G. Washington's whiskey now legal

Elected officials don't often have their act together in time to do as much good as they can. But, when it comes to something connected to our first president, they did OK.

The Virginia House of Delegates today passed a bill approved earlier in the state senate to allow Historic Mount Vernon to sell small amounts of commemorative spirits as part of the reconstructed George Washington's Distillery.

The action means the whiskey, made at the rebuilt still on the grounds of Washington's home in Virginia, will be legally available in time for his birthday, Feb. 22, if signed into law by Gov. Tim Kaine who already has said he will do so.

State Senator Linda T. "Toddy" Puller, the bill's original sponsor, said, "I'm pleased to play a role in revitalizing a piece of Washington's legacy. We recognize the importance of keeping Washington's spirit alive -- in all respects."

In Virginia, only stores operated by Virginia Alcohol Beverage Control (VABC) may sell distilled spirits. Senate Bill 807 enables Mount Vernon to receive a special VABC store designation allowing visitors to purchase samples of George Washington's Straight Rye Whiskey and other special historic products when the distillery opens to the public on Saturday, March 31.

"By allowing us to sell George Washington's rye whiskey, our visitors will be able to taste an authentic flavor of the 18th Century, while learning more about Washington's entrepreneurial spirit," said Dennis Pogue, chief historian at Historic Mount Vernon.

According to Mount Vernon historic records, Washington had the 2,250 square foot distillery built in 1797. In 1799, it produced 11,000 gallons of whiskey. In 2003, Washington's own whiskey recipe was distilled by a team of master distillers, representing America's most celebrated spirits brands, in collaboration with Mount Vernon's historian, under special license from the federal government and the Commonwealth of Virginia.

The Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS) and its member companies, with the support of the Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America, have been the major donors to Mount Vernon for the $2.1 million project to excavate and reconstruct the historic distillery.

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