BATCH INFO: NANCY FRALEY

Nancy Fraley is one of Virginia Distillery Co.’s key mentors. We are so thankful for her guiding nose and so happy we can recognize her by dedicating the original batch of these three new expressions to her.

We’re excited to introduce Courage & Conviction Bourbon Cask, Courage & Conviction Cuvée Cask, and Courage & Conviction Sherry Cask. Released in March 2021, the first batch of these three new whiskies is dedicated to Nancy Fraley, a master blender and consultant who works with distilleries worldwide on maturation and sensory analysis programs.

As a Master Blender and International Consultant, Nancy has been a great mentor to Virginia Distillery Co. She assisted in helping the team develop out standards for our sensory analysis and has been an enthusiast advocate for our whiskies. We’re excited to release the inaugural batches of these whiskies in her honor. Read more about Nancy’s background.

IN THE DISTILLERY

For the Nancy Fraley batch of Courage & Conviction, the malting, fermentation and distillation took place between March and September of 2016. The distillate produced between March and April of 2016 was put into Bourbon casks, while the distillate produced between August and September of 2016 was put into both Cuvée and Sherry casks.
stills

INTO THE CASKS

Developed under the tutelage of the late Dr. Jim Swan, Courage & Conviction was matured in a combination of Bourbon, Cuvée and Sherry casks. All the distillate created for this batch is exactly the same, meaning we don’t mill, mash, ferment, or distill any differently based on what cask the distillate will be placed into for maturation.

A total of 28 casks (14 Bourbon, 8 Cuvée, 6 Sherry) were selected for the Nancy Fraley batch. These casks were vatted with whisky from our prior batch of Courage & Conviction, and slowly reduced to 92 proof before bottling.

COURAGE & CONVICTION BOURBON CASK

bourbon-cask

Each of the 14 bourbon casks used in this batch once held Kentucky bourbon from well-known distilleries. These American oak barrels are 200 liters (52.8 gallons), and add notes of vanilla, caramel, butterscotch, oak, smoke and cinnamon to the final product.

Of the 14 bourbon casks filled, 4 of them were filled on April 20th, 2016, and the remaining 10 were filled the following week on April 29th, 2016. All 14 casks were dumped on June 15th, 2020.  Based on these fill and dump dates, the age of the whisky in Courage & Conviction Bourbon Cask is between 4 years, 1 month, and 17 days and 4 years, 1 month and 26 days.

COURAGE & CONVICTION CUVÉE CASK

cuvee-cask

Each of the 8 cuvée casks used in this batch once held premium red wine from Europe. These European oak barrels are 225 liters (59.4 gallons). After the wine is removed, the cask is broken down, the interior shaved, re-toasted and re-charred, and reassembled. The re-toasting and re-charring of the cask energizes the wood sugars and brings forward barrel spice, bright red fruit and toasted pecan. When the barrels were delivered to us in 2016, they almost appeared brand new: they had been re-coopered, pressure tested, and shrink wrapped.

Of the 8 cuvée casks, 3 of them were filled on September 7th, 2016, and the remaining 5 were filled 3 weeks later on September 28th, 2016. All 8 casks were dumped on June 15th, 2020.  Based on these fill and dump dates, the age of the whisky in this batch of Courage & Conviction Cuvée Cask is between 3 years, 8 months, and 18 days and 3 years, 9 months and 8 days.

COURAGE & CONVICTION SHERRY CASK

sherry-cask

Each of the 6 sherry casks used in this batch were former Spanish Sherry casks, holding a fortified wine made from white grapes. Two of the sherry casks were Fino casks, two were Oloroso casks, and the final two were Pedro Ximénez.

The two Fino casks were filled on September 14th, 2016. The two Oloroso casks were filled on September 21st, 2016, and the two PX casks were filled on September 28th, 2016. All six casks were dumped on June 15th, 2020. Based on the fill and dump dates, the age of the whisky from the Courage & Conviction Sherry Cask is between 3 years and 8 months and 3 years and 9 months.

The recipe of the Courage & Conviction Sherry Cask is split evenly between the three sherry casks used (Fino, Oloroso, and PX).

WHISKY MATURATION

At our Lovingston, Virginia distillery, we see hot summers and cool winters. This is good for our whisky, as the casks will contract during cooler periods and expand during the heat of the summer. This contraction and expansion allows for more interaction between the spirit and the cask, resulting in a greater depth of flavor. 

Compared to other regions of the world such as Scotland, our whiskies age faster due to the intensity of the expansion and contraction cycles. What occurs seasonally in the Old World can occur at a daily, even hourly rate here in Virginia. The upside to this is a whisky that naturally develops into a complex spirit with layers of aroma, flavor and depth at a far quicker pace than the aging time required for an Old World whisky.

dustin-maturation1

The downside for us is the rate of evaporation, or “Angel’s Share.” The more interaction between barrel stave and spirit, the more evaporation. Loss from a single year of aging in Scotland or Ireland averages around 1% annually. Here at Virginia Distillery Company we have seen an evaporation rate of 6-12% a year, proving once again that there is truth to the proverb “Age is just a number.”

