George Washington’s Personal Recipe Rye Whiskey From Mt. Vernon: New Batch Coming to Market

A year ago at my wine blog, Maggie’s Wine, and here at Maggie’s Notebook, I posted on President George Washington’s distillery, located a few miles down the road from his Mt. Vernon home. At the time, near the end of his presidency, his distillery was becoming quite successful, and eventually became the largest in the U.S. On April 20th, Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday featured the distillery and I thought my readers might be interested in this updated piece of history. Every procedure in the distilling continues to done in the same labor-intensive manner of the late 1700s. A very limited batch of this historic rye will be ready for market on May 16, 2014. Two videos added below, the first shorter, the second a more historical view.

George Washington's Rye Whiskey

George Washington’s Rye Whiskey

Before going on with this story, I want to thank Daley Gator for adding Maggie’s Notebook, for the second time, to their list of 25 Best Conservative Blogs Now. If I were brave enough to publish such a list, Doug and Ed would be on it.

Today, the distillery is a venture of Hillrock Estate owner Jeffrey Baker and former Maker’s Mark Master Distiller Dave Pickerell, a legend in his own time

From the Hillrock Estate website:

Hillrock is proud to be one of the few “field-to-glass” whiskey producers in the world and the first USA distillery since the Prohibition to floor malt and hand craft whiskey on site from estate grown grain.

Here’s my earlier article, updated today from Maggie’s Wine:

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.

…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

George Washington's Reconstructed Distillery

George Washington’s Reconstructed Distillery

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.

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 online 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.

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George Washington’s Distillery (video)
George Washington’s Distillery – Historical Version (video)
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  • Great article and something I was not aware of. Congrats on the Best Blog award.

    • Thank you Keith. I haven’t been to Mount Vernon for a long time, but when I think of the area, it is tops of my list.

      • Of all the many places I have been, the closest I got to visiting the Capital and Mt Vernon was driving a tractor trailer through there on the way or back from a run through Virginia. At least my son has seen it. 🙂

        • Keith, Mount Vernon is little slice of heave. I can see the President sitting in the beautiful solitude. Everything is as it was. Fascinating and you wouldn’t know you were anywhere near D.C. if you didn’t know where the Potomac was.

  • Sara

    How do you do all this? A wine blog too. You do great work!

    • Sara, I’m not doing so great with my wine blog because I go too long between posts, but when I do them I have such fun. It has been a life-long interest for me. Thank you for the kind words and I’ll turn them right back around to you. You catch so many important stories. I’ve wondered how you do it!

  • Flitandersen_99

    Nova Scotia is trying to break into the wine game. They actually have some interesting bottles. One I had never heard of was “Ice-wine”…
    Check it out…