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Reservoir Distillery

Award-Winning Whiskey & Bourbon-A Destination to Remember

Looking for a get-away spot worthy of your palette? Go and experience Reservoir Distillery in Richmond’s Scott's Addition. A whiskey and bourbon fanatic’s must-do, the distillery was founded in 2008 and is the third bourbon distillery in the United States outside of Kentucky. 

Mary Allison, head distiller and one of the first female head bourbon distillers in the country, started working with Reservoir a little over four years ago. She excelled in math and science in elementary school and high school. In college she chose to study the arts – mainly theater and music. Mary moved up from part-time to full-time and then became head distiller of Reservoir. “I come from both a very artistic background but also a very scientific background”, Mary acknowledged. “I think that having both of those backgrounds and aptitudes and the training in them has lent itself to transitioning into distilling as a career.”

Mary never thought she would be a distiller, nor an expert maker of her craft. In hindsight she says it makes a lot of sense. While science, especially chemistry and physics as well as agile math is needed in the day-to-day making of whiskey, Mary also believes there is an artistry to it all. She knows distillers must adapt and creatively problem solve during the process to create whiskey that’s second to none, and that’s right up her alley. “You keep finding new things, new ways, new flavors,and new grains. Just different ways to do the same thing and I really think that a lot of that is, if not limitless, it is very close. You are only constrained by what you can dream up” she stated.

Mary believes that some distillers may think that it is all science and you have to follow a rigid structure with little to no deviation. “I choose to follow the path that it is neither wholly one or the other. It falls somewhere in the middle...if you aren’t able to riff a little bit and to ad lib and to make a creative solution to something then you also will not end up with as strong a product.”

This creative process is harnessed with Reservoir’s collaborations, including local breweries like Ardent, Hardywood, and a few winery distillations.

Reservoir has three founding bottles -  a 100% Wheat Whiskey, a 100% Corn Bourbon and a 100% Rye Whiskey.  The first was the Wheat Whiskey, considered to be an excellent place to start if you are new tasting whiskey. Next, Corn Bourbon which is made from 100% corn is a one-of-a kind bourbon. The last of the founding bottles was the Rye Whiskey. Rye is considered a harder grain to manipulate, so fewer distilleries make it as a single grain product. These can be enjoyed straight or blended.

Other creations to be found are their specialty bourbons: Hunter Scott Bourbon Whiskey and Hunter Scott Rye Whiskey. The distillery is also known for it limited releases and small batches such as Holland's Ghost; Holland's Blade Rummer; Holland's Milkman; Maison De Cuivre - bourbon finished in french oak Merlot casks; the collaborations with local  breweries; and their Boutique-Y Reservoir made for the U. K. Boutique-Y Whiskey Company.

Reservoir sources locally wherever possible. All of the grains come from Virginia farms in Charles City and New Kent. The process starts by grinding a single whole grain – either wheat, corn or rye - to break up the sugars and starches that naturally occur within that grain. This is added to hot water to start cooking the mash. When this reaches the right consistency, it is cooled down so the yeasts can be added and the fermentation process can start. Reservoir uses an open-top fermentation process meaning that the process is open to the environment. Once the fermentation stops, it goes through two distillations. Reservoir uses a pot still instead of a column one for a more hands-on approach. Once distilled down to a proof of about 125, it goes into the barrels – usually a quarter cask - for at least 2 years. Only oak is used for the barrels. Reservoir uses only two coopers to keep the process consistent – especially the custom char that all their casks have, They call it “alligator char” and it is a very dark burn, which is a unique addition for the flavors.

When asked what makes Reservoir stand out as a distillery, Mary decidedly answered that the single grain products make all the difference. She feels it’s not a common thing to see in the industry, and it continues to set Reservoir apart. Customers experience how those grains express themselves as a liquor. Reservoir is able to create their own mash builds using blends of two or all three of its single grains.

One of Mary’s favorite creations is the Hunter Scott Bourbon Whiskey. This specialty bourbon won Gold at the 2018 San Francisco World Spirits Competition and was just named as a runner-up in the drink category in Garden and Gun Magazine’s tenth annual Made in the South Awards. Come and taste them all, it’s certainly worth the trip!

Reservoir Distillery is located at 1800 Summit Avenue, Richmond, VA 23023. The tasting room is open Wednesday through Saturday - 4:00 pm to 7:00 pm and Sunday - 3:00 pm to 6:00 pm. Bottle sales are available Monday through Friday - 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. Visit their website, www.reservoirdistillery.com, to book a tour of the production floor, find upcoming events, and learn how to set up a private tour and tastings. While there, sign up for Reservoir’s e-newsletter and visit them on Instagram for drink recipes, @reservoirdistillery.

Side Bars

Reservoir Perfect Manhattan

2 oz Reservoir Bourbon 

2 oz Reservoir Rye 

0.5 oz Sweet Vermouth

0.5 oz Dry Vermouth

2 Dashes Orange Bitters 

Luxardo Cherry 

Combine Reservoir Bourbon and Rye, dry vermouth, sweet vermouth and bitters in a cocktail shaker. Add ice and shake until chilled. Strain the mixture into a chilled glass. Garnish with a Luxardo Cherry.

Reservoir Old Fashion

Ingredients:

1.5 oz Reservoir Bourbon
 7 Dashes Bitters 
1 Sugar Cube 
Orange Peel 

To make:
Muddle the bitters, sugar cube and orange peel in a mixing glass. Add bourbon. Fill glass with ice and pour mixed ingredients over ice. Stir.

Wax Dipped

Each bottle is crowned with hand-dipped wax. Each are color-coded: blue for wheat, black for corn and red for rye.

Quality Assurance

Each barrel of whiskey is checked carefully for age and maturity. Reservoir requires that four makers must agree that a barrel is ready. If one thinks it is not ready, it will be resealed and re-shelved to continue aging.

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