Summary: In the quiet countryside of Southern Virginia, several people tasted cocktails in the Springfield Distillery tasting room. All gathered enjoyed the company and the crafted distilled products. Springfield Distillery is the newest concept to keep the property thriving as new owners make distilled spirits while remembering the past.
Springfield Distillery is a destination site in Southern Virginia. The distillery is in one building while the tasting room is in a nearby cabin. A short distance away on the property is the 1842 manor house. Close to this house that was owned by the same family for hundreds of years, there are two cabins for rentals. Distilled spirits enthusiasts may want to spend an evening or two on the tranquil grounds of Springfield, named for the numerous springs on the property. The plantation was first started in 1799.
James and Kelly Gordon were looking for ideas to move into a retirement career. Eventually, they decided to move away from the Washington DC area where they worked. They discovered the Springfield property and manor house in Southern Virginia and knew that their dreams could one day come true.
James’ father, Peter Gordon distilled spirits for decades in his home in South Africa. James (pictured right) learned much about distilling from his father who advised him that, “Rules are there for the guidance of the wise and the instruction of the foolish.” James wants to create quality crafted items. He remembers that his father told him, “You have your science and equipment, but you have to trust your nose and taste.” Peter has visited the new distillery a few times. The Springfield Distillery tasting room opened in November of 2016.
While still working in the Washington DC area, James and Kelly spend as much time as possible at Springfield. They acquired the property in 2012, and in just a few years they did some repair work on the manor house, built a log cabin, moved a timber cabin from Massachusetts, built a distillery, built the distillery tasting room and cleared a field. James mentioned to us that, “If you want to get something done, ask a busy person.” James and Kelly are busy people.
The Gordons are passionate about Halifax and the surrounding communities. Water used in the distilling process are from the property’s deep springs. Some ground corn is from a neighbor while other corn and malted barley are sourced from elsewhere in Virginia. James wants to make corn whiskey because that was what was made in this region of Virginia in the past.
The distilling equipment was manufactured by Trident Stills in Etna, Maine near Bangor. The distillery has three 300-gallon fermenters, a 300-gallon still, a 400-gallon mash tun and a wort chiller.
One piece of equipment made in Virginia caught my eye. A U-stave oak barrel had small windows on the barrel heads. With the interior U-stave construction, aging of whiskey should proceed quicker due to the greater interior oak surface area compared to traditional barrels.
A covered deck wraps around three sides of the tasting room providing extra room to enjoy cocktail tastings during warmer weather. Inside, the honey glow of wood and natural light fills the space. A tasting counter can accommodate several people. Historic farm regalia hang on the walls. A sign with the statement, “Enter as guests, leave as friends” sums up the experience that spirits enthusiasts will discover at Springfield Distillery. Kelly showcased her multi-tasking skills as she tended to three groups at the same time. In addition to a taste of a product straight, each product was featured in a refreshing cocktail.
Spirits and Cocktails
The Springfield spirits are in clear bottles with an unusual logo on the label. The name of the spirits is scratch and the logo represents the scratch of a chicken or turkey as it struts around a barnyard. The image is perfect for the Springfield distillery and property which features the way things were done in the 1800s and done by hand.
Scratch Corn Whiskey was made with 80% corn and 20% malted barley. The clear spirit was 90 proof (45% alcohol). The corn whiskey was very smooth, had a corn taste and had a bit of heat on the finish. We also tasted a Scratch Honey Corn Whiskey that was 45 proof (22.5% alcohol). Six percent honey was added to the Scratch Corn Whiskey and proofed down. Taken straight, the flavored whiskey was a light gold color. The taste was sweet with corn and honey tastes. It was smooth.
The distillery uses infusion spirals to add an oak influence to the Scratch Corn Whiskey. Patrons can purchase a bottle of whiskey and a spiral and infuse on their own at home. The Scratch Corn Whiskey that had a spiral added was a light gold color. The whiskey had an aroma and taste of corn. It was very smooth and sweet. It had some heat on the finish.
We tasted several cocktails made with Scratch Corn Whiskey. The Ginger Scratch was made with ginger ale, lime and Scratch Corn Whiskey. It had a lime and ginger aroma and taste. There was a trace of corn on the finish. The cocktail was refreshing. The Bloody Scratch was made with tomato juice and Scratch Corn Whiskey. It had the aroma and taste of tomato juice with a bit of a kick. The Sour Scratch was made with Sprite, Scratch Corn Whiskey and orange. It was the perfect combination of a little sour and a little sweet. This would be refreshing throughout the day. The Seasonal Scratch was served warm. It was made with cranberry juice, mulling spices, apple juice and Scratch Corn Whiskey. It was delicious especially with the weather being brisk.
Springfield Distillery offers one of those tasting experiences where you could visit for an hour and spend a day. The people are friendly and the setting is rural country. A rocking chair on the porch would make a perfect afternoon. If exploring Southern Virginia distilleries and wineries, the onsite cabins offer a perfect base for lodging.
9040 River Rd,
Halifax, Virginia 24558
GPS: N36º 41.107’ W79º 01.981’
Article written February 2017.
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