View Full Version : Washington Distillery at Mt. Vernon - Open?
It could be aging, or feeling crazy from the kids and the rain this week, but I am not seeing on the Mt. Vernon site a specific date for when the Distillery will be open for tours. I saw something that said it was expected to open this Fall. Anyone know when it will be open? I'm going to be in NOVA at the end of Oct and sure would like to pop down there for a tour of the distillery.
FYI, here's a link that chronicles the archeological dig of the site:
Thanks in advance.
I'm going to an event there on September 27th that I believe is supposed to mark the restoration's official completion. I'll find out then when they expect to have it open for tours. Maybe it will be yet this fall, but I suspect it will be in the spring. They intend to have a small museum in the upstairs of the distillery building, and I'm sure that isn't finished yet. There also is a working mill on the site that has been open for years.
For what it looked like a year ago, click here. (http://cowdery.home.netcom.com/mtvernon/mtvernon.htm)
Thanks, Chuck. BTW...I ordered your book a few weeks ago....read about a third of it so far and am really enjoying it!
I just returned from Mount Vernon. They called this event the "official dedication of the restored George Washington’s Distillery," which is exactly what they called last year's event, when they laid the cornerstone. Every year at about this time they try to create some big news happening about the project and they've been pretty successful at that, at generating publicity, which is part of the whole point.
The real status is that the building is built, in that the walls are up, the roof is on and the stills are in place. There's quite a lot of finishing to do yet. As it is, the interior is open to the roof, but there will in fact be a floor put in for a full second story, which will house a small museum and interpretive center.
They also haven't finished the landscaping or removed the construction fencing, that sort of thing.
It's supposed to open to the public in April, 2007.
I got a lot of hemming and hawing when I asked various people if the distillery was actually going to be used to make whiskey, and I tried to ask a lot of practical questions related to that, but this wasn't the right forