Scottish-American venture a success at Mt. Vernon

The historic cask signed by Scottish distillers
MOUNT VERNON, VA -- Don't you just love it when a plan comes together ... and then exceeds expectations?

That's exactly what happened today at the recreated George Washington distillery here when master distiller Dave Pickerell and a contingent of Scottish distillers began making the first batch of single malt whiskey created here and exceeded all expectations on the first go-round.

In the normal course of commercial distilling, the first pass is completed when the "heads" of the distillate are removed and returned for a second pass through the still to smooth out this particular portion. However, the initial results were so pleasing, using local water plus malted barley brought from Scotland, that Pickerell and his colleagues decided to bottle it in ex-bourbon casks for several years of aging as Mount Vernon Malt Whisky -- no "e" in whiskey as a nod to the Scottish guests -- Director's Cut.

It went into a 15-gallon cask, christened No. 16, at about 55% alcohol by volume, or 109.2 proof. I had the distinct pleasure of pouring the second small pitcher of the new whisky from the collection container into the barrel.

It undoubtedly will fetch a decent price when ready to join previous Mount Vernon distillations, such as rye whisky and a now-aging apple brandy made several months ago.

Joining Pickerell, a well-known American distiller, were Scottish master distillers Bill Lumsden of Glenmorangie, John Campbell of Ardbeg, who also makes Laphroaig, and Andy Cant of Cardu, which makes much of the main spirit for the Johnnie Walker blends.

The effort was a joint venture supported by the Distilled Spirits Council of the U.S. (DISCUS) and the Scottish Whisky Association, which in October will mark its 100th birthday.

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