What is the most expensive spirit ever produced in Virginia? 8 Shires 1608 Single Malt Whiskey at a price tag of about $1,195.00 before tax. So what makes this release so darn expensive? The story behind this release is a very long one that is best experienced at the 8 Shires Coloniale Distillery in Williamsburg, but we are going to touch on a good amount of it here. Back some years ago, the archeologists at Jamestown unearthed a well on Jamestown island that they estimated to have been capped back in 1608. The well was no longer producing water. When the archeologists uncapped that well, they found roughly 20 gallons of water at the bottom of the well. They recovered the water and set it aside trying to figure out what to do with it.
One of the archeologists is a brewer of beer, so he decided to try and make a special beer with some of the water. It didn't come out very well. With 10 gallons left, the archeologists still wanted to see something done with it.
Enter Dr William Dodson, owner of 8 Shires Coloniale Distillery in Williamsburg. After Dr Dodson was giving a lecture in town, the archeologist who had attended his lecture went up to meet him and told him about their find and that they still had 10 gallons of water left and did he have any ideas on what to do with it? Dr Dodson knew exactly what to do with it. Dr Dodson said, let's recreate the first distillations done in Virginia, aka North American continent and we will add this water into the release making it a very special limited edition. This water is 412 years old now. It was tested and is free of any contaminants.
Based on research, it was determined that Single Malt whiskey was the most likely base for spirits in Jamestown at that time period. Dr Dodson set out to find a malt house in England that was in business during the Early 1600's and is still in business today. He found one. So the malt was brought in from England to make the Single Malt. The next question, what kind of still did they use? The archeologists were able to answer that having unearthed a glass alembic still. So now the mission was to have several glass alembic still heads recreated so as to produce an authentic time period distillation. Corning Glass works in New York State covered that. They hand blew 5 period pieces.
Now, how was the spirit collected, into what kind of vessel and how long would it might have sat? The research shows the most likely vessel for collecting the distilled spirits was into a wooden barrel and the barrels would have been set aside until needed. Ah, the aging process. Distilling was mainly done in the spring and the fall and enough was made to put into storage for a multiple amount of reasons. So it may have sat for up to a year and a half before being used.
Now, packaging. What Dr Dodson knew, glass blowing was one of the first industries in Jamestown and started in the year of 1608. Each bottle of Jamestowne 1608 is hand blown by the glassblowers in Jamestown and the release comes with 2 shot glasses that were the common design of the time period, also hand blown by the Jamestown glass blowers. The release comes in a hand made wooden box made with exotic woods. The main wood used is walnut. Each bottle is also hand dipped in wax to seal the tops and each waxed top has a special seal stamped into the wax. Once this release sells through that's the end of them. 10 gallons of water only goes so far.
This is the most unique spirit I have ever seen produced anywhere by anyone. This is not the full complete story, but it's the main gist of it. The Jamestowne 1608 Single Malt is a distillery only release and can not be bought anywhere else including Virginia ABC stores. So you will have to visit them at 7218 Merrimac Trail in Williamsburg. They are open Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 1pm til 7pm. The Distillery just released these and has already sold 108 bottles as of this writing. A visit to the Distillery allows you to see and learn the rest of the story not covered here. Cheers.