"I know it when I see it" is how many people define craft distilling. See if this one passes that test for you.
Last Wednesday Coppersea Distilling, in New York's Hudson River Valley, announced that it had filled two whiskey barrels made from New York State-grown white oak and constructed by a New York cooperage, U.S. Barrel Company, a first since Prohibition.
One barrel was filled with rye whiskey, the other with bourbon.
The words "mis en bouteille au chateau" have been an important legend on French wine labels for centuries. They signify a producer who does everything on-site, from growing the grapes to corking the bottles. Founded in 2011, Coppersea is one of the few distilleries in the world capable of doing that sort of thing with whiskey. They use only Hudson Valley-grown corn, rye, and barley. They also use open wooden fermenters, direct-fired copper-pot stills, sour-mashing and floor-malting.
“From the outset, Coppersea has gone to great lengths to source all of the ingredients in our whiskeys from New York State,” remarks Coppersea master distiller Angus MacDonald. “There is a tendency to place the barrel outside of those considerations, but when you reflect on how much of the flavor of an oak-matured whiskey comes from the wood it is aged in, it becomes clear that a truly local whiskey must be aged in locally sourced oak.”
U.S. Barrel Company owner and head cooper Bob Hockert agrees. “We feel that making a high-quality whiskey barrel is just as much a craft as making the whiskey that goes into it. Our team has been creating slack barrels [which are not designed to hold fluids] for ten years, so we began this project with a good amount of expertise. Tight-barrel cooperage has its own challenges, though. We've had to build our own equipment, develop an understanding of whiskey distilling, and forge relationships with New York State loggers in order to build barrels that meet the highest standards.”
U.S. Barrel sources premium New York oak and air-seasons it for at least a year.
Unfortunately, as good as all this sounds, tasting notes will have to wait. That rule is the same for all whiskey-makers, craft or not, and may be the hardest part.
P.S., I hope their whiskey turns out as well as their video did.