We had heard that the countryside around Shenandoah, in Rappahannock county was full of nice B&Bs and good restaurants as well as the wineries that we had already explored. We couldn’t get into the Inn at Little Washington, which is by all accounts one of the best, so we headed for the nearby town of Sperryville instead, where our internet research had located a nice looking, yet still affordable B&B and what turned out to be a pretty nice restaurant: the Thornton River Grille.
Even better, Sperryville had another craft brewery(!) and, what’s more, a distillery – Wasamund’s. This was pretty interesting as, rather than making American-style whisky, they specialise in making Scottish-style whisky, and were inspired by a trip to Islay. They’re a family business and the whole place was warm, cosy and friendly – apart from the distillery cat, who apparently bites!
Wasamund’s (complete with distillery cat).
The tour introduced us to their methods of smoking the barley, and of using old bourbon barrels as they do in Scotland. Amazingly, there were no health and safety concerns preventing us from getting up close to the distilling equipment. It was just like visiting a craft brewery.
Then it was on to the tasting. Unfortunately, I think they’ve got some way to go before they’re producing anything as good as Islay malts. They’re very proud of how they can produce characterful malts without the need to mature for long periods. We thought that a bit more maturing probably wouldn’t hurt…
We moved on to Pen Druid Brewing Company. I’d had high hopes of this brewery, hoping it would have the Welsh background its name suggested (Pen means head in Welsh and is common in place names, plus Wales is known for druids). Sadly, the brothers who run the brewery knew of no Welsh connection, and had just named the brewery after their old family farm – they thought Pen probably referred to the female swan, which has inspired their logo, and didn’t think their family had any Welsh roots.
Nevertheless, the beer was very good, and the place had a great local atmosphere, another open fire, and friendly, bearded bartenders.
The nice-looking B&B – the Inn at Mount Vernon Farm – turned out to be rather strange… It was the home of John Clifford the 3rd (or 4th? I’m not sure!). Because he was actually at home, it made it all rather awkward – we didn’t feel we could really use the common areas, or help ourselves to wine as we had been told to by the housekeepers. The housekeepers in fact did a better job of hosting us and trying to make us feel comfortable. The old cook had clearly been in the family a long time – her ways made me think of an old retainer in novels. The breakfast she provided us with was really excellent – an egg casserole, great bacon and homemade blackberry pancakes. It was a strange place though…
Still, it was a nice experience to be staying in the countryside.
Even nicer, we were able to walk to the distillery, brewery and restaurant by crossing the river on a little swing bridge by the light of our phones!
Read on for the final post in this series…