PDA

View Full Version : mount vernon whiskey



**DONOTDELETE**
08-09-2000, 08:45
I am trying to find the history of the Mount Vernon distillery, producer of Mount Vernon Rye Whiskey. It was in business during the early 20th century. Can anyone provide a short history of the company, location of the distillery or any other facts?

Thanks,
Esther

whiskyportal
12-06-2000, 16:51
A have a little (very little, to be honest) information for you:
Mount Vernon was founded by George Washington (probably better known as president of the US) in 1797.
On the page http://www.whiskyportal.com/distillery.asp?DistilleryID=1088 a little more information will come after December 7th (I am facing difficulties in updating right now :-( ) - sorry that I don't remember more without my notes.



Dennis Klindrup
http://www.whiskyportal.com

**DONOTDELETE**
12-06-2000, 18:28
Hi Dennis, glad to see you made it. Thanks for joining us.

Folks, Dennis is located in Denmark, where he runs an excellent website (http://www.whiskyportal.com/) providing links to a multitude of distilleries. He covers all kinds (you'd be amazed at the diversity -- how about Pakistan for example?) with a large section devoted to American whiskey. Welcome aboard, Dennis! Now let's see if we can get you out to the Kentucky Bourbon Festival in September (hey, we had Heinz Taubenheim from Germany last year).

=John=
http://w3.one.net/~jeffelle/whiskey

kitzg
12-11-2000, 16:01
Here is a press release from approx. 12/8.

"The distilled spirits industry raised a toast to George Washington last night (12/7)during a black-tie event at the Mount Vernon Estate to celebrate a $1.2 million donation to reconstruct our Founding Father's distillery.
"This is a unique opportunity for the spirits industry to join together with Mount Vernon to preserve and honor our rich, cultural history," said Dr. Peter H. Cressy, President and CEO of the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS). "The distilled spirits suppliers, wholesalers and retailers are proud of this partnership to educate the public about a facet of our first president's life that not many know about -- George Washington, the distiller."
The donation to Mount Vernon will be used to support educational programs in addition to the authentic reconstruction of the distillery on its original foundation. Through these projects, visitors to Mount Vernon will be able to learn about Washington's entrepreneurial spirit as a successful farmer and distiller.
"George Washington led our country in so many ways, including his belief and constant encouragement to others that beverage alcohol should only be enjoyed responsibly," said Cressy. "Our industry always has and will continue to carry on this longstanding tradition."
In an effort to enhance the authenticity of the original distillery, the Smithsonian Institution plans to loan one of George Washington's original copper stills to Mount Vernon. This original still will be on view and used as a model for the four replicas in the reconstructed distillery.
"Through this unique partnership with the Distilled Spirits Council, Mount Vernon will be able to raise awareness for Washington's belief in moderation and responsibility as we rebuild his distillery," said Jim Rees, Executive Director at Mount Vernon. "Our educational programs will discuss how Washington considered liquor as 'essential to the health of the Men' during the Revolutionary War while he was equally aware of the dangers of abusing liquor. His message of responsibility is clearly echoed by the distilled spirits industry."
Upon completion of the reconstructed distillery, expected in five years, Mount Vernon will be the only historic site in the nation capable of showing the distillation process from crop to finished product. Visitors who tour the distillery will have an opportunity to learn about the centuries-old process through demonstrations and hands-on activities.
"The responsible consumption of distilled spirits was a part of George Washington's everyday life and, today, remains part of the lifestyle of more than 100 million American adults," said Cressy.
At the time of its construction in 1798, the distillery was considered one of the largest whiskey distilleries in America. In 1799, Washington produced 11,000 gallons of whiskey, yielding a profit of $7,500. Washington's death in that same year halted the brief success of the distillery, and within a decade, the building fell into disrepair. Many stones were removed for use in other local construction projects during the 19th century.
DISCUS is the national trade association representing producers and marketers of distilled spirits sold in the United States. "

Greg

**DONOTDELETE**
12-11-2000, 19:14
Thanks, Greg. Now that's some interesting news. And exciting, too; it's not often you hear about a venture to provide legitimacy to the rich history of distilling in the United States. I'll bet ol' Carrie Nation's just spinning in her grave over this :-))

