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Virginia Beach Area Features

Tarnished Truth Distilling Company

Here’s the Tarnished Truth…

To find truthfully great bourbon, just steer towards the hotel on the hill—The Cavalier. When you approach the distinctive hotel, you’ll know before you even step inside that you’re going to have a great time. Tarnished Truth Distilling Company is located inside The Cavalier hotel by the historic Hunt Room. Through the glass windows it’s possible to see the equipment and perhaps even the distillers at work. However, to really understand the distilling process and the passion of the people behind the spirits, sign up for a tour.

The entrance to the distillery is located in the gift shop adjacent to the Hunt Room. It’s there that Beth Evans, Tarnished Truth’s Distilled Spirits Specialist, gave our small group access to the distillery. The enthusiasm she has for her craft is immediately noticeable, but we became really impressed with the immense knowledge she shared.

On the day of our visit, the 5-person Tarnished Truth staff had just finished distilling their latest whiskey. The lingering aroma of fermented corn, rye, and barley was still in the air. Evans began to explain the fermentation process by directing us to the floor. Underneath the concrete floor is a boiler system that was custom-designed for Tarnished Truth. The entire distillery uses this interconnected steam system to cook, heat and push the product through to other stages. First, 850 pounds of grain are put in the cooker and steamed at 210 degrees for five hours. Afterwards, this is pumped into a 500-gallon fermenter, yeast is added, and it sits for four days. The result is a fermented “wash”. The wash is then transferred to the copper pot still where it cooks low and slow to remove the alcohol.

After the still has done its work, the remaining clear spirit ends up in a holding tank.  To transform the clear, unaged spirit into the delicious brown bourbon that is as American as apple pie (it’s the U.S.’s only native spirit), it must be aged in American white oak barrels that have a charred interior. And these barrels may only be used one time to extract the flavors of the smoke and wood though, they are often recycled and used by beer brewers and even hot sauce makers.

Our group then proceeded into the science room. There, Evans explained how they test and proof the spirit, analyze contents using state-of-the-art technology, and bottle the final product. The care Tarnished Truth’s owners take in producing each bottle is reflected the countless hours they spend caring for their product and in its presentation. Each bottle is hand-signed and numbered.

Next… was the moment we were all waiting for—the tasting room! Beth led us in and we sat around a gorgeous, yet huge white oak table in a room lined by Tarnished Truth’s bourbon barrels. In the center were glasses containing Tarnished Truth’s current products: AVA vodka, 3-year High Rye Straight Bourbon and a 9-year Single Barrel Old Cavalier Bourbon.  Evans said that they’re working on a gin using local botanicals that would be available late this summer. We sipped each glass while Evans guided us through the tasting process. She was very helpful for those of us who weren’t too familiar with tasting spirits and answered probing questions from those in the group who are bourbon aficionados. Evans also encouraged us to add drops of water from the small vials that were provided so we could experiment with the way the flavor changed with small additions of water or ice. The entire tour experience was informative and fun!

Tarnished Truth is a work of art begun by two Virginia Beach natives and friends Andrew Yancey and Josh Canada in 2013.  Early in the design of the distillery they received help and support from Larry Ebersold who had an extensive and impressive 37-year career in distilling before “retiring” from Joseph E. Seagram and Sons and joining the Tarnished Truth team. His experience and expertise proved priceless to the new distillery in the design of their facilities and in assisting with product development.

In addition to tours and tastings, the Tarnished Truth offers use of its tasting room, cocktail classes, and personalized barrels. Come relax in the Cavalier’s Hunt Room, meet with friends, warm yourself by the historic fireplace, and delight your palate with the taste of Tarnished Truth’s spirits. As for how they got their name? It’s an interesting tale… Take the tour, taste and purchase the spirits, and figure out the whole tarnished story. To book a tour or to learn more, visit or call 757-965-9652.

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