Did you know that George Washington, America’s first President also owned one of the earliest commercial distillery operations in the country? It’s true, a visit to Washington’s Mount Vernon, would not be complete without a visit to George Washington’s Distillery and Gristmill.
In 1797 the newly retired first President General George Washington was approached by his farm manager, James Anderson, a Scottsman by birth and a distiller by the grace of God, about starting a distillery operation at Mount Vernon. Anderson petitioned George Washington that Mount Vernon’s crops, combined with the large merchant gristmill and the abundant water supply, would make the distillery a profitable venture.
Washington agreed and by the spring of 1798 the distillery was operational. Based on historical records it was finished with boilers, tubs, and five copper stills, and wooden troughs made to bring water from the nearby creek to cool the vapor of the heated mash. By 1799 it was one of the largest (legal) commercial operations in the country with 2,250 square feet producing nearly 11,000 gallons of whiskey per year.
What’s on the site today is a fully-functioning reconstruction of Washington’s gristmill and whiskey distillery. Both buildings are located 2.7 miles from the estate’s main entrance and are included in general admission to Mount Vernon. If you are short on time, you can purchase tickets just for the distillery and gristmill tour.
George Washington’s Distillery
Tours and Tasting Run April 1 – October 31
Spirits made at the distillery can be purchased year round at Mount Vernon but the distillery and gristmill are not heated and are only open to the public for tours April 1 through October 31. True to its historic roots, the distillery is operated with real wood fired stills and boiling hot water in a relatively small space. For that reason, the actual distillation operation generally takes place in March and November when the distillery is closed to the public.
George Washington’s Distillery Spirits
We continue the tradition of producing whiskey as well as other small batch distilled spirits at our historic distillery in limited quantities. 375ml bottles of the distilled spirits produced at Mount Vernon are available for purchase at the Shops at Mount Vernon. Each of these bottles was produced at Mount Vernon using 18th-century distilling methods and techniques.
George Washington’s Rye Whiskey – The mash bill, or recipe, was discovered by researchers examining the distillery ledgers for 1798 and 1799. His whiskey consisted of 60% rye, 35% corn and 5% malted barley. The records also indicate that George Washington’s whiskey was distilled at least twice before being sent to market. In Washington’s time whiskey was not aged and was sold in its original form. The whiskey in this bottle accurately represents that process. Learn more.
George Washington Straight Rye Premium Whiskey – Our best-tasting whiskey yet! New in 2018, this premium straight rye whiskey was distilled at Mount Vernon’s reconstructed distillery using George Washington’s original recipe, then aged on site for four years. Only 200 bottles were released and now available for purchase. Learn more.
George Washington’s Straight Rye Whiskey – This special bottle of George Washington’s Straight Rye Whiskey is one of a limited number of bottles distilled at the distillery. After aging for two years in barrels, this straight rye whiskey was bottled and labeled by hand. Learn more.
George Washington’s Peach Brandy Eau de Vie – Eau de Vie, or “water of life”, is a clear unaged fruit brandy. It’s a robust, fiery brandy, beautifully clear with peach aromas and a hint of cinnamon. This special bottle of Peach Eau de Vie is one of a limited number of bottles distilled at the distillery. Learn more.
George Washington’s Apple Brandy – The distillery’s ledgers indicate that Washington produced small amounts of apple brandy in 1798 and 1799. Washington maintained orchards on his estate which provided the apples for his brandy. Today’s Apple Brandy was aged in barrels used for bourbon and is one of limited number made at the distillery. Learn more.
Distilled spirits fans are invited to visit and tour the distillery April 1 through October 31. The spirits can be purchased year round at the Shops at Mount Vernon.