Virginia Lightning

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Virginia Lightning

Unread postby gillmang » Fri Apr 22, 2005 4:44 pm

I did a search (hope I did it right) but could not find discussion of this whiskey.

This is a 50% abv pot still corn whiskey, apparently the only pot still corn made today (legally made, that is). The company uses a copper pot still made in 1930, there is a cool photo of it on the company's web site. They claim the whiskey retains a full aroma that is not available in a column still distillation.

The house also makes Copper Fox, a whiskey which is quick aged with charred wood chips and then aged in barrels for a time.

Based on the picture in the website, Copper Fox has a nice color, I'd like to try it and the corn likker too. The more I get to thinking on this, much as I enjoy Bourbon and rye, I would like to get an acquaintance with the corn whiskies, to see whiskey at its source.

Gary
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Unread postby OneCubeOnly » Fri Apr 22, 2005 9:29 pm

If you want whiskey at its source, Copper Fox may be what you're looking for. The stuff is flat out RAW. I may not be a good judge on this one though, as I don't have much experience with stuff that doesn't have more barrel time. To me it's moonshine with a little of the edge knocked off.

The apple wood chips are an interesting curiosity with it though.
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Unread postby gillmang » Sat Apr 23, 2005 3:08 am

Gary, what about the basic corn whiskey they put out, Virginia Lightning, have you tried that?

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Unread postby adipocere » Sat Apr 23, 2005 4:55 am

virginia lightning is great stuff, wonderful sweetcorn flavour. legal 'shine, you could call it. i wish i could get another bottle, but i'm stuck in illinois! :)
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Unread postby OneCubeOnly » Sat Apr 23, 2005 6:12 am

Gary, what about the basic corn whiskey they put out, Virginia Lightning, have you tried that?


I haven't, but the comments here are making me want to! I may have to seek it out sometime soon!
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Unread postby gillmang » Sat Apr 23, 2005 8:00 am

I would like to try it too because as a pot still product it might resemble the old-time corn whiskey such as Casper's Sweet Mash Corn Whisky of Winson-Salem, NC. Certainly it might capture some of the flavor of the original corn moonshine. In a book, Our Southern Highlanders, a study of the Appalachian communities published before the first War and available full text online (easy to find by a Google search), there is in chapter four an interesting description of moonshine making. The mash itself sounds very similar to modern white dog for bourbon: corn is ground and mixed with barley malt. If no malt is available the corn is left to sprout over a period of days by soaking it in warm water. Then, rye malt is added if available, if not they go without. Finally, the product is left for days to ferment naturally, the author notes that normal distilleries would add yeast but this is not done in small mountain stilling. The beer is distilled once and then redistilled or put through what is clearly a thumper, called by the shiners he says a "thumpinchest" and which the writer calls a "steamchest". He has an interesting discussion about why moonshine is not aged. He says first, the people can't afford to keep it that long, they need the money from its sale. Second, it is trouble enough to keep the stills without having barrels of whiskey aging that the revenuers could easily find and that can't be carried away quickly by the moonshiners (called here "blockaders"). Third, there is a high demand for it in the mountains, an "urgent" need, so there is no need to age whiskey for sale, people want it as soon as it is ready. There is a a funny quote from a blockader, who when asked if whiskey is aged, says, "if it gets to be a month old it'd fool me". :)

Then the author discusses briefly "red liquor" and quotes a story that a local man was told by a "slick-faced dude from Nashville" that his whiskey would be better if he aged it and he'd get more money for it. So the local said he tried this and aged it "three months" but there was no improvement. I think the author is trying to say that the local people did not realise that whiskey had to be aged much longer than 3 months to become red liquor although this part of the chapter is somewhat unclear and may have been transferred incorrectly online.

Anyway it is a very interesting contemporary (circa 1910) account of moonshining. The reference to a city dude who knew about red liquor is further proof I think that the aging of whiskey was something developed in the towns or on trade routes and dealt in by businesspeople with money who did not reside in remote areas.

Gary
Last edited by gillmang on Sat Apr 23, 2005 12:38 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Unread postby bourbonv » Sat Apr 23, 2005 10:59 am

Gary,
Casper was a huge mail order firm selling whiskey out of North Carolina before prohibition. North Carolina had more registered distilleries than any other state before prohibition and they were all very small farmer distiller type operations that sold their product to Casper. I was looking at Bonfort's and Mida's Criteria magazines the other day and they both had articles from distillers complaining about North Carolina's distilleries. The problem seemed to be distinguishing between a legal, registered distillery and an illegal moonshiner. It made enforcement of regulations almost impossible in the state.

The Casper product must have been very interesting. It was probably not aged at all. That is probably why they used the cobalt blue bottle, to hide the lack of color in the whiskey. It was probably an inconsistant taste profile since it came from so many different sources. The only way that they could have any consistancy would be to dump everybodies product in a huge vat to blend the multitude of flavors together.