It's important that we understand and glorify the things our Founding Fathers did, like distilling whiskey, because only in that way will we come to realize the good in them today. Of course, we should probably not mess around with the fact that Georgie was also a slave owner (and dealer, on a small scale); we don't want to glorify that too much. And I'll bet no one will be raising funds to rebuild the hemp fields. Mount Vernon records show that George was concerned with the proper separation of male and female hemp plants as they grew. Such attention to detail doesn't matter much to rope production, but many of us children of the sixties and seventies understand that ol Georgie knew a few things about hemp that will probably not earn a black-tie fundraiser anytime soon.

It's heartening to know that my grandchildren and their grandchildren will at last be able to visit "...the only historic site in the nation capable of showing the distillation process from crop to finished product." Until now, all they could do would have been to visit the National Historical Register Site at Maker's Mark, stopping off on the way to peek at few local cornfields and see wheat grow at the Sisters of Loretto first.

I do kind of wonder just who DISCUS is, and why they are so concerned about making the world aware of our first president's rye whiskey production. Whiskey (in moderation, of course) was certainly important in the 1790's, and quite profitable as well, as pointed out in the press release. Especially, I suppose, after all that pesky competition had been eliminated out there in western Pennsylvania. It's always nice to have 12,000 federal troops at your disposal (more, I'm told, than was required to win the revolution!). I had long heard that Washington was a distiller of rye whiskey, but I never realized before that the distillery was built in 1799, five years AFTER the end of the whiskey rebellion, and that it only operated for a single year. That hardly qualifies George as a "whiskey man" in the same sense as, say, Jimmy Russell or Lincoln Henderson. But at least he was moderate and responsible about it :-))

=John=
http://w3.one.net/~jeffelle/whiskey

**DONOTDELETE**
12-12-2000, 07:48
I didn't introduce myself when I queried about the 20th-century Mount Vernon Rye but I am Esther White, the director of archaeology at Historic Mount Vernon and one of the researchers working on the project to reconstruct George Washington's Mount Vernon distillery.

First, the Mount Vernon Rye is NOT related to George Washington's distillery. Since I posted my initial question I've discovered an article "Maryland Rye: A Whiskey the Nation Long Fancied--But Now Has Let Vanish" by James H. Bready in the "Maryland Historical Magazine" Vol. 85, No. 4, winter 1990. This was the commercial Mount Vernon Rye begun by Edwin A. Clabaugh and George U. Graff of Baltimore and sold in 1873 to Henry S. Hannis of Philadelphia. Hannis sold the brand to Cook and Bernheimer a New York wholesaler. This left George W. Torrey of Boston feeling jilted and he began a rival Mt. Vernon Rye. (The distinction being Mt. and Mount.) These ryes, like most, weren't able to grab market share after prohibition and ended production by the mid-twentieth century.

We at Mount Vernon, as the press release stated, are committed to researching, reconstructing, and interpreting Washington's distillery originally constructed in 1797. During the next two years the buildings foundation will be uncovered by a team of archaeologists while the numerous documentary sources are being studied. Washington's distillery began in 1797 and operated until 1808, although Washington himself died in 1799. Washington actually knew little about the process of distilling grains and it was his farm manager, a Scotsman, James Anderson, that convinced George to fund the distillery. We think Mr. Anderson, the mastermind behind the project, was the real "whiskey man". We feel confident that the process to learn more about the history of 18th century distilling will be both enlightening and interesting. Whiskey Magazine will publish an article about the commencement of the project early next year.

As the story says, the project is being funded by DISCUS (Distilled Spirits Council of the US), the lobbying organization of the spirits industry. They have agreed to fund the research and reconstruction as part of their educational and historical interests. Brown-Foreman, spurred by their own successful Labrot and Graham distillery, is one of the lead supporters of the project.

We welcome comments and queries about the project and look forward to communicating more with this forum as the research progresses.

