Comparison: Belmont Farm, American Whiskey

Comparison: Belmont Farm, American Whiskey
American Single Malt vs. Virginia Straight Bourbon Whiskey

We’re going global with our Comparison series – starting in New Zealand, we took a short trip over to Scotland, and now we’re heading over to the United States! Belmont Farm, a small family own distillery in Virginia, specialises in handcrafted single estate spirits. We will be comparing their American Single Malt, and their Virginia Straight Bourbon.

Belmont Farm, Kopper Kettle

We were first introduced to Belmont Farm distillery by a tasting session with The Spirit Specialist. Founded by The Millers, they consider themselves to be ‘America’s first craft whisky distillery’. Taking great pride in their antique copper pot still – even referring to it as the secret of their whiskey – they specialise in grain to glass, and handcraft single-estate spirits.

Belmont Farm itself has a long and varied history. Today is comprises over 190 acres of farm land dedicated to corn, wheat, and barley to be used within their whiskey production. Under the Kopper Kettle name they release a number of different spirits, including the two that we are reviewing today, as well as a vodka, gin, and rum!

Single Malt vs. Bourbon Whiskey

What are the key differences between single malt and bourbon whiskey?

Bourbon whiskey by law has to have a mash bill of at least 51% corn; whereas single malt whiskey is 100% malted barley (it’s kind of in the name!). Typically, there are usually slight differences in production, with Scotch single malt generally double-distilled in pot stills. Whilst bourbon is normally distilled in a column still before being transferred to a doubler (a modified copper pot still).

What does it mean for the two whiskies we are comparing today?

Virginia Straight Bourbon Whiskey – 46% ABV

  • Mash bill: 51% corn, 24.5% wheat, 24.5% barley
  • Distilled: copper pot still
  • Ageing: at least two years in charred oak barrels
  • Grain to glass straight from Belmont Farm!

American Single Malt – 43% ABV

  • 100% malted barley
  • Distilled: copper pot still
  • Ageing: at least three years in new American oak barrels
  • Farm to bottle directly at Belmont Farm!

To summarise, despite their being a number of key differences between single malt and bourbon whiskey, there are just two key differences to be mindful of with these whiskies.

  1. The recipe – a mixture of corn, barley and wheat vs. 100% barley
  2. The length of ageing – slightly longer for the single malt

Tasting Notes

Virginia Straight Bourbon Whiskey – 46% ABV

Nose: coco powder, green apple, buttery caramel, milk chocolate, unbaked brownie mix, honey, caramac chocolate, apple blossom
Palate: nuttiness, sourness from the apple, savoury chocolate, light caramel, candied walnuts and pecans, cinder toffee
Finish: woody pepper, nuttiness, caramel sweetness, light vanilla, light baking spices

What a great bourbon this is. This was one of the first we tried and safe to say it will be a stalwart for us. So smooth and easy to sip, a welcome dram for beginners and offers plenty for the seasoned bourbon lover.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

American Single Malt – 43% ABV

Nose: chocolate wheat cereal, orchard fruits, green apple, fresh pear, hay, LOTS of malt, orchard blossom, freshly mowed grass, dewy mornings
Palate: dry spice, chocolate breakfast cereal in milk, honey, vanilla, pear, milk chocolate
Finish: little bit of spice, lingers on the tongue, savoury in comparison to the palate, pepper spice, honeycomb and chocolate

American Single Malts are rare and we cannot work out why more distilleries don’t capitalise on this market gap. This whisky is sensational, smooth and welcoming every time you have a dram. Certainly harder to get your hands on, but well worth it if you can find a supplier.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Final Thoughts

It is safe to say that both of these whiskies are very tasty. A great demonstration of what independent American distilleries can create. Despite the similarities in production, there are some key differences in final product that are worth point out.

Namely, that despite the mash-bill of the bourbon lending itself to be a sweeter product, the single-malt in this instance has more notes of honey, caramel, and chocolate. Whilst the bourbon has more nuttiness and sour apple, which creates an overall more savoury experience.

We also feel that the slightly longer ageing process for the single malt has created more depth, specifically a longer finish. This finish develops as you drink, providing lots of lovely spice notes.

Although technically different types of whiskey it is fun to compare, particularly as they come from the same field to glass farm!

It is clear that a lot of passion, craftsmanship, and care has gone in to creating both of these expressions. We’re big fans of independent distilleries and we hope to get our hands on more of the Belmont Farm whiskies in the future. Let us know your favourite independent distiller in the comments below!

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