Wednesday, September 3, 2008

George Washington

So I'm a tad behind on this, but, hey, I only just started this blog the other day.

DISCUS, the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (a national trade association), issued a press release early last month: "For Sale: First Whiskey in 200 Years at George Washington's Distillery." In a nutshell, the Mount Vernon Estate, with generous support from DISCUS and its members, discovered the archeological footprint and remains of George Washington's distillery and rebuilt it for historical education/preservation/heritage celebration purposes; then began distilling rye whiskey to keep it all fun and "educational"; and so now wish to sell it to tourists and other visitors to the historic distillery; the State of Virginia just granted a license to permit this -- actually pretty cool.

In case you are wondering what, exactly, the backstory on all this is, it just so happens that I wrote a piece on it for The Malt Advocate magazine which they have since posted online in their "classics" section of their website. The piece is "George Washington, Whiskey Maker." Partially excerpted here:

History came to life Wednesday, September 28th, 2006, with the official dedication of a freshly reconstructed 18th century whiskey distillery at historic Mount Vernon.

The distillery project was a painstaking and exacting historical effort, based on years of research and archeological excavation, conducted under the auspices of the Mount Vernon Estate and through the generous support of the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States and its members. On hand for the ribbon cutting was UK’s HRH Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, as well Bob McDonnell, Virginia’s Attorney General, Jim Rees, Mount Vernon Executive Director, Peter Cressy, Distilled Spirits Council president, and assorted names from within the Scottish and American spirits industry.

This $2.1 million George Washington Distillery stands on the footprint of the original distillery, and was reconstructed in accordance with 18th century techniques and materials. It is located adjacent to George Washington’s Gristmill along the banks of the Dogue Run Creek, just three miles down the road from the Mount Vernon Estate mansion in northern Virginia.

This George Washington Distillery is a near-perfect historical recreation—with slight modifications to keep it up to modern fire codes—of George Washington’s original distillery.

Father Of Our Country’s Whiskey

Although it is rarely taught in elementary school textbooks, the Father of our Country, Hero of the Revolution, and First President of these United States was one of the largest commercial producers of rye whiskey. Indeed, Washington made and sold booze from 1797 until his death in 1799, at which time his distillery was known to have produced more than 11,000 gallons of rye. This was much in excess of what anyone else is known to have been producing at the time.

This fact is hardly surprising considering that our Founding Fathers consumed vast amounts of alcohol. Apparently, Americans drank more alcoholic beverages between 1790 and 1840 than at any other period in our nation’s history—nearly a half pint of hard liquor per man each day. Even John Adams, who was often heard striking temperate notes against public taverns, imbibed a tankard of hard cider a day with his breakfast.

Click here to go to the rest of this article on The Malt Advocate website.

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