We reviewed Virginia Distillery Co.’s first entirely house-distilled single malt whisky, Prelude: Courage & Conviction, last fall. That release was a one-off, meant to be a preview of this bottle, Courage & Conviction, the distillery’s official flagship brand, the first batch of which has been dedicated to the distillery’s late founder, Dr. George G. Moore. While sharing plenty with its predecessor, Courage & Conviction is a different animal both in age and composition. Officially aged a minimum of three years, we’ve been told there’s at least four-year-old whisky in this bottle, as well. That may still seem young, but the humid Virginia climate helps to age whisky up to four times faster than in Scotland. More importantly, Prelude had only a marginal amount of cuvée cask in its blend, but for Courage & Conviction, 25% of the blend contains stocks aged in re-coopered cuvée wine casks (the bulk is ex-bourbon with another quarter, give or take, being ex-sherry).
After tasting from one of these cuvée casks on a visit to the distillery last fall, I realized how impactful that component could be and speculated that it would take an already good single malt in Prelude to a whole new level. Not bragging or anything, but I was very right.
The nose on Courage & Conviction is just as rich as its predecessor, if not more so, but there’s more balance here. It’s less punchy with cereal and alcohol and more elegant with the familiar notes of Honey Grahams and juicy raisin complemented and elevated by sweet, dark red berries, vanilla fudge, raw honey, and a delicate earthiness that comes across as wildflowers, wet straw, and old barn floors. The palate has grown even more generous with a silky, syrupy mouthfeel that showcases bolder flavors of honey-sweetened black tea, ginger syrup, cinnamon stick, and raspberry candies. The mid-palate sees a bit of buttery scone with mixed berry jam, the malts and barrel-finishing finding exceptional harmony. The finish is long with sweet toffee and almond pastry, accented with just a hint of stone fruit and more fresh-brewed tea, this time with a lemon squeeze. This is an American single malt that easily stands up to some of the best from overseas.