New Sussex business offers a taste of the past – and the future – of liquid spirits

By: Terry Harris | Email: Click Here
Posted: Oct. 12, 2017 | 1:07 p.m. 

SUSSEX – Dave Reavis, President, and owner of Three Brothers Distillery in Sussex County, had a big dream – to build a grain to glass distillery on 17 ½ acres just outside of Disputanta, and he’s well on his way. But it’s not quite the family affair that the name might suggest, as he explained recently from his tasting room.

“Remember the three brothers on the  Bob Newhart Show?” he asked with a laugh.  “Larry would always introduce them as ‘I’m Larry, and this is my brother Darryl and my other brother Darryl.  Well, I’m the oldest of three, and I love both my brothers – they’ve both been very awesome – but remember how the two Darryls, their part was just to wave?  Well, that’s pretty much how I think of that here, too.”

Then he conducted a humor-laced tour of the facility. Pointing to a large, open area behind the distillery, Reavis began, “We plan to eventually finish clearing the land here – grow our own corn and rye and make it a true grain to grass distillery. Right now, our barley is grown on the Eastern Shore and our malted is by a local distillery, so it’s all local – Virginia grown, Virginia malted and used in Virginia.”

Next, as he explained the surprisingly complex process required to distill spirits, he shared how his products differ from the ordinary.

“We make a rye whiskey, a corn whiskey, and a gin. The rye whiskey is a high rye – 70 percent rye and 30 percent malt.  We put that in barrels and age it for 2 years, so those won’t be available until 2019,”
he said.

“Then we have an is unaged corn whiskey called Kablam!” Reavis continued, indicating a clear product in a traditionally shaped bottle with a non-traditional label.  “The label[TH1]  reminds me of ‘60s Batman, and that’s intentional.  It’s the vintage idea.  I’m about history.  I’m about quality and things that are fun.”

Finally, beaming like a proud father, he pointed to his third product, a naval strength compound gin called Silk Jacket, and said, “This is my pride and joy. It’s a naval strength compound gin called Silk Jacket. You’ll notice the brown color.  Most of your larger distilleries redistill to extract the color and get a more homogeneous profile from batch to batch to batch.  After we add all the botanicals and flavors we don’t redistill. We leave all that flavor in there.  I’m a firm believer that craft is not cookie cutter.  I expect every batch to be similar, but each batch will have little nuances just like different year wines do. This is a really good gin.”

And one fan of Three Brothers, Sussex Board of Supervisors Chairman Susan Seward, wholeheartedly agreed, saying, “ I bought one of their very first bottles.  It makes the best gin and tonic I ever tasted, and you can quote me on that!”

Leading the way to his tasting room, Reaves explained that he offers a tasting/small sample of each of the products currently for sale, a cocktail made with Silk Jacket, Kablam!, or both.   He then guided participants through a thoroughly entertaining “tasting tour,” interspersing interesting and humorous trivia about the history and mystery of spirits between explanations of the nuances of taste in each one.  When asked how he knows when the distilling process is complete, Reaves explained that that is the art of distilling – especially of craft spirits – and specifically of his own personal brand.

“It’s taste. It’s experience. The master distiller’s job is to say, ‘OK, make the cut here.’ You have to trust your palate.  It’s like when you cook. You know what good tastes like.  Same here. The idea is big, bold flavor, big bold personality – bigger than life, like the 20s,” he said. “Where’s the taste?  Where’s the excitement?  Where’s the experience? It’s big, bold intense – but approachable.  It’s sippable, it’s smooth, it’s amazing.  And I tend to be even more critical than other people would be – because it’s my name on it.”

Three Brothers is located at 9935 County Line Road. Disputanta, VA, and open for tours on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., or by appointment other times by calling 757-204-1357.

Copyright 2017 by Womack Publishing
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