ANGEL'S SHARE FROM COURAGE & CONVICTION NANCY FRALEY BATCH

  • Courage & Conviction Bourbon Cask: 3.6% est. percentage per year
  • Courage & Conviction Cuvée Cask: 3.3% est. percentage per year
  • Courage & Conviction Sherry Cask: 5.7% est. percentage per year

Interestingly, both water and alcohol evaporate from the barrels, thus concentrating either or both elements, often to different degrees depending on heat and humidity factors. Virginia has significant humidity at times, so we’ve placed sensors among our barrels to track humidity and evaporation rates. In fact, the entry proof of our barrels may increase or decrease depending on a barrel’s location and the climate's impact. Our original estimates indicated we could see 6 to 8% losses each year, but we’re thankful to see the angel’s share being more minimal than originally expected.

TEMPERATURE DATA

nancy-fraley

The above graph shows the temperature swings during the time the whisky was maturing in our cask house between April 2016 and June 2020. The blue line shows daily high temperatures, where the copper line shows daily low temperatures.

In the 3 to 4 years the whisky was maturing in our cask houses, Lovingston, Virginia had a total of 144 summer days where the outdoor temperature reached at least 95 degrees °F. The hottest day was on June 11, 2016, where the temperature reached a scorching 111.9 °F. During that same timeframe, we saw 79 nights where temperatures dipped below 20 °F. The coldest night was on January 7th, 2018, where the temperature dove down to a chilling -4.5 °F.

  • Bourbon Casks: The fill dates were between 4/20/16 and 4/29/16. The dump date was 6/15/2020.
  • Cuvée Casks: The fill dates were between 9/7/16 and 9/28/16. The dump date was 6/15/2020.
  • Sherry Casks: The fill dates were 9/14/16 and 9/28/16. The dump date was 6/15/2020.

INTO THE BOTTLES

As with previous batches, the final ratio of what goes into each bottle of Courage & Conviction is approximately from 50% Bourbon casks, 25% Cuvée casks, and 25% Sherry casks. We pulled additional volume of specific casks to hold a percentage back to incorporate into our next batch. This allows us to remain consistent from batch-to-batch while still allowing the nuance of each batch to show through based on specific barrel picks.

Bottling for this third batch took place between January and March 2021. The Nancy Fraley Batch of Courage & Conviction produced 1,950 cases of 750mLs, or 11,700 bottles, including:

  • 570 cases of Courage & Conviction Flagship
  • 460 cases of Courage & Conviction Bourbon Cask
  • 460 cases of Courage & Conviction Cuvée Cask
  • 460 cases of Courage & Conviction Sherry Cask

Based on the nuances of the individual barrel picks that go into each bottling, you should expect to see variation with each batch. Below are specific sensory notes for the Nancy Fraley batch.

intothebottles

SENSORY NOTES

The flagship offering of Courage & Conviction will see a primary profile across all batches due to the specific types of casks. In addition, the ratio of those casks in our recipe is also the same from batch to batch. On the nose, you'll expect to find notes of caramel and butterscotch. On the palate, you’ll see bright red fruit, raspberry, cocoa, barrel spice and vanilla.

Based on the nuances of the individual barrel picks, you should expect to see variation from batch to batch. Below you'll find specific notes for the Nancy Fraley batch.

COURAGE & CONVICTION BOURBON CASK

  • NOSE. Aromas of vanilla, banana custard, shortbread, and a touch of cedar
  • PALATE. The silky body brings flavors of orange oil, toasted coconut, and graham cracker.
  • FINISH. The soft finish lingers with cinnamon and mild barrel spice.
Bourbon

COURAGE & CONVICTION CUVÉE CASK

  • NOSE. Aromas of plum, dark raspberry, rich chocolate torte and clove
  • PALATE. Flavors of tart cherry, blood orange, cocoa, and burnt sugar
  • FINISH. The finish has notes of candied walnuts and ginger.
Cuvee

COURAGE & CONVICTION SHERRY CASK

  • NOSE. Scents of honeycomb, apricot, bright lemon, and sugared almonds 
  • PALATE. A silky mouthfeel melds together flavors of hazelnut, soft leather, and toffee.
  • FINISH. The finish is a slow fade of soft caramel and baking spice.
Sherry

COURAGE & CONVICTION FLAGSHIP

  • NOSE. Aromas of honeysuckle, orange oil, vanilla custard, and toasted oak
  • PALATE. Flavors of cherry, mocha, toasted pecan, and ginger
  • FINISH. The finish has notes of chocolate, white pepper, and clove.
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