George Washington: Statesman, General, Distiller
George Washington is still entertaining in fine style at his Mount Vernon home with the release of his original recipe un-aged rye whiskey, now being sold for the first time since 1814. A limited number (only 471) of the bottles, priced at $85, were available this month and I was thrilled to be number 30 in the queue. There was also a commemorative boxed set containing an engraved shot glass and mini bottle of the aged variety, a tempting bracer for a brisk autumn fox hunt.
A magnificent morning greeted eager tasters who toured the distillery and gristmill along the banks of Doe Creek, where the rye whiskey is being made and bottled by hand, just as it was done two centuries ago, according to original records uncovered at the estate.
Virginia state Senator Toddy Puller, whose efforts cannot be understated in sponsoring Virginia’s new distilled spirits tasting law, which allowed Mount Vernon a special designation to sell the whiskey, was presented with the first bottle by Dennis Pogue, Mount Vernon’s Associate Director for Preservation, and Dr. Peter Kressy, president of the Distilled Spirits Council (DISCUS), who proudly told of his association’s commitment in leading industry funding for the $2.1 million archeological excavation and reconstruction.
James Rees, president of the influential Mount Vernon Ladies Association, spoke of Washington the innovator and entrepreneur. “This was the largest and most successful distillery in the United States, marketing to the West Indies, England and Portugal,” he said.
Master Distiller David Pickerell, formerly of Maker’s Mark Bourbon and now distilling his own WhistlePig Farm rye whiskey in Vermont, described the whiskey this way, “Its nose is slightly floral, earthy and grainy, with a taste that is surprisingly sweet and mellow with a berry taste.” He added, “The whole process was exhausting. Everything was made by hand and we did it in two weeks!”
The estate currently has around 50 gallons laid back of the two-year-old whiskey aging in oak barrels. It won’t be available until next spring. But according to Pogue, the demand for the un-aged variety has been so high they are trying to have a new batch ready at the same time.
Local mixologist Todd Thrasher of Restaurant Eve and PX in Alexandria was so inspired he created a new recipe just for the occasion:
I Cannot Tell a Lie
1 ounce George Washington rye whiskey
1 ounce bourbon
1/2 ounce Luxardo maraschino cherry liqueur
2 ounces cherry vanilla juice (recipe follows)
Dash of Fee Brothers cherry bitters
Cherry Vanilla Juice
Mix together 1 quart of pitted cherries and 1 scooped out vanilla bean. Pass through a food mill. To serve:
Stir all the ingredients together and serve in a chilled coupe glass. Garnish with a Luxardo cherry. Courtesy of Todd Thrasher, www.restauranteve.com.
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