Courtesy of the author
The mid-Atlantic has recently come into its own in terms of winemaking, and the DC-area in particular has seen a resurgence in brewing, but (legal) distilling has been somewhat slower to follow. However, as consumer tastes have migrated away from mass-produced libations, more and more micro-distilleries have been established in the area.
‘General Washington’s Whiskey – 09-03-10 1′
courtesy of ‘mosley.brian’
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). Continue reading
Last week, Birch & Barley hosted their first-ever beer and whiskey tasting. At the helm was the inimitable Greg Engert to guide the evening’s attendees through three different beers and three different whiskies, one of each presented on its own, and then two of each paired together.
While I’ve had several meals at Birch & Barley and have spent too much time upstairs at ChurchKey, I had not yet attended one of Birch & Barley’s tastings or beer dinners so I wasn’t sure what to expect—in its format, presentation, guidance, sociability—but based on my past experiences with the brother-sister venues and the heavy promotion the tasting received, I figured it would be worthwhile. By the conclusion of the event, it had certainly met expectations—I left better educated, with a few new acquaintances, and with a pleasant buzz.
courtesy of ‘philipmatarese’
I come from a line of whiskey drinkers. Well, that’s really only about half true. The other line drinks whisky. But perhaps I should explain. Irish whiskey gets the ‘e’ (as does most American whiskey), while Scotch whisky goes without (and shares that spelling with Canadian whisky). Even the paper of record updated its style on the subject. By surname, my father’s family is more Irish than anything else. On the other hand, my mother’s family can be traced to Scotland. Both family histories, for what it’s worth, pass through Kentucky, itself no slouch when it comes to distilling. To the best of my knowledge there weren’t actually any distillers (or moonshiners) in the family, but I digress.
I do enjoy a wee dram now and again, but I like to do so on the merits of the spirit, not just for the benefit of getting blind. As such I tend to avoid bars on the major drinking holidays. Since I believe that one should respect the spirit, and I also believe that Irish whiskey deserves that respect, here’s a primer on some of the Irish whiskey you can find in the DC area in advance of St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. If I’ve left out your favorite, please feel free to set me straight in the comments. It’s been too long since I’ve had Clontarf for me to have an opinion on its merits.