Esther White
Director of Archaeology
Historic Mount Vernon
ewhite@mountvernon.org

kitzg
12-12-2000, 11:31
Esther, sorry to have replied to your post with your own press release but I do find that humorous. Perhaps it shows you that we in the forum at least try to stay on top of the latest news.

I admit I had this strong feeling when I posted the release that you were looking for a different product than our first President's since you stated the firm was in business much later. I am awash in academic responsibility right now (on top of some writing) so did not do any in depth search. I'm glad you found a source. I had a similar quest finding the source for a bottle (empty) that I made part of my collection which was a long defunct but historically important distillery here in Indiana and it took me quite awhile to amass information. You mention Maryland, Philadelphia, (a NY wholesaler) and a rival in Boston. Where were these rye's distilled, do you know?

I hope you will keep us in tune with your progress. I'd love to know.

You'll find author Chas. Cowdery and historian Mike Veach here as well as others who follow the current industry so we may be a source of information.

Welcome aboard!!

Greg

cowdery
12-12-2000, 12:09
Congratulation, Esther, on landing this exciting project, and thank you for honoring us with your inquiry to this forum. I am sorry we couldn't offer more help.

--Chuck Cowdery (http://cowdery.home.netcom.com)

cowdery
12-12-2000, 12:19
DISCUS (http://www.discus.health.org/) is a venerable organization, the principal national trade group for the distilled spirits industry of the United States. Their web site (http://www.discus.health.org/) contains a lot of useful resources.

--Chuck Cowdery (http://cowdery.home.netcom.com)

**DONOTDELETE**
12-12-2000, 12:23
Hi Esther, and welcome to the Discussion Forum at StraightBourbon.Com, an online institution of knowledge exchange, also sometimes known as the Bourbon Pit. I hope you'll excuse my lighthearted take on the press release in particular, and the "Washington, our country's first distiller" legend in general. I've always found it so amusing that EVERY history of bourbon (and probably every other American liquor as well) can be counted on to reinforce the same urban legend that George Washington was a well-known and successful distiller, as if that were somehow needed to bring legitimacy to a presumed otherwise tawdry endeavor. Even though I've always made fun of using our first president to endorse beverage alcohol production, I never before realized that even THAT was made up! Next, I suppose you'll be telling me he never slept at the Palm Springs Hilton hotel, either :-))

Regardless of whether or not George Washington MADE rye whiskey at Mount Vernon, I feel certain that he, and many others, drank plenty of it. And as the factual historic records and artifacts of that era are uncovered, we will all be able to benefit from your learnings. Even those of us who have no stake in maintaining the illusion of a Washington/Distiller relationship. The history of the United States is one of the greatest attractions bourbon holds for many of us hobbyists, and you're about to uncover (literally) a whole bunch of stuff that will be exciting to hear about. Please be sure to visit us often and keep us posted. For example, even if George didn't make rye whiskey, he grew rye grain -- which means he had it milled and probably had some made into whiskey. Did he sell that? We have well-known and highly honored "whiskey men" today who don't actually "make" their product nor own a still. No one would ever doubt their legitimacy. Perhaps George fell into this category before he actually built his own production plant.

I'm also glad to read your confirmation that the DISCUS group (which, I gather, includes Brown-Forman) is funding the project. Are they the sole contributors, or are there others? Mainly what I'd like to know is, is any funding of this project coming from federal or state tax dollars?

=John=
http://w3.one.net/~jeffelle/whiskey

**DONOTDELETE**
12-13-2000, 06:44
Thanks for the warm welcome and I will be sure to keep y'all posted about the progress at Mount Vernon.

Historic Mount Vernon is a private, nonprofit historic house museum and we do not accept tax-supported money, either state or federal. The site of the distillery, a seven-acre tract, was also site of a large merchant mill, cooperage, miller's cottage, animal pens, malt house, and slave quarters during Washington's time. The buildings all fell down by 1850 and in 1932 the Commonwealth of Virginia purchased the property and reconstructed the gristmill and miller's cottage, creating one of the first state parks. Five years ago Mount Vernon agreed to take over the property upon completion of a major restoration of the 1932 mill. This is currently happening and the restored, working mill will reopen to the public in April 2002. So while Mount Vernon doesn't accept state funding, this project, the restoration of the mill, is a cooperative effort with the state. The distillery research is totally private. Hope that helps answer your question.

