CEI’s new film I, Whiskey: The Human Spirit is about freedom and innovation, but also about making human connections in the marketplace. It’s the friendships one makes in the process of getting things done that stay with us, and the process of making I, Whiskey was no different. Here are three of our stars, each of whom you’ll meet when you watch the film.
Rick Wasmund is the CEO and Master Distiller at the Copper Fox Distillery in Sperryville, Virginia. Rick shared some wonderful anecdotes about the relationships he’s built in the whiskey business – including how he met his wife. The footage our team shot at his facility features some excellent behind-the-scenes views of how the product gets from the grain to the glass.
He’s also described his own whiskey origin story on the Copper Fox website:
The revelation of a distinct and wonderful whisky that uses fruitwood peat came to me in years prior, as I visited a slew of American distilleries in the hopes of opening my own. By spring of 2000, I made the journey to Scotland, home of over 130 distilleries and arguably the best whisky in the world. I came away with a great appreciation of the necessary skill, a reinforced conviction, and an offer to intern at Bowmore Distillery on Islay, one of the few distilleries in the world that still malts their own barley. Three years later, Copper Fox Whisky was launched into the marketplace as the first applewood aged whisky in the world. Our distillery in Sperryville opened in January of 2005.
Find out where to buy Copper Fox whiskey here.
Bill Thomas is the owner of Jack Rose Dining Saloon in Washington, D.C. He also provided us with a spectacular location for filming – his bar. The racks of bottles up to the ceiling recall a cross between a library, a museum, and a classic cocktail lounge, and the warm, inviting atmosphere perfectly captures the idea that commerce fosters friendships.
The Washington Post profiled Bill and his passion for hunting down rare and special whiskies in 2014:
Jack Rose Dining Saloon, Thomas’ bar in Adams Morgan, houses more than 1,800 bottles of scotches, bourbons and ryes, making it one of the largest retailers of whiskeys in the Western Hemisphere. That’s still a nip compared to Thomas’ private stash of 4,000 bottles that he stores at his Northwest D.C. home.
The collection is divided into two main categories: dusties (museum-quality bottles from old distilleries so-called for the layer of dust they collect after going unnoticed for so long) and special releases (limited-run, discontinued whiskeys from bigger brands).
In both cases, there’s a finite amount available of these types of whiskey in the world, and the minute you take a sip of one, there’s that much less on the planet.
Bill is known for sharing his enthusiasm with friends and customers from around the world, and Jack Rose regularly hosts some of most popular cocktail events in the nation’s capital.
Garrett Peck is an author, historian, and tour guide in the nation’s capital. Garrett provided us with some excellent context for the history of spirits and the whiskey industry, and the impact that Prohibition had on American society. A few of his obervations from the film:
Whiskey is history. It’s not just Scottish history or Irish history, but in fact, it’s a distinct part of American history. Taverns and bars have been really crucial for American history. Considering from the very beginning, Americans always went to taverns to discuss the issues of the day.
With the end of Prohibition, American consumers had far less choice than they would have otherwise and it took, then, decades before state laws began to change. Once they started loosening up the laws to allow these craft distillers to start producing products, people began jumping into the game.
There’s always been a great deal of creativity in the whiskey process. Consumers today see it at the front end, that is, when you’re at the bar and a bartender makes you a brilliant drink. But you don’t really see the back end and how much creativity goes into the distilling process.
Garrett’s “Temperance Tour” of Prohibition-related sites has been featured on C-SPAN Book TV and the History Channel. His sixth book, Walt Whitman in Washington, D.C.: The Civil War and America's Great Poet, was published in 2015. Garrett is also the author of Prohibition in Washington, D.C.: How Dry We Weren’t and The Prohibition Hangover: Alcohol in America from Demon Rum to Cult Cabernet.