What if we told you there’s a historical location you can visit that was home to the badass first President of the United States, George Washington, and it has it’s own distillery and gristmill only 3 miles down the road? The best part is that Mount Vernon distillery is still producing George Washington’s original un-aged rye whiskey, and it goes up for sale twice a year. Today, April 4th, is one of those days.
In 1797, Washington’s Scottish farm manager encouraged him to build a whiskey distillery. It became one of the largest in America, producing 11,000 gallons of whiskey in 1799. Washington’s original mash is 60% rye, 35% corn, and 5% malted barley. Also, believe it or not, the seven distillers at Mount Vernon estate still do it all without the help of electricity – the Washington Post notes that they chop their own wood to burn and heat the boilers, which are then 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 pre-fermented grains known as mash. The whole process takes three weeks.
As for those seven distillers, most of them are historians or tour guides at Mount Vernon, but their fearless leader is no amateur; the distilling team is led by Dave Pickerell, former Maker’s Mark master distiller. He’s been there since 2009 when they started distilling again (it was only fixed up and re-opened in 2007).
You can visit Mount Vernon’s Distillery and Gristmill daily April 1 – October 31, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. They even have costumed interpreters at the distillery to talk to you about 18th-century fermentation and distilling techniques and to demonstrate how the boiler, mash tubs, and copper pot stills function.
So, what’s the damage for a bottle of George’s finest whiskey? It’s $95, but don’t start counting your pennies yet – this year’s waiting list is 4,000 people deep. The demand grows after every batch, so make sure to add your name to the list if you’re interested. If you live near Mount Vernon, or will be in the area of Alexandria, Virginia today, they do reserve a certain amount of bottles for their gift shop and those will hit the shelves at 10 this morning.