhatan, Virginia was not a new concept!
The Davenports founded Three Crosses Distillery with the desire to craft enjoyable spirits that their family enjoyed. John’s love of distilling stems from his fondness of the history and lore of distilled spirits from the Appalachia region–a tradition that he could trace back into his own family history. Ms. Davenport’s love developed over pleasant pours of bourbons from other distilleries. This transformed into a desire to produce her own bourbon for others to enjoy. Michelle would eventually begin traveling back and forth to Kentucky to work with a small, family owned distillery. Doing so helped her gain useful insight into the daily operations of a working distillery. She was also able to learn the ins and outs of the legal side of bourbon, including the government regulatory compliance pieces most commonly associated with the business of distilled spirits. It was with their love of distilled spirits, the educational background garnered in Kentucky, and the support of several craft distillers in Virginia, that Three Crosses Distillery became a reality for the Davenports.
The Three Crosses logo provides an intimate look into the culture of the distillery. The background of the logo is a shield–the Davenport family crest. The shield represents a devotion to family, which is a vital piece of the life of their distillery. The three crosses, also known as “fiched crosses” were previously used during the Crusades and symbolize both John’s service in the Army and the family’s faith. All together, this logo symbolizes the three pillars of their distillery – Faith, Family, and Service.
Three Crosses Distillery takes a portion of the proceeds from each bottle sold and donates to a local cause in need. Even in a difficult economic year of 2020, dominated by the Covid-19 global pandemic, Three Crosses has donated over $350,000 worth of distillery made hand sanitizer to EMT’s, nurses, doctors, and other first responders in their community. Just one of the many examples of how the distillery continues to serve its immediate community, even in times of need.
Three Crosses Distillery’s current list of products includes Three Crosses American Small Batch Whiskey, Route 13 Moonshine, Black Chevron Vodka, Old Buckingham Gin, Eves Rebellion Apple Spiced Rum, Crossed Rifles Rum, and Noble Hound Dark Rye. More information on these offerings and the distillery can be located on their website.
Special thanks to John Davenport for responding to our emails with detailed information regarding Three Crosses Distillery and its operations – it is truly appreciated! Rickhouse Ramblings would like to personally thank you, Mr. Davenport, for your service in the U.S. Army!
American Small Batch Whiskey and the Solera Aging System
Three Crosses American Small Batch Whiskey utilizes what is known as the Solera Aging System. The Solera system has been used for many years, however, it is historically more well known in the wine industry with Sherry, Port, Madeira and Marsala wines. It has also been used with rums, brandy, and other products. The Solera System was first experimented with in bourbon by Dave Pickerell, when he worked alongside Hillrock Estate Distillery in New York.
The Solera System, on a very basic elementary level, uses a tiered system of barrels (picture a pyramid) to age whiskey. The oldest aged whiskey is on the foundational floor of the pyramid. The next level up holds a younger whiskey, with the top level barrels containing the youngest, new make/unaged whiskey.
As whiskey is removed from the oldest barrels for bottling, some of the whiskey is left behind. Younger whiskey from the next tier up is then moved down and mixed with the oldest whiskey. The same happens at each level, slowly blending new whiskey with an older, more mature product. In the case of Three Crosses, bourbon that is 1-year, 2-years, and 3-years old is sourced. In-house new make whiskey is added at the top of the Solera System and is slowly blended with the more mature sourced whiskies. The end product is a blended American whiskey that is aged 2 years.
Check out this short video by Blade and Bow Whiskey for a visual representation on the Solera method.
For Three Crosses American Small Batch Whiskey, 2020 has been a highly decorated year. Throughout the year, the whiskey has been awarded Gold from the USA Spirit Ratings, Silver from the East Cost Craft Spirit Awards, Gold from the Craft Competition International Awards, Silver for blinded whiskey by the American Distilling Institute, and Silver for 12 years or younger whiskey/grain spirits at the World Whiskies Awards. While the rest of the world is struggling to make it through 2020, this small distillery is really flourishing.
Tasting Date/Vessel: December 18, 2020 – Neat in a Glencairn Glass then with a few drops of distilled water added.
