Sean McCaskey – Rocker, Dreamer, Whiskey Maker
By Bob Tagert
Sean McCaskey – Rocker, Dreamer, Whiskey Maker
If you have read the Old Town Crier in the past you have probably seen one of our articles featuring Rick Wasmund, founder of Copper Fox Distillery. This month we spotlight his business partner, Sean McCaskey. Sean is the Art Garfunkel to Rick’s Paul Simon, his Phil Everly to Rick’s Don Everly and Roger Maris to Rick’s Mickey Mantle. They compliment each other like smooth harmony and always hit it out of the park!
In talking with McCaskey you begin to realize how laid back and thoughtful he really is. He speaks in measured tones and never gets overly excited…it is always that even, calculated, steady pace that brings his thoughts into clear view.
Before he moved to Virginia, McCaskey worked with his uncles as a family crew of electricians working on power plants, the football stadium in Chapel Hill, North Carolina and a couple of ethanol plants. He was also trying to carry on a long distance relation with Susan, his future wife, who he had met earlier in Austin, Texas. “Yeah, he begins, “she was travelling across country and went to school at the Hill School in Middleburg which was where my guitar player went to school.” At that time McCaskey had a band in Texas and he says, “yeah, I had a band, and basically, when I should have been in college I was playing music to those students.” Our band went down to a place called Hooteroll which was also the name of a Jerry Garcia album. We would just jam down, occasionally doing some original stuff, but mostly jammin.” McCaskey kept a band intact when he moved to the Commonwealth. The band was called Farhouse which was actually the name of the house he lived in. “It was incredible, we had bonfires and sometimes re-enacters would walk by and hang with us.”
For one year he and Susan wrote love letters back and forth while only seeing each other twice during that year. One day after being up on a 250-foot high catwalk McCaskey thought, “I have had enough of this” and called Susan. They agreed that as soon as Susan could find a house he would travel to Virginia to begin the next chapter. Susan found a house, with the help of artist Jay Burch, on Welbourne Farm and the journey began. Their neighbor was Rick Wasmund who was taking care of a farm across the way. The farm the McCaskey’s lived on was actually a retirement farm for horses as well as a Bed & Breakfast on the property. “It was great,” McCaskey says, “there would be these jazz parties with bands from New Orleans and New York.” As it turned out, there was no fence between the horses and the house so they would constantly have visitors. “We would hear something and look out to see a horse rubbing his butt against the window. We actually got to know the horses by name.”
It was about this time that Rick Wasmund asked McCaskey if he wanted to be his partner in developing a distillery. Neither had any experience but after a few cocktails they decided… sure. Wasmund did travel to Scotland for a six week internship at Bowmore Distillery while McCaskey began to put the plan together.
They got into the current building in Sperryville in 2005 and renovations began. McCaskey’s electrician skill became a great asset as the old apple packing house was renovated. They started the malting process early on to get a step ahead. New equipment arrived and was installed. They had already malted the barley before they ran the stills. On January first they got the letter from treasury that they were approved and could begin to operate the distillery. As they say, the rest is history.
Although McCaskey is no longer with a band he still takes the time to jam with others. He plays a number of instruments including standup bass, guitar, drums, saxophone and soon hopes to get a steel pedal guitar. He occasionally plays with employees Matt, a drummer, and Alex who is a keyboard player. “We sort of have a Copper Fox house band going,” he says.
“My dream”, McCaskey says, “is to have my own recording studio at the distillery, and Rick knows that.” The second floor of the distillery has been built out as living quarters and would be perfect for a studio. He also wants to get recording and video equipment and create a You Tube channel. “That way, when musicians are passing through they have a place to stay,” he laments. It appears to me that McCaskey is looking to give back!
When asked what the future holds he says, “It is all about the time. I never make enough time, but when I do…it is so rewarding,” as I begin to see his vision. “I learned to play the sax in high school and then corrects himself…no, no, it was middle school…I was too cool in high school, too cool!”
In addition to quality control at the distillery, he does everything else as well. Sean helps with the recipes for their single malts, ryes, bourbon and gin. He also contributes to the new special projects like the new, limited Inaugural series, which Sean hopes will save the country.
As the saying goes…you’ve come a long way baby! Susan teaches at the Hill School in Middleburg and their daughter Caitlin is now ten years old. It is clear this troubadour has been successful on many fronts. As for the future at Copper Fox…the beat goes on…