America’s first president was 65 when his eight years in office came to an end. George Washington was looking forward to a laid-back retirement at his home in Mount Vernon, Virginia, but his plantation manager, James Anderson, had a different vision. Anderson thought that Mount Vernon was the perfect spot for a whiskey distillery, with its abundance of fresh water, access to plenty of rye, and a state-of-the-art grist mill. He persuaded Washington to take the plunge. Mount Vernon’s whiskey became a big seller and a very profitable endeavor. The distillery cranked out nearly 11,000 gallons (41,640 liters) in 1799 alone, and was considered to be one of the nation’s top producers at the time.
A toast to a presidential distiller:
- This wasn’t the aged whiskey sold today. “Everything was a white whiskey back then,” explains Mount Vernon spokesman Steve Bashore, “They wanted it to get to the stores, the markets and taverns quickly.”
- The whiskey produced by America’s founding father wasn’t targeted at an elite clientele. “It was a common whiskey for a common man,” Bashore says.
- In 2009, the old Mount Vernon distillery was refurbished and rebuilt, and whiskey began to flow there again. Bashore says that all fermentation and distillation work is done using 18th-century methods.