"Washington came back from the presidency in 1797 and he was looking frankly for an easier way to make money," said Pogue.
According to records at Mount Vernon, he was the largest distiller of his time producing almost 11,000 gallons of rye whiskey in 1799.
The un-aged spirit calls for a mash of rye, corn and malted barley. After distilling the mash two times it is ready to go. Some have referred to the substance as post revolutionary white lightning. Dennis Pogue says that's not so far from the truth.
"This is frankly a lot like white lightning," Pogue said. "Except that unlike moonshine, this of course was legal. Washington, we know, paid his taxes. He paid $300 in taxes in 1799. So, it was very legal."
MOUNT VERNON, VA. -- For the first time since George Washington's Distillery burned to the ground in 1814, the public lined up to taste and buy Rye Whiskey made at the Founding Father's distillery during a
spirits tasting event held today at Mount Vernon. Editors’ Note: Mount Vernon officials report that
crowds of 400-500 showed up for the event today and all the bottles of
George Washington’s Rye Whiskey sold.
The extremely limited edition run of 471 whiskey bottles was
produced in the reconstructed distillery in 2009 according to the
General's own recipe discovered by historians in the mansion's extensive
The public was able to sample small amounts before purchasing one of the
unique 375 ml bottles for $85, with proceeds benefitting Mount Vernon's
"This historic event allows the public to both taste and purchase George
Washington’s actual Rye Whiskey recipe for the first time since 1814,”
said Distilled Spirits Council President Peter Cressy, whose
organization along with the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America
led the industry funding for the $2.1 million reconstruction of George
Washington’s Distillery. “He was an amazing entrepreneur whose
distilling operation rapidly became the largest in the early American
Republic. That story had been lost in the mists of history. Today’s
event helps to restore that legacy.”
George Washington’s Rye was distilled in February 2009 by Dave
Pickerell, Master Distiller for Whistle Pig Distillery and formerly of
Maker’s Mark. Pickerell followed Washington’s grain recipe, which was
60% rye, 35% corn and 5% malted barley.
Mount Vernon First to Hold Spirits Tasting in Commonwealth Under New Law
The public sampling event marked the first distilled spirits tasting in the Commonwealth since the repeal of Prohibition, under a new law signed by Governor Robert McDonnell, which went into effect today. The
legislation modernized an outdated law that had only permitted beer and
wine tastings by allowing pre-planned distilled spirits tastings events
at Virginia Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC) stores. Mount Vernon
received a special Virginia Alcohol Beverage Control store designation
under legislation sponsored by Virginia State Senator Linda “Toddy”
Puller, which was signed into law in 2007.
Prince Andrew Cuts Ribbon at George Washington Distillery Dedication
In September 2006, Britain’s Prince Andrew joined public officials including then-Virginia Attorney General Robert McDonnell in cutting the ribbon at the official dedication of the restored distillery. The
Prince participated in the event in honor of George Washington’s
Scottish farm manager who convinced Washington in 1797 that distilling
whiskey would be a lucrative business venture and a good use of the
excess grain from the nearby Gristmill.
Prior to the opening of the distillery, archaeologists at Mount Vernon spent five years excavating and researching the site. The reconstructed George Washington Distillery is the only site in North
America where visitors can view 18th-century distilling from field to
The distillery and the second story museum are the Gateway to the American Whiskey Trail. (www.americanwhiskeytrail.org)