UPDATED April 20, 2014: George Washington’s distillery three miles south of his home at Mt. Vernon opened to the public a couple of years ago. Located about 15 miles outside Washington, D.C., his original mash of 60% rye, 35% corn and 5% malted barley is used and tended to by “costumed interpreters,” who explain the fermenting and distilling techniques and how the equipment works. Washington’s Rye Whiskey will now be available in limited quantities at the Mt. Vernon estate. Former Maker’s Mark master distiller Dave Pickerell is overseeing the project and has been involved since 2009. Only 1,000 bottles are produced. The latest batch going on sale May 16, 2014. Two videos added below, the first shorter, the second a more historical view.
…its nose is, “slightly floral, earthy, and grainy,” with a taste that is “surprisingly sweet and mellow,” but with a bit of a bite, characteristic of unaged rye. ~ Master Distiller Dave Pickerell
More than a Revolutionary hero, more than a U.S. President, more than a humble man who refused to be King:
Washington-the-entrepreneur was an early American success story. At his sizeable Mount Vernon plantation in Virginia, some 15 miles south of Washington, D.C., the general had a lucrative distillery, fishery, meat processing facility, gristmill, blacksmith shop, textiles production and seized opportunities in farming— making his plantation nearly self-sufficient and creating enough goods to turn a profit.
In April 2013, the Mount Vernon distillery and adjacent gristmill opened to the public for the season. And for the first time in nearly 200 years, liquor whiskey lovers will soon be able to purchase whiskey made in the distillery, following Washington’s own recipe…
Whiskey was one of Washington’s most important business ventures at Mount Vernon. At peak production, the distillery used five stills and a boiler and produced 11,000 gallons of whiskey. With sales of $7,500 in 1799, it was the country’s largest distillery at the time. Today it is the only distillery in North America that demonstrates the 18th century distillation process. Source: USA Today
Today, the “interpreters” working the distillery still do it the old-fashioned way, with Pickerell overseeing:
Without electricity, the seven distillers — mostly historians and tour guides at the Mount Vernon estate — chop their own wood to burn and heat the boilers, which are filled with water brought in by a water mill from the adjacent pond. They also grind about 4,400 pounds of locally grown grain and manually churn vats of prefermented grains, known as mash. The process takes three weeks, and they do it twice a year. But guides at Mount Vernon are used to getting their hands dirty. Distillery manager Steve Bashore also runs the blacksmith shop there. Source: Washington Post
In Washington’s time, whiskey received no aging, so Pickerell’s product, at $95 per .375ml per bottle, will be a bit more acceptable to modern-day palates. Be forewarned, there is a long waiting list for a bottle of Limited Edition George Washington Rye Whiskey. If you have not visited Mt. Vernon, I urge you to put it on your “must do” list. It’s a memory-maker. The reconstruction of Washington’s distillery was funded by the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States. The Mount Vernon website has more.
UPDATE 4-20-14: President George Washington’s distillery was featured on Chris Wallace’s Fox News Sunday today. A bottle of his Rye sells for $95 per .375ml bottle and receives a special waiver from the state of Virginia, making a liquor license unnecessary, but this also means the whiskey and brandy cannot be shipped, ordered on line or ordered by phone. “All whiskey purchases must be made in person with a valid photo ID.” His peach brandy is also available for sale.