George Washington's Distillery - Governor McAuliffe Declares Rye Whiskey Official Spirit of Virginia

Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe joined representatives from the Distilled Spirits Council (DISCUS) and Mount Vernon to launch a yearlong celebration of the 10th anniversary of the reopening of George Washington’s Distillery at a special event at the historic distillery in Alexandria, Virginia.

The event, hosted by the Council, included a ceremonial bill signing by Governor McAuliffe and was attended by more than 20 craft distillers from Virginia and the surrounding region. The bill signed by Governor McAuliffe atop a whiskey barrel was SB 1261, naming George Washington’s Rye Whiskey Virginia’s official “state spirit.”

Virginia Governor McAuliffe’s Ceremonial Signing of SB 1261

“Kentucky takes a lot of credit for bourbon as you know. Now that’s a falsehood that I want to clear up here today. In the 1780s when Kentucky was doing their bourbon. They didn’t become a state until 1797. In the 1780s they were part of what? The Commonwealth of Virginia. So, we really are the birthplace of everything.”
~ Virigina Governor Terry McAuliffe

“George Washington is not only our nation’s founding father, he was also the father of craft distilling in America,” said Distilled Spirits Council President & CEO Kraig R. Naasz. “George Washington’s Distillery binds the old world with the new world through the art of distilling.”

“Washington quickly learned that distilling is the epitome of value-added agriculture and his principle product was rye whiskey,” said Naasz. “U.S. rye whiskey sales have surged more than 1,000 percent since the distillery reopened in 2006, suggesting what was once old is new again.”

George Washington’s Rye Whiskey
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Gateway to American Whiskey Trail

George Washington’s Distillery is the Gateway to the American Whiskey Trail, a cultural heritage and tourism initiative of the Distilled Spirits Council and Mount Vernon.

The distilleries showcasing their spirits at the tasting event were:

10th Anniversary Celebration of the George Washington Distillery

Beginning in 2000, with a $2.1 million grant from the Distilled Spirits Council and its members, Mount Vernon began the excavation and restoration of the distillery. In the Fall of 2006, the distillery was officially dedicated at a ribbon-cutting ceremony presided over by Britain’s Prince Andrew and it opened to the public in spring 2007.

The first limited edition run of 471 bottles of George Washington Rye was produced in the reconstructed distillery in 2009 in accordance with the Washington’s own recipe, which was discovered by historians in the mansion’s extensive records. These bottles sold out to the public in two hours on the first day of sale in 2010.

Since then, small batches of limited edition Rye have been produced periodically and sold to the public. Other specialty distilling projects have produced Rum, Peach Brandy and Apple Brandy, all of which Washington either sold commercially or entertained with at the mansion table.

George Washington’s Rye Whiskey is available for purchase in-person only at the Shops at Mount Vernon and the George Washington Distillery & Gristmill site.

SB 1261 George Washington’s rye whiskey;
designating as the state spirit.

An Act to amend and reenact § 1-510 of the Code of Virginia, relating to official emblems and designations; George Washington’s rye whiskey; state spirit.

Whereas, George Washington was a native son of Virginia born on February 22, 1732, in Pope’s Creek, Virginia; and

Whereas, George Washington was the first American president, commander of the Continental Army, and president of the Constitutional Convention; and

Whereas, George Washington served as a model statesman and is universally acknowledged as the father of our nation; and

Whereas, another aspect of George Washington’s life was his business activities as a gentleman planter; and

Whereas, from his home at Mount Vernon, which was also a working farming operation, George Washington participated in many business ventures; and

Whereas, George Washington’s venture into the rye whiskey business began at the urging of his farm manager, James Anderson, who had been involved in the distilling industry in Scotland before immigrating to America in the early 1790s; and

Whereas, James Anderson was convinced that a distilling business would complement Mount Vernon’s other economic ventures, and George Washington agreed; and

Whereas, initially George Washington proceeded cautiously, allowing James Anderson to purchase two stills and set up a small operation in the cooperage next to the gristmill located at the property in early 1797; and

Whereas, this first endeavor produced 600 gallons of rye whiskey; and

Whereas, two years later, in 1799, the year of George Washington’s death, his distillery produced nearly 11,000 gallons, making it the largest whiskey distillery in America at the time; and

Whereas, it is fitting to acknowledge yet another accomplishment of this son of Virginia and father of the nation whose efforts produced a spirit that embodies the spirit of Virginia; now, therefore,

Be it enacted by the General Assembly of Virginia:

  1. That § 1-510 of the Code of Virginia is amended and reenacted as follows:
  • 1-510. Official emblems and designations.

The following are hereby designated official emblems and designations of the Commonwealth:

Spirit — George Washington’s rye whiskey produced at Mount Vernon, Virginia.

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