How Much Have We Lost?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Rye Back on Sale at Mount Vernon

Today, I swung by the Mount Vernon Estate and picked up four bottles of their new line of Rye (Whiskey) made at their new distillery. The bottles are individually numbered and sell for $99/ea. When I left there were still about 300 left. Last year, they sold out in 3 hours.

I haven't tried it, but if I did, my comments would be "tastes like whiskey." Here's a review of the stuff by Dowd on Drinks who knows more about whiskey tasting:

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.
The Estate was able to manufacture and sell the whiskey on premises (instead of an ABC store) due to legislation shepherded through by Mount Vernon Senator Toddy Puller in 2008.

George Washington was formerly in the rye business and the estate has taken his original recipe and started manufacturing it again in Mount Vernon's replica 18th Century Distillery - the only one of its kind in the United States. The original recipe was 60% rye, 35% corn, and 5% malted barley. You can see part of the newly reconstructed distillery in this picture I took of the Grist Mill and Dogue Creek last year.

Here's more info from an article published on Yahoo:

The distillery was set up in the cooperage, which provided the barrels for the whiskey. Washington was so pleased with the results of this new venture that a new stone building was constructed to house five stills. The efficient farm used the waste products to feed hogs and cattle kept nearby. The first Mount Vernon rye whiskey was used locally, but was also shipped to other communities near and far. The businessman in Washington must have been very pleased with the 11,000 gallons of whiskey which returned a profit of $7500, a substantial sum in 1799.

His heirs let it deteriorate and fail. The death of George Washington in 1799 brought this venture to a close. If he had lived longer, or had more successful descendants, the country might have been drinking George's whiskey throughout its history. When he died, the distillery and gristmill were left to his step-granddaughter and her husband, but they were not equal to the
business sense of the clever Washington. The property was allowed to deteriorate, and the very successful financial venture of distilling whiskey failed.
Mount Vernon is the largest tourist attraction in Virginia with over 1,000,000 visitors per year. It is also one of the largest private employers in the 44th District with over 400 employees.

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