Do you know who was the nation’s largest distiller in 1799? Here’s a hint: he is first in the hearts of his countrymen (I’m sure the booze helped with that). That’s right, George Washington, of Revolutionary War and first President fame, was the nation’s largest distiller of whiskey at the time of his death. But the really interesting thing is we still have his whiskey recipe, and the amazing people at Mount Vernon, George Washington’s home, have been brewing it for the past two years, using historical distilling techniques (full disclosure: my mother works at Mount Vernon and is responsible for bottling and selling the whiskey).
On July 4th, Mount Vernon sold their latest batch of the unaged rye whiskey (Roll Call; subscription required). That’s right, it’s an unaged whiskey; it spent no time in barrels, and thus doesn’t have the color of a typical whiskey. It’s also strong, coming out at 43% alcohol. To give an idea on how strong, my mom likes to tell a story that when her staff bottled the first batch last year, the fumes actually got one of her employees tipsy. It’s made in limited quantities (around 400 bottles), and they only sell it two or three times a year. Lines are long and the bottles go quickly, even at a hefty sum ($95).
The taste of the whiskey is interesting. I’m not a hard liquor person, so I didn’t have a frame of reference; it was just a strong drink to me. However, people who have tried it have described the taste as a high-quality vodka, tequila, and even a true whiskey. It’s certainly an experience to try, especially after 200+ years of not being tried.
What really got my attention with the Roll Call article is the inclusion of two drink recipes for the whiskey. The recipes are developed by Derek Brown, owner and bartender of the Columbia Room, and David Fritzler, craft bartender at Tryst Coffeehouse. The two drinks are a White Fox Manhattan and a Dog Punch, and they both sound delicious.
Mount Vernon has laid down some of the whiskey to be aged, like regular whiskey, for two years. I have insider knowledge that the aged spirits should be bottled and put on sale sometime this fall. The price is going to be steep (in the range of $200 a bottle) but I’m hoping to get a bottle. You know, for the experience.