Christian: Before pouring myself a glass of this whiskey, I first take a quick nose of the liquid in the bottle. A rush of sweet corn and cherries permeates out of the bottle. I pour a decent amount into my Glencairn and begin to nose. At first, a fruitiness jumps out at me. I cannot put my finger on which fruit exactly, but perhaps it is the cherries I first detected in the bottle. Three Crosses really has a nice delicate nose which brings forth a sweet caramel aromatic accompanied by light honey and vanilla bean. Adding water to this whiskey brings the sweet aromas forward. I really pick up a strong nose of caramel and bananas along with a slight hint of real butter (not the movie popcorn butter). I envision a nice bananas foster dessert as I nose.
Mike: The nose is very aromatic upon the initial pass. There is a muted model paint brush cleaner tang that is prominent but not off-putting. This is a smell I rather enjoy, not necessarily in a whiskey, just in general. Nosing in deeper after a swirl of the glass, I note subtle hints of overly ripe bananas, peanut butter, and honey. This is a very pleasant aroma for me, it is light and crisp with all those satisfying flavors mingling gently, with maybe a slight touch of caramel sauce.
Christian: As I take in my first sip, a light and thin mouthfeel fills my mouth. As expected with the high-corn mash bill, this whiskey is very corn forward on the palate. As I continue to experience this whiskey, a noticeable flavor profile of sweet corn on the cob with a melting pat of butter, really remains front and center. Another sip softly adds a hint of caramel candy and pie crust to the palate. The distilled water really makes the mouth feel take on the consistency of a glass of water. Almost like a whiskey flavored water additive. The flavors become a bit dampened by the water. Vanilla pudding and a slight pinch of cinnamon become the most noticeable flavors present.
Mike: Corn sugariness is thrust upon the lips and tongue. This is a very corn forward whiskey that becomes semi-sweet as it moves to the mid-palate then becomes dry on the back end. The dryness is unique, as if I was just eating the broken pieces of untoasted Pop-Tart crust edges. A subdued and manageable sweetness.
Christian: The finish on this whiskey is the definition of smooth. Little to no burn is present and the texture is silky. As I sit and reflect on the whiskey, I notice a bit of earthiness – similar to a green corn on the back end of this pour. Late, long after my last sip, a very pleasant and pronounced flavoring of peaches and cream really floods my taste buds. The finish on this whiskey was already relatively tame and smooth, so adding water really didn’t provoke much change here. Surprisingly, I believe the whiskey actually picked up a slight bitterness with water added and a slight rye spice pops out. I was really not expecting the rye.
Mike: The finish is silky with a trace of mild white pepper heat. Trivial and short but pleasant overall.
Christian: I really like what Three Crosses is trying to do as a small family and veteran owned distillery. To the best of my knowledge, I had not tried a whiskey that was aged using the Solera method and was really curious how it would turn out. Personally, I would like to try Three Crosses American Whiskey with a little more proof pop in it. At the current 80 proof offering, the whiskey is great for someone who is just dipping their toe into the world of whiskey or perhaps has not had good experiences in the past. The whiskey will not offend with oppressive heat or harshness, is delicately smooth, and does not have any strong overbearing flavors which could be off-putting. If you are looking for something with a rich robust flavor profile that warms your insides, then you may find yourself wanting something with a little more complexity. This is a solid opening salvo by Three Crosses Distillery. I look forward to trying more of their offerings as they continue to evolve and their whiskey continues to age.
Rating: 2.5 Rickhouses
Mike: The addition of water really tames the paint brush cleaner smell and accentuates the banana, peanut butter and honey notes. Browned butter and fragrant caramel develop in the mouth and the dryness is not as pronounced. The finish shortens and becomes even smoother. I generally prefer a stronger whiskey and this is already proofed at 80, but the addition of water really propels the general flavors for me.
This is a tolerable pour for me. A few things I like but nothing stands out. The minimal range of flavors from nose, to mouth, to finish are all muffled. This whiskey carries a 2 year age statement and uses the Solera method of aging. I’m very intrigued by the Solera method and was anxious to try this offering from Three Crosses. I think this has potential to be a solid whiskey, it just needs additional aging. If I’m comparing it to other Straight whiskies we have reviewed, it hits about middle of the pack. Acceptable, definitely not terrible, but could use some refinement from extra aging.
Rating: 2.5 Rickhouses