Yes, the whiskey that was made at Mount Vernon was basically rye whiskey. The ingredients were rye, corn and a little bit of malted barley. For a short time they were also distilling wheat.

Esther

**DONOTDELETE**
12-13-2000, 06:54
According to the article by James H. Bready (see my earlier post for the complete citation), Mt. Vernon Rye was distilled in east Baltimore "taking over a Fleet Street brewery that the Wineke-Airey Co. had converted to whiskey-making (under the name Cecil Distillery)" p. 369 while Mount Vernon Rye Whiskey was distilled in west Baltimore near Ostend and Russell Streets (p. 354).

Sounds like Maryland was once a hotbed of distilling.

Esther

**DONOTDELETE**
12-13-2000, 10:35
Linn,

D.C. isn't all that far from Stuart, is it? I think you & Vickie oughta see if you can get an invitation to take a drive over there, check things out, add some of your knowledge, and provide a StraightBourbon presence. I know there are some contributions you could make that might otherwise be overlooked, such as the relationship between whiskey consumption and pants (I'll leave you to explain that to Esther yourself )

Esther, this project really sounds fascinating. Especially if it's likely to shed more knowledge on the general history of rye distilling in Maryland. Mike Veach (also a member here, and also a career historian) is very interested in researching pre-Kentucky distilling in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia. Linn Spencer (whose qualifications, like mine, consist only of being intensely interested in the history and variety of American whiskey) originally came to this forum in search of information about Michter's distillery in central Pennsylvania, the last operating example of the old Maryland-Pennsylvania rye distilleries when it closed in the 1980's.

=John=
http://w3.one.net/~jeffelle/whiskey

cowdery
12-13-2000, 10:41
I have only a small addition to make to this discussion. According the Flaget Nally, director of the Oscar Getz Museum of Whiskey History in Bardstown, KY, Washington's stills also produced brandy.

Regarding who can be called a "distiller," the term is frequently applied to distillery owners who do not necessarily engage in day to day whiskey making. Therefore, it is appropriate to call Washington "a distiller."

--Chuck Cowdery (http://cowdery.home.netcom.com)

**DONOTDELETE**
12-13-2000, 14:42
Happy little Stuart's Draft Virginia is about 95 miles south of Mount Vernon. I've been there twice, but not in twenty years or so. I'd be happy to assist in anyway that I can.

Linn Spencer

Have Shotglass. Will Travel.

**DONOTDELETE**
12-13-2000, 16:45
Linn,
When you offer to help does this offer involve drinking the white dog and taking your pants off? If so let me know when you plan to go in case you need an assistant with that white dog.
Mike Veach

**DONOTDELETE**
12-13-2000, 16:51
I have done very little research on Mt. Vernon rye whiskey. I have read that it was very popular with the bootleggers during prohibition because you could mix it with neutral spirits at a 7/1 ratio and still make a good product (Thats right Linn 1 pint of Mt. Vernon would end up as 8 pints). I do have some information on the Melrose distillery in Maryland If you think it might be of some use.
Mike Veach

**DONOTDELETE**
12-13-2000, 17:30
Mike the way it sounds to me is that we will need to cook up a mash and distill our own dog. Maybe you had best bring that still of George Washington's that currently resides in the Getz Whiskey Museam.

Linn Spencer

Have Shotglass. Will Travel.

**DONOTDELETE**
12-13-2000, 17:36
Sufficient enough for bankruptcy.

Linn Spencer

Have Shotglass. Will Travel.

whiskyportal
12-17-2000, 06:56
Hi Mike

It seems like I have no information at all on the Melrose Distillery at The Whisky Portal. Any information you have would be greatly appreciated, and will immediately be included in the database. BTW: It must have been a *strong* product to be mixed with water in that ratio... :-)

Dennis Klindrup
http://www.whiskyportal.com

**DONOTDELETE**
12-17-2000, 07:13
That would have been white lightning they'd be mixing it with, not water. Or maybe even "bathtub gin" (fermented, but not distilled, sugar beer). So the alcohol content wouldn't be affected much by it. But Mt. Vernon's flavor would probably have been pretty strong for it to be the flavoring of choice. Then again, any kind of increase in flavor would be an improvement. And it was probably cheaper (and less suspicious to buy) than commercial whiskey flavoring, too.

