Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Rum in Richmond with Virago Spirits

In the last few months we've visited a plethora of distilleries focusing on rum where this spirit seems to be enjoying a new renaissance of discovery. While visiting Richmond for the Virginia Wine Gala, we ventured into Virago Spirits -- primary because of its proximity to Hardywood Craft Brewery in Richmond's Historic German Brewing District.  Upon entering the tasting room we went through a journey into rum while gazing all the while on their vintage, direct-fire, 2,500-liter Charentais-style alembic still. 

Virago's slogan should be "slow-down" as they slowly distill their spirits using alembic still in  single distillation runs that take 12 hours and 48 hours for a complete distillation cycle (three ‘broullis’ distillations + one ‘bon chauffe’ distillation). This duration allows the distillery to separate out the crude portions of the distillate and to concentrate flavor. The flavor is also enhanced by the direct-fire nature of the still which requires an agitator that keeps the mash moving inside the pot. Without it, heat would be distributed too unevenly, and the mash could scorch. The distillery believes this "adds layers of depth and complexity of flavor". The distillery also slows the process by aging and finishing their rum in various oak treatments. 

However, their flagship and most bartender friendly product is the 151 High Proof Rum. This spirit is made from double-distilled molasses. The touch of expected heat is offset by clean tropical fruits and a layered profile. They also offer a more traditional Classic White Rum at 80 proof that provides a similar flavor profile without the burn.

We then moved into the Four-Point Rum section where this rum is a blend of four major rum destinations: Barbados (8-year-old rum, pot and column distilled, Jamaica (4-year-old rum, pot distilled), Nicaragua (5-8-year-old rum, column distilled), and Panama (6-year-old rum, column distilled). These individual rums are then blended in house to create a beautiful and complex rum - a sipping can cigar rum. This brand is then made even more complex by finishing in other used casks. The Cognac Cask Finished Rum rested for 15 months in freshly-emptied, 30-year-old Grande Champagne cognac casks which adds additional floral and tropical attributes from the nose through the finish. The Ruby Port Cask Finished Rum spent months in freshly-emptied casks of ruby port from Portugal’s Douro Valley which provides earthier and cherry fruit elements to the final rum. A fantastic series. 

Finally, Virago Spirits releases several other gin, liqueur, and apple products such as a very delicious Pommeau and an Apple Brandy still resting. For gin, they offer the Modern Gin with Oolong Tea and the Kali Hibiscus Gin. Since most of their rums are available in the ABC system, I purchased a bottle of Ginjinha - Cherry Liqueur which strongly resembles the similar Portuguese liqueur.  Although the Virago version is made using  tart Montmorency cherries from Michigan and a secret blend of winter spices. Delicious. Also, look at the exceptional glassware they use to provide the flights. Little Libations material. 

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