George Washington’s Rye Whiskey Recreated

Steve Bashore and Mount Vernon is recreating George Washington’s rye whiskey, writes Natasha Geiling at

When Washington left the presidency and returned to his plantation in 1797 to reconnect with his pastoral life, he hired James Anderson to oversee his estate. Anderson, who migrated to Virginia from Scotland, saw that the plantation was perfectly set up to open up a distillery: “the abundance of crops, combined with Washington’s state-of-the-art gritsmill and abundant water supply could be used to make whiskey.”

Although Washington was hesitant at first, Anderson eventually convinced him. After a successful distilling operation, Washington and Anderson turned the estate into a “full-fledged distillery, complete with five stills.” The distillery produced 11,000 gallons of un-aged whiskey that sold for a total of $1,800 in 1799, and became the largest whiskey distillery in the country.

Despite its initial success, the distillery failed after Washington died. He left the distillery to his nephew Lawrence Lewis, who “lacked the shrewd business mind of Washington.” In 1814, a fire completely burned down the operation. Although the state of Virginia purchased the site in the 1930s and planned to rebuild the distillery, the project never came to fruition. 

In 2001, a group of archeologists, historians and distillers started to look deeper into the historical significance of the distiller with the help of the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States. Esther White, director of archaeology at the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association lead the reconstruction, and the distillery was open to the public by 2007.

The whiskey produced in Mount Vernon by Steve Bashore and his team is an homage to Washington’s original recipe: 65 percent rye, 35 percent corn and 5 percent malted barley. Although the president’s whiskey was unaged and clear, Bashore and Mount Vernon seek to age some of the whiskey. This year, the distillery will be making the Founding Father’s peach brandy for the first time as well. [Salon] [Photo: Flickr/Joye~]