Friday, August 28, 2015

Enjoying George Washington’s Straight Rye Whiskey

By David Duncan

One thing Southerners know plenty about when it comes to hard liquor is Moonshine, Kentucky Bourbon and Whiskey.  At one time, our Founding Father and First President George Washington was the largest distiller of whiskey in the United States.  Whiskey was so popular in our early days that when Congress put a tax on it, citizens rose up to protest creating a national crisis in the Whiskey Rebellion.  George Washington as President was quick to squash the rebellion and to this day, whiskey is taxed.

At Washington’s Virginia home, Mount Vernon, the Distillery from his time period has been reconstructed and Rye Whiskey is made there.  On a tour, visitors can learn all about the stages of whiskey production and periodically the whiskey produced as part of the demonstration process is put on sale.  Lucky for me, I was able to procure one of these prized bottles. 

At Mount Vernon, the whiskey distilled uses Washington’s original mash recipe and traditional 18th century methods are used in the production.  The method of production includes grinding all of the grain in the water-powered gristmill, fermenting it in wooden mash tubs and distilling in copper pot stills heated by wood fires.  Overall, making the Rye Whiskey is as close to George Washington’s original rye as possible.

The Straight Rye Whiskey sold at Mount Vernon has been aged in barrels for two years.  Washington’s original mash recipe was discovered by researchers examining the distillery ledgers from 1798 and 1799.  According to the ledger, Washington’s whiskey consisted of:
  • 60% rye,
  • 35% corn,
  • 5% barley

According to the records, it is apparent that the whiskey was distilled at least twice before being sent to market.  Unlike the whiskey sold at Mount Vernon today, in Washington’s time the whiskey would not have been aged in barrels but sold in its unaged clear, colorless form.
Rye Whiskey is a whiskey that is distilled from at least 51 percent rye. Also, rye is a type of grass that is a member of the wheat family and closely related to barley.  Rye whiskey tastes like a spicy, grainy, hard-edged version of bourbon.  
For me, I will be happy to pair my Washington Straight Rye Whiskey with my Home-Brewed 1744 Porter.  Cheers to Founding Father and Distiller in Chief, George Washington!

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