Rick Wasmund, the owner at Copper Fox Distillery in Sperryville, Virginia, became a distiller for three reasons, in no particular order: 1) He wanted his dog to be able to join him at work, 2) he wanted to travel, and 3) he had an idea for a whiskey recipe that had never been done before.
“I had an epiphany about whiskey making,” he says.
He explains that his inspiration for a new whiskey recipe came from Scottish distilleries that smoke their whiskey with peat, or vegetal soil. Instead of smoking with peat, Wasmund decided he would smoke his whiskey with apple wood. “Peat has an earthy essence, where the apple wood is a nutty, fruity combination that is subtle. I’d had fireplaces and I’d split my own wood. When you get a perfectly seasoned piece of apple wood and you split it, there’s this amazing aroma, I thought it would be a natural for the whiskey.”
Wasmund puts toasted apple wood into the used bourbon barrels that hold his aging whiskey. “We’re the first distillery in the world to age spirits with apple wood. It’s a really unique and different whiskey all around. It’s nothing like Scotch, bourbon, corn or moonshine — it’s a whiskey that was invented in my head.”
Another unique concept out of Wasmund’s head is his “mental travel” philosophy. He’s grateful to the distilling business for granting him the ability to travel the country, meet people he wouldn’t have otherwise met, and take in some great meals along the way. But more so, he’s appreciative of whiskey making for giving him the ability to mentally travel. “Alcohol has always connected people,” he says. Being in the whiskey business gives him a glimpse back in time and a connection to like-minded people all over the world.
Wasmund creates an even deeper connection by giving fellow drinkers a chance to do some of their own “distilling” even if they don’t have their own licenses. “We came up with the idea that maybe people would want the barrel-proof un-aged spirit so they could do their own infusions or age their own.”
Available for purchase on the Copper Fox website are American White Oak barrels for aging spirits at home. The distillery makes un-aged whiskey and sells it in a kit with these barrels that they call the Distiller’s Art Series.
After years in insurance, retail and investment, Wasmund found his calling in making inventive whiskey, and making it so everyone else could invent their own styles too. And in case you were wondering, Acacia, Wasmund’s “18 pounds of pure pooch love” goes to work with him every day.