Latest Washington rye a new approach

William M. Dowd photos

If you missed the first round of whiskey released at George Washington's re-constructed distillery, take heart. More is on the way.

Two weeks of distillation began this week at the facility located near Mount Vernon, VA, to generate 100 gallons of whiskey using Washington’s recipe. Half will be bottled and sold at Mount Vernon, starting probably in June. It will be sold unaged, as Washington sold it, by the pint for an expected price in the $100 range.

Mount Vernon’s first attempt at original distilling in the summer of 2007 yielded roughly a dozen gallons, all of which are being aged and which will be sold as whiskey starting in the fall.

It will be interesting to see the difference between the first batch that was released and the one currently being created.

The first was a unique "vatted" product made by marrying and re-aging at Mount Vernon portions of 11 American brands: Jack Daniel's, Jim Beam, Wild Turkey, Maker's Mark, George Dickel, Virginia Gentleman, Very Old Barton, I.W.Harper, Woodford Reserve, Rebel Yell and Platte Valley.

The product was created under the auspices of the Distilled Spirits Council (DISCUS) by master distillers at Mount Vernon on August 17, 2005, utilizing the contents of special barrels that had been aging on the mansion grounds since 2001. Samples of it were doled out on opening day. My tasting notes on the small samples showed some pleasant surprises:

"Remarkable color for something only in the wood for a year. ... Obviously, the maturation process had been sped up by using small, 10-gallon casks which surround the raw whiskey with very accessible oak. ... Fine nose, promising spiciness and herbal nuances. ... Much of the expected initial heat usually present in young whiskey was missing, leaving a warm yet palatable initial taste, along with the expected spice from the rye grain, and a satisfactory finish. ... All in all, a definitely promising young whiskey that I'd love to re-taste a year or two from now."

This time, former Maker's Mark master distiller Dave Pickerill is heading a team of Mount Vernon employees – historians, historic trades interpreters, archaeologists, and educators – working with Washington’s recipe.

Mount Vernon and distillery shops currently sell a $25 commemorative gift box set that includes a shot glass and a 50ml bottle of the 2005 blend.

Footnotes: A daily blog is documenting the whiskeymakers' work. You can access it here. ... George Washington’s Distillery & Gristmill re-open for the season on April 1, and remain open until October 31. Visitors will be able to see costumed distillers working with 18th Century-style equipment. The complex is located three miles from the main Mount Vernon Estate. ... Go here to read about opening day -- and a bit of Washington's distilling history.

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