Wasmund and Copper Fox: looking good

There are more, ongoing achievements to report for Rick Wasmund and his Copper Fox Distillery in Sperryville’s River District.

Rick Wasmund, left, accepts a Best New Beverage award in Richmond.

Wasmund’s Barrel Kit — a two-liter American White Oak mini-barrel of either Single Malt Spirit or Rye Spirit — just earned “Best New Beverage” top award at Virginia’s annual Food & Beverage Convention in Richmond. Since November, folks now can legally buy Wasmund’s whiskeys locally as well as in ABC stores; it is also sold in a majority of other states and — tops on his list — Wasmund recently married long-time love Chelsea Stone here on Valentines Day.

What began as a boyhood dream back in upstate New York to own his own business and a distillery at that, is now a successful reality that has grown into a thriving, unique business producing popular, signature Single Malt Whisky and Rye Whisky. There are plans to add a new “whisky made from Bourbon Mash” to the production schedule this spring.

As with most successful enterprises, Wasmund’s Copper Fox Distillery was years in the making. In 2000, Wasmund was a practicing financial planner in Middleburg. The smell of local cherry and applewood fires there rekindled his youthful interest in distilling, Wasmund recalls. “My idea was to make a unique American, fruitwood smoke-infused whisky. I started in 2000, by reading every book on the subject I could find. Next, I visited all the major distilleries in North America, making note of successful tastes, methods, techniques and approaches at each as I toured.”

Then he took time off and traveled overseas to tour top distilleries in Scotland and to learn from its highly skilled, distillery experts. Wasmund obtained an internship at Bowmore Distillery — home to a distinguished, award-winning single malt whiskey — on the Isle of Islay. Renowned worldwide for single malt fine whiskey, Bowmore was founded in 1779 and is the second oldest distillery in Scotland, one of only seven that still malt their own barley.

“I knew our distillery focus would be a unique malt and wanted to create a fruitwood smoked whisky that would be different and distinct in flavor from anything ever produced before,” Wasmund said.

In 2001, seeking a way to make his business work he partnered with a nearby distillery here to obtain the necessary equipment. A dispute over purchase terms, however, derailed the partnership. Undaunted, he started anew in November 2004 to assemble and build the “Copper Fox Distillery” he envisioned in the former apple packing plant he had purchased in Sperryville with backing from a handful of faithful investors.

Wasmund and production manager Sean McCaskey, seeking their “signature” malt barley, next approached the head of the “small grain” department at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg. Wasmund said, “They were delighted to assist since previously there had been no real market for local barley other than for feed and ground cover. We tried out several varieties but settled on “thoroughbred” barley identified by the university, now grown in bulk for us by Billy Dawson of Bay’s Best Feed in Heathsville, Va.”

Soon after, Rick’s mother, Helen Wasmund, agreed to sell her business and home in Buffalo and move to Sperryville to help with the growing demands of management — and later sales — at the Copper Fox Distillery.

By mid-2009, business was booming and Wasmund’s Single Malt and Rye whiskeys were selling well at all Virginia ABC stores; in Washington, D.C. at Pearson’s, Schneider’s, Central, Calvert Woodley liquor outlets, at Old Ebbitt Grill and at other sites in more than half the states in the nation.

Legislative changes also had made it possible for Wasmund to get a long-sought license in November 2009 to sell his products at the distillery for the first time.

Topping this, Rick Wasmund celebrated a landmark 50th birthday here last summer. Not long after he asked girlfriend Chelsea Stone — whom he had met first, as she notes, at completion of “batch 12” of his Single Malt Whiskey — to marry him.

Their amazing wedding here on a very snowy Valentines Day 2010 was held along with a cast of nearly 250 family and friends celebrating at the Copper Fox Distillery, a grand event which they point out “also commemorated ‘batch 37’ of our whiskey!”

For more information about Copper Fox Distillery’s whiskey products or to arrange a tour check www.copperfox.biz.

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