If you ever find a bottle of their product un-opened, I would be very interested in trying some as well.

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Unread postby gillmang » Sat Apr 23, 2005 11:06 am

Mike I thought the bottle was clear glass, did you look at the site? The fact that the label stated manufacture from hard red flint corn is interesting, a rare early reference on a label - in detail - to the main ingredient of whiskey. I'll check that site again but I though it was a clear glass bottle.

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Unread postby gillmang » Sat Apr 23, 2005 11:12 am

Yes it is a clear glass bottle. On the site http://www.antiquebottles.com, look under "Clubs", then under "North Carolina", then, "Raleigh Bottle Club". Scroll down and it's about half-way down, a color picture, too. Click on the Club's April 2002 issue and you'll see the bottle of sweet mash I mentioned. You can enlarge the picture and read the label perfectly.

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Unread postby bourbonv » Sat Apr 23, 2005 11:26 am

Gary,
When I was refering to the Cobalt Blue Glass, I was refering to their "Casper's" brand. I have seen many examples of the Casper's and they are all blue. Now their corn whiskey, which nobody expected to be aged, was probably always bottled in a clear glass.

I am with you on the corn type. I have often wondered if a different type of corn might make a different flavor of product. My grandfather always raise "Hickory Cane" white corn and I assume that is what he used in his moonshine in the 1930's and 40's. At his funeral, in the 70's, everybody talked about how good his moonshine was.

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Unread postby gillmang » Sat Apr 23, 2005 12:49 pm

Mike, thanks. I have done a bit of web searching and red flint corn is still very much around. As the name suggests it is a hard variety and apparently, it used to cause trouble in mills whose stones were not up to the task of crushing the kernels. It is raised extensively still in Argentina and is used for animal feed mostly but is edible as well. It is a variety of dent corn, but a distinct type. One would think the flavor would differ from that of other varieties. On straightbourbon.com a poster reported that his father used to make pancakes from heirloom varieties of corn. He said the flavo]rs were quite different than in regular pancakes and I would think the difference would transfer over to whiskey. I read somewhere (I thought it was in the Highlanders book I mentioned, but when I checked again I couldn't find it) that good corn moonshine had a scent and taste of wildflowers. This is interesting since some young brandy I have had, e.g. Italian grappa, is exactly like that, yet grapes and cereals are obviously different sources of fermentable sugar. Maybe these flavors come from some of the non-ethanol compounds (fusels, etc.) and have nought to do with the fermentable materials as such, I don't know.. Yet, apple brandy (applejack) tastes very much of apples, so one would think a distinctive corn would impart its flavor too. Some people have said white dog and some corn whiskey does in fact have a corn flavor, and this would be the standard Grade 1 or 2 commodity corn used today. In an older time I would think the taste of corn depended on the kind used and evidently there was more than one kind then.

Gary
Last edited by gillmang on Sat Apr 23, 2005 1:30 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Unread postby Strayed » Sat Apr 23, 2005 1:07 pm

See captioned photos...
Attachments
hayner_ad.jpg
Another often-advertised mail-order brand was Hayner, made in Troy, Ohio very close to where I live. They sold everything from aged rye to "whiskey". Empty bottles are fairly common in antique shops and were both amber and clear.
hayner_ad.jpg (90.81 KiB) Viewed 8122 times
hayner.jpg
This photo is an unopened bottle which has lost its main label, so I don't know what they called it. But I don't think they marketed a straight corn whiskey, so this was probably just called "whiskey".
hayner.jpg (72.81 KiB) Viewed 8118 times
=JOHN= (the "Jaye" part of "L & J dot com")
http://www.ellenjaye.com
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Unread postby gillmang » Sat Apr 23, 2005 1:37 pm

Really nice bottle, it has an old-time look but elegant at the same time, like a decanter. That ad is interesting, the paragraphs have a cadence (the repetition especially of, "do you suppose...") that suggest the way someone might have sold nostrums from a wagon in olden time or even the way some preachers spoke (and still do) from the pulpit. Kind of ironic seeing as this is a liquor ad. I'll bet that 7 year old rye was good, maybe like Wild Turkey's rye of today...

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Re: Virginia Lightning

Unread postby angelshare » Mon May 02, 2005 7:23 am

gillmang wrote:The house also makes Copper Fox, a whiskey which is quick aged with charred wood chips and then aged in barrels for a time.

Based on the picture in the website, Copper Fox has a nice color, I'd like to try it and the corn likker too. The more I get to thinking on this, much as I enjoy Bourbon and rye, I would like to get an acquaintance with the corn whiskies, to see whiskey at its source.


Although I agree with Gary (OneCube) that the flavor is raw compared to longer aged whiskey - Copper Fox, at least the bottle I have, is aged 4 months - I like the light, lively character of it, and the apple wood (or SOMETHING) gives it a unique flavor that is quite pleasant.

I contacted the distillery to try to arrange a tour, as it's only about 20 miles from my house. I still haven't heard back.
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