DSR – VA – 017: George Washington’s Rye Whiskey
Company/Distillery: George Washington’s Distillery
Location: Mount Vernon, Virginia
Mash Bill: 60% Rye, 35% Corn and 5% Malted Barley
Age Statement: Unaged
Proof/ABV: 86 Proof/43% ABV
Color & Viscosity: In the glass, this unaged George Washington Rye Whiskey appears crystal clear. The viscous line is razor thin on the glass wall and quickly forms what appear to be perforated beads. These beads form pronounced tear drops which ooze to the belly of the tasting vessel slowly like wax dripping. It appears to have nice body and volume.
Purchase Price: $30.00 at the distillery for a gift box including a 50 ml mini-bottle and commemorative shot glass. $98.00 for a 375 ml bottle.
Bottle Label Information:
“George Washington’s Rye Whiskey”
“Distilled at George Washington’s Distillery, Mount Vernon, Virginia”
“This small-batch whiskey was handcrafted in Washington’s reconstructed distillery using 18th-century methods and Washington’s mash bill of 60% rye, 35% corn, and 5% malted barley.”
“George Washington’s Mount Vernon”
George Washington’s Distillery
General George Washington (February 22, 1732-December 14, 1799) built a resume like no other during his lifetime. Starting out as a surveyor at 15 years old, Washington would hold the titles of Virginia farmer, Commander of the Continental Army, Representative in the Virginia House of Burgesses, President of the Constitutional Convention, and the 1st President of the newly formed United States of America. In March of 1797, an exhausted and drained President Washington would step down as the President of the United States with his sights set on retiring back to his farm in Mount Vernon, Virginia.
Washington’s 8,000 acre and 21-room estate at Mount Vernon had been neglected over the years, as he served his country, and Washington was looking forward to returning to the property and working on getting it back into shape. Upon his return, in 1797, Washington would hire Scottish immigrant James Anderson to manage his farm.
Not long after his arrival, Anderson would identify that Washington had an abundance of rye grain laying around the farm, completely unused. Anderson made a recommendation to Washington that involved taking the extra grain and utilizing the water run gristmill on site, to begin distilling whiskey. This was obviously not in Washington’s original plan for retirement and was a little ironic considering the fact that Washington had squashed the Whiskey Rebellion of 1774. Nonetheless, Washington would grant Anderson permission to begin distilling on the property.
The distillery at Mount Vernon began as a small operation containing two stills in his cooperage. Washington was so impressed with the process and Anderson’s abilities that he approved the construction of a whiskey distillery that held 5 copper pot stills. Construction was completed in 1798 and became the largest distillery in the country by 1799. Mount Vernon’s distillery would end up being Washington’s most profitable business, producing approximately 11,000 gallons of unaged rye whiskey, valued at over $120,000 in current US dollars.
In 1799, upon Washington’s death, the distillery was inherited by his nephew, Lawrence Lewis. Lewis would not experience the same success as his uncle. In 1814, the distillery would experience a fire that devastated the distillery and cause Lewis to decide to never rebuild the operation. In 2007, with the help of the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association, George Washington’s Distillery would reopen and begin the production of George Washington’s Whiskey.
Other offerings available from the George Washington Distillery include George Washington’s Straight Rye Whiskey (Aged 2 years; $188 for 375 ml bottle), George Washington’s Premium Straight Rye Whiskey (Aged 4 years; $225 for 375 ml bottle), Apple Brandy and Peach Brandy ($125 for 375 ml bottle).
George Washington’s Rye Whiskey
This unaged rye whiskey is made using a recipe discovered straight from Washington’s distillery ledgers. The rye, corn, and barley grains are all ground in the onsite water-powered gristmill, just as they would have been ground in 1799. The distillery strives to continue to use the same distillation process as that of Anderson. Fermentation occurs in wooden tubs using water procured from the land. After fermentation, the whiskey is distilled in 5 copper pot stills, heated using wood fires. The result is a unaged rye whiskey that represents that which Washington would have sold at the end of his life in 1799.
Tasting Date/Vessel: December 15, 2021 – Neat in Glencairn Glass
Christian: In the mini-bottle, George Washington’s Rye Whiskey smells of fresh corn and yeast. A gentle sweetness bounds from the bottle. In my Glencairn glass, the nose is rather unexpected at first. The aroma of yeast and distiller’s beer jumps out first – much like what you would experience if you have ever visited a distillery during distillation. I notice a sweetness here though, that is not similar to corn but rather has a fruitiness to it. The aroma reminds me a lot of white grape juice. This is an appealing nose that begs the partaker to take a sip. A quick swirl really ramps up the fruit note I am getting. All-in-all, this smells just as you would expect an unaged whiskey to smell.
Christian: On my palate, the George Washington Rye Whiskey is soft, but has a nice body to it. Sweet corn erupts on the palate first before quickly transitioning to a balanced taste of rye grains. Like the nose, a note of bread, similar to a honey wheat, and accompanying yeast is present on the tongue. This pour has a buttery note to it which adds a dimension that I found appealing.
Christian: This unaged whiskey is surprisingly smooth, offering a short finish overall. In the back you begin to notice just a hint of earthiness, similar to freshly ground grains and just a tingle of spice. Again, the sweet corn almost takes on a white wine or grape based neutral grain spirit sweetness that I find a little unusual in unaged/moonshine whiskey offerings. Very late, I get a touch of raw peanut flavor that wells up from deep inside.
Christian: Early on in this journey Mike and I did a four state moonshine/unaged whiskey blind taste off that allowed us to try around 12 to 16 different unaged offerings. The George Washington Rye Whiskey does not deviate from the flavor profiles we have previously experienced. Overall, I find this offering from George Washington’s Distillery to be very approachable with its pleasing sweet nose, enjoyable taste profile, and soft smooth finish. My biggest issue with this product is going to fall on the price point. I understand that this is true small batch handcrafted whiskey made the hard way using 18th Century techniques – and that is clearly an expensive process to complete. However, pricing an unaged whiskey at $98 for 375 ml is just unpalatable to me. The only way to justify trying it is the gift box that we have which comes with a very nice shot glass.
I am a history nerd and I love any and all knowledge that comes from studying the time period of President Washington and the founding fathers, so to me this is a really cool item to try and own. I enjoyed this pour and would love to try the distillery’s aged offerings and brandies, but like many, I am going to find the price as a huge hurdle. As a native Virginia and history nerd, I say that you should try it! However, I totally get it if you pass, given the investment required!