Hmmm, wonder if THAT's what Chuck's dad remembers so fondly from the old days? :-))

Legend has it that Pappy Van Winkle used to sell Weller bourbon to local moonshiners who would use it to improve the flavor of their hootch. I suppose it also helped to ensure more dependable deliveries of his own product as well.

=John=
http://w3.one.net/~jeffelle/whiskey

**DONOTDELETE**
12-17-2000, 07:51
When I said Neutral Spirits I meant grain neutral spirits or grain alcohol (also known as vodka when cut to 80 proof or so).
Mike Veach

whiskyportal
12-17-2000, 08:07
tsk, tsk... Reading is hard - and I obviously don't hold a masters degree in math (that much water would clearly have needed more than 100% pure alcohol - and even I should have realized that)! Thank you both for correcting my misunderstanding. I guess I was a bit fast there (*not* seen very often, according to my wife). But I still guess that the flavour must have been strong ;-)



Dennis Klindrup
http://www.whiskyportal.com

**DONOTDELETE**
05-09-2001, 14:12
Howdy All!

I called Esther White yesterday at Mount Vernon and we discussed an upcoming DISCUS event on the 21st of May. It is a dedication ceremony for the restoration of George Washington's distillery.

The stately plantation mansion is situated on the south bank of the Potomac River just south of old town Alexanderia. Barrels of whiskey and rum are to arrive by boat and be unloaded on the wharf. They are to be stored onsite in an undisclosed location for aging. This part of the ceremony is open to the public and I am happy to report that I will be in attendance and that I look forward to meeting Esther there.

The second portion of the event is by invitation only and will be held at the site of the gristmill; distillery, and cooperage complex. A catered lunch will be served accompanied by much speechifying. Esther has been more than kind in that she has sent a request to DISCUS that I might recieve credentials as a "cyber-reporter" for StraightBourbon.com and therefore be able to attend the invitation only portion of the event. The outcome of her request remains to be seen, but in any event I'll be attending no matter what, and I'll report back to the forum the events of the day.

Linn Spencer

Have Shotglass. Will Travel.

**DONOTDELETE**
05-17-2001, 06:01
I understand that Linn will be at the DISCUS event Monday May 21st at Mount Vernon. I look forward to meeting Linn at the distillery site and wanted to take an opportunity to let y'all know the archaeological excavation of George Washington's 1797 Distillery has commenced for the season. We excavate Wed. - Sat. from 8 to 4. The site is located at Washington's Mill Historical State Park about 3 miles south of Mount Vernon on State Road 235. We'd like to invite all interested straightbourbon members to visit the excavation if they're near Washington, DC this summer. Of course if you know you'll be able to visit it's best to email me at ewhite@mountvernon.org so we can expect you. Also we have an open house scheduled at the site on October 6 and 7. On those days the whole site will be open and our restored gristmill will be open for tours as well. The excavation will close for the season in early November.

I know Linn will have a great time at the DISCUS event and we look forward to seeing all y'all this summer.

Esther

**DONOTDELETE**
05-22-2001, 13:06
Esther I'd like to thank you and the Mount Vernon Ladies Association and DISCUS for a great event. I've written about half of the article and I've got two rolls of film being developed.

Once it's finished there are plenty of other occurances to discuss that although are beyond the scope of the article proper that I'm sure forum members will find most amusing.

Linn Spencer

Have Shotglass. Will Travel.

**DONOTDELETE**
06-07-2001, 05:54
OK Folks it's up! Go to the front page and enjoy reading my account of the Mount Vernon DISCUS event. Then come back here for discussion and further commentary. ... and hey go easy it's the first article I've ever written.

Linn Spencer

Have Shotglass. Will Travel.