Review: Copper Fox Dawson’s Reserve Bourbon Whisky

DSR – VA – 011: Copper Fox Dawson’s Reserve Bourbon Whisky

Company/Distillery: Copper Fox Distillery Enterprises LLC

Location: Williamsburg & Sperryville, Virginia

Mash Bill: 60% Corn, 20% Wheat, and 20% Malted Barley

Age Statement: No Age Statement

Proof/ABV: 90 Proof/45% ABV

Color: Soft chestnut in color. Oily with a medium viscosity appearance in the glass. The whisky beautifully coats the belly of the tasting vessel.  As the legs develop, they instantly grab and hold at the viscous line for a moment before speedily releasing down to gather in the base of the Glencairn glass.

Purchase Price: $62.99 from the Distillery December 2020; 750 ml

Bottle Label Information:

Front Label

“Copper Fox Pot-Stilled Dawson’s Reserve Bourbon Whisky”

“ESTD 2005”

“Grains Used: 1/5 Hand Malted Barley, 3/5 Corn, 1/5 Wheat”

“Malting Notes: 2 row and/or 6 row Virginia barley. Medium smoke 100% Peachwood.”

“Distilling Notes: Double pot-stilled to between 150 and 160 proof. 500 gallon mash still, 104 gallon spirit still.”

“Maturation: Aged in new 53 gallon white oak barrels air dried over one year, #3 char. Non-chill filtered.”

“Batch: M”

Side Label

“At Copper Fox, we dedicate ourselves to making great whisky. Each barrel starts from scratch – 100% Virginia grain, our own hand-malted barley, smoked with select fruitwood in our kiln for added flavor.”

“With our very first bourbon release, we honor the farmer whose grain became the foundation of our flavor journey. Billy Dawson was as passionate and dedicated to his fields of grain as we are to our whisky. We hope that whenever you raise a glass you will be among friends as good, as kind, and as true as Billy.”

“Rick Wasmund & Sean McCaskey”

Distillery Background

Copper Fox Distillery Enterprises LLC

Copper Fox Distillery Enterprises LLC was founded in 2005 by former insurance agent, Rick Wasmund. Before beginning the Copper Fox Distillery, Mr. Wasmund had developed an interest in the smoking of different varieties of fruitwoods. Mr. Wasmund had also recently attended a scotch tasting where he heard a presentation on the method used by scotch distillers whereby they added flavor to their malt by smoking it with peat. These two ideas helped Mr. Wasmund realize a unique opportunity–using smoked fruitwoods to flavor the malt for whiskey – something no one else in the industry was currently doing!

In 2000, Mr. Wasmund decided to travel to Scotland where he could explore the many distilleries in order to learn their craft. It was shortly thereafter that Wasmund would accept an internship at Bowmore Distillery in Scotland. Bowmore Distillery is known for being one of the last few distilleries to malt their own kiln-smoked barley. The internship provided Mr. Wasmund with the opportunity to explore and experiment with malt barley using local fruitwoods in Virginia, a desire that was taking root more and more as time progressed.

Before long, Mr. Wasmund would launch Copper Fox Distillery in Sperryville, Virginia. Here, he would distill the world’s first applewood aged whisky. The distillery in Sperryville would go on to become the first U.S. distillery to have a malt floor and kiln since the end of prohibition. This allows the distillery to smoke their own malt, using nontraditional fruitwoods such as applewood and peachwood, thereby giving their products a distinctive flavor profile not found anywhere else.

In March 2015, Copper Fox Distillery purchased the former Lord Paget Hotel in Williamsburg, Virginia as the site for their second distillery, which opened to the public in July 2016. This expansion allowed business partner, Sean McCaskey, to operate the distillery in Sperryville while Rick Wasmund began working on building the operations at the new Williamsburg location.

Current product offerings from Copper Fox Distillery: Copper Fox Original American Single Malt; Copper Fox Original Rye; Copper Fox Peachwood American Single Malt; Copper Fox Sassy Single Malt Rye; Vir Gin; Copper Fox Single Malt Spirit; Copper Fox Rye Spirit; Copper Fox Bourbon Mash. There are also several cask finished specialty bottles known as The Sperryville Collection.

For more information and distillery tours visit Copper Fox Distillery online.

Dawson’s Reserve Bourbon Whisky

Dawson’s Reserve Bourbon Whisky, named after longtime friend and local farmer Billy Dawson, is Copper Fox Distillery’s inaugural bourbon whisky offering. The whisky is aged for just over 4 years and is distilled using a mash bill of 60% corn, 20% wheat, and 20% malted barley. Separating it from other bourbon offerings, Copper Fox Dawson’s Reserve uses Virginia barley which has been malted and smoked using their in-house kiln from 100% peachwood.

Tasting Notes

Tasting Date/Vessel: January 31, 2021 – Neat in Glencairn Glass; Then a splash of distilled water.


Christian: A quick gentle nose of the bottle brings forth a fruity sweetness, similar to that of fresh cherries. I also picked up a hint of tobacco with the first pass. After being poured into a Glencairn, I take another deep nose of the glass and detect a pleasant and light smokiness. A gentle swirl and smell brings elegant hints of sweet caramel, stone fruit, and honey butter glazed breakfast pastry. A very pleasant and inviting nose. The addition of distilled water really brings the smell of fresh wood burning in a fireplace, warm brown sugar, and caramel sauce. This pour really reminds me of sitting around a wood burning fireplace in winter.

Mike: Nosing the bottle before pouring out samples, I am greeted with the somber sweetness of curing tobacco leaves with a light touch of fig. As I lift the glass to my nose, there is a pleasant aroma of softened peaches that fades to a subtle smokiness. As I swirl the whisky in the glass, a rush of freshly lumbered pine emerges. Nosing in a bit deeper and with a gentle swirl, soft bouquets of tobacco, raisins, and canned pears intermingle. The addition of water brings out leather and robust tobacco notes. I also notice a touch of ethanol that I wasn’t picking up on at first.


Christian: This whisky has a mouth feel that is thin yet clean and crisp. On the palate, a rush of smoke is first noticeable. Again, this smokiness is gentle and not at all overbearing like a pile of burning brush, instead it’s more like the fantastic taste of smoke from a barbeque. Additionally, I pick up hints of leather, light brown sugar, and caramel sauce, accompanied with a touch of oak from the barrel. The distilled water allows a hint of cinnamon and vanilla to join the toasted brown sugar flavors on the palate.

Mike: The first sip produces a very light and honeyed sweetness on the tip of the tongue and mid-palate. The sweetness transitions immediately to a fiery young heat. Earthy flavors begin to present mid-palate and consume the mouth. These flavors are not overwhelming, rather very precise and satisfying. I’m reminded of camping trips as a Boy Scout–that old canvas tent and campfire smell. A pale fruitiness settles in the back of the palate, producing a medley of honey crisp apples and peaches. Water really enhances those campy flavors for me. The sweetness is tamed and the smokiness is accentuated. 


Christian: The finish of the Dawson’s Reserve Bourbon Whisky is short to medium. It is at this point that I really begin to taste the influence of the fruitiness from the peachwood. Ripe peach stone fruit comes on late but with a nice punch of flavor on the back end. As I continue to allow the finish to develop, I pick up notes of pipe tobacco along with a slight bitterness of oak building up on my taste buds. The smokiness is still present, however, it’s light like the smoke on a campfire that has recently been extinguished. The addition of distilled water seems to draw the bitterness of the oak forward a bit more than I like and adds a touch of roasted coffee beans deep in the back end. The sweetness of the stone fruit becomes lost behind the barrel char and smoke flavors.

Mike: The finish on this pour is medium and rather delicate. A mild tingle develops in the back of the throat, a gentle reminder of the young age. A hint of dry pastry crust materializes late and delayed even further is a muted tart peach preserve. The addition of water subdues an already mild finish.

Our Rating

Final Thoughts

Christian: This is my first experience with a product from Copper Fox and it did not disappoint. The flavors and aromas found in this pour are so unique compared to any other bourbon we have tried up to this point. I really enjoyed the added touch found in this whisky that is a direct result of the time and effort put into malting and smoking their own barley. This extra step brings forth that signature component to Copper Fox’s whisky. The price, although a bit steep, may prohibit this from being a daily drink for many, however, its uniqueness and quality definitely make it a sipper for special occasions. I am excited to continue to enjoy this bottle of Dawson’s Reserve Bourbon Whisky by Copper Fox! And if this bottle is any indication of the quality of their body of work, I look forward to sampling some more Copper Fox spirits.

Rating: 3.33 Rickhouses

Mike: This was a very unique whisky to me. I’m not a fan of Scotch, and Dawson’s Reserve had some of those characteristics to me, however it was balanced nicely with the more traditional bourbon flavors that I have come to know and love. While this pour seemed to lean heavier on the smoky flavors, I rather enjoyed them. Despite the age, this was a genuinely flavorful bourbon. If you tend to lean towards Scotch, I believe that this is a bourbon you would enjoy. If you’re strictly a bourbon fan, like myself, give this a try if you want to expand palate.

Rating: 2.875 Rickhouses


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