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Whiskey at Mount Vernon

Posted by Reese on 2011-02-22 @ 11:40am

I’m a day late in getting this one posted, but I think it’s still really fascinating.  Everyone knows (or at least should know) that George Washington was the first President of the United States.  As one of our founding fathers, a truly amazing military leader and successful businessman, there are lots of things to be impressed with in Washington’s history.  All those things aside, did you know he was also a prolific distiller and made some great rye whiskey?  I had heard the stories told, but had never really paid much attention.  At the time nearly everyone with a farm distilled.  It was a simple way to use extra grain, get some liquor for your personal consumption and maybe make some extra money on the side.  Washington took it to the next level, though.  He had a huge distillery and produced a massive amount of whiskey.

I got an email last week from Reason.tv pointing me to a video they’d produced about the historically accurate and operational distillery at Mount Vernon.  I’ll let their words and video speak for themselves, but I’d highly suggest checking it out.  It is pretty amazing the process they went through and the quantity they were able to produce.

Many know George Washington as a general and statesman, but few think of America’s first president as a preeminent entrepreneur, operating the most successful whiskey distillery in the late 18th century. At its height, Washington’s distillery produced over 11,000 gallons of liquor a year, supplying the surrounding area and becoming one of his most lucrative business ventures.

At Washington’s former plantation, Mount Vernon, a group of historic interpreters are looking to bring this story to a wider audience. Thanks to a fully functioning replica of Washington’s distillery (and special dispensation from the Virginia General Assembly), George Washington’s rye whiskey is once again being made and sold to the public.

In November, Reason.tv followed the entire process as Dave Pickerell, Master Distiller and former Vice President of Operations for Maker’s Mark, and Steve Bashore, Mount Vernon Distillery Manager, oversaw a two week production run while adhering as strictly as possible to 18th century means and methods. The result is an 80-proof reminder of the nation’s first president and the entrepreneurial ideals of colonial America.