What Alcohol Is Virginia Known For?

The Birthplace of American Spirits

The scene for Virginia alcohol is home to a vast landscape of distilleries, wineries, and breweries where drinkers of all tastes can enjoy themselves, but it’s history is one that’s tied to whiskey, going back as early as 1620 when an early colonist named George Thorpe arrived in Jamestown, Virginia. 

After some time there, Thorpe settled on a trading agreement with the indigenous people of the area, and began using corn for his mash bill while trying to distill spirits, which historians now believe is the first batch of whiskey made in America.

Whiskey production slowly grew across the Appalachian area throughout the 1700s due to the presence of Scottish and Irish immigrants, and their experience for distilling unaged whiskey. In 1797, George Washington began operating his own distillery, making rye whiskey from his Mount Vernon estate. And by 1810, US census records show there were more than 3,600 distilleries functioning across Virginia. 

Whiskey’s boom in popularity would continue through the 1800s until skidding to a fast halt during the Civil War, when many distilleries were destroyed. Then Prohibition would provide a follow up punch that just about dismantled the industry. It would be a difficult rebuild for Virginia whiskey in the years following, but over time the industry has returned, leading to some of the finest American whiskeys around today.

The Virginia Whiskey Scene Today

While the Virginia of today is a blossoming space for spirits brands of all paths, and imbibers can explore a range of wineries and breweries that are sure to please the palate, distilleries still reign supreme, producing some of Appalachia’s finest bourbon and rye whiskey. Suffice to say, locals quickly become experienced drinkers of their own accord, and whiskey lovers can find a different, yet altogether pleasant experience each time they decide to drink.

Virginia rye whiskey is renowned for a flavor profile that differs from rye whiskey made elsewhere in the United States due to the traditional Scottish, Irish methods they use to distill the spirits. Tasting notes provide slightly less bite of peppercorn than most American rye whiskeys, as well as a more rounded finish with nuances of oak. If you were to try a rye from a state other than Virginia, you may discover traces of smoke on the nose, a peppery palate, and a spicy finish. Rye whiskey is an excellent choice for the connoisseur looking to experience the whiskey straight up. Although, you can further enhance this spirit with a classic cocktail like the Old Fashioned or Manhattan.

You’ll also discover some fine bourbons throughout Virginia distilleries. Providing drinkers with a different flavor spectrum than rye, bourbon has tasting notes that provide a perceived sweetness. Aromatics such as vanilla, caramel, nutmeg, cocoa, apple, and nuts linger on the nose giving warmth and a depth of flavor, while its finish is typically much smoother than rye. Bourbon is another one of those spirits that can take the spotlight on its own and be enjoyed neat, but it’s also great as a Sazerac or Mint Julep if you’re looking for a cocktail that stands out.

The Future of Virginia Alcohol

While Bourbon has been at the center of national popularity, and been a huge part of the comeback for Virginia whiskey, it won’t have to bear the burden of being the most popular spirit in the state for long. Rye whiskey is quickly becoming a renowned export with spirits like Catoctin Creek’s Roundstone Rye® 80 Proof. Due to its rounder finish and unique complexities in flavor, Virginia rye whiskey is a unique step up for anyone looking to expand their palate. 

Virginia has become an innovative space for all types of spirits. Due to it’s healthy variety of competition, creativity, and booze, we expect it to continue to grow into a place where people of all walks can drink together. Start your journey into Virginia whiskey today. View our specially crafted selection of spirits online.

Latest News

Catoctin Creek - Best of Virginia 2022

Once again, Catoctin Creek has been awarded #1 BEST OF VIRGINIA for Distillery in Northern Virginia in Virginia Living magazine! Nestled* on the banks of its namesake creek, Catoctin opening in 2009 as the first legal distillery in Loudoun County since...

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American Whiskey: Profile on Catoctin Creek

Maggie Kimberl of American Whiskey magazine recently caught up with Becky Harris for an update on the distillery: MK: Catoctin Creek whiskeys have garnered some major accolades over the years. What are you most proud of? RH: This is a really challenging...

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The Spirits Business: Ten female-founded spirits brands

Nice to see Becky included in The Spirits Business roundup of ten female-founded spirits brands on International Women's Day. Becky Harris co-founded Catoctin Creek Distilling Company in Virginia with her husband Scott in 2009. Based in Loudoun County in the north...

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Contact Us

Catoctin Creek Distillery

Catoctin Creek Distillery
120 W Main St
Purcellville, VA 20132

Tel +1-540-751-8404

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Latest Events

Hot Honey Finish Release

  MAY 23   Barrel Select Hot Honey Finish Whisky Release 8:00am Beginning Monday, May 23rd at 8am, we will release the Catoctin Creek Barrel Select Hot Honey Finish whisky!  Just in time for Father's Day!! ...

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Summer Dinner at the Distillery - Chef Erik Foxx

  JUN 10   Dinner at the Distillery with Chef Erik Foxx 7:00pm—9:30pm Join us for our summer dinner at the distillery with special guest chef, Erik Foxx!  Dinner will be a four-course affair, using seasonal...

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Catoctin Creek Bottling Workshop

  JUN 18   Bottling Workshop 10:00am—12:00pm Catoctin Creek Distilling Company will conduct one of our famous Bottling Workshops!  Here's your chance to volunteer and learn how to bottle, cap, seal, and label Roundstone Rye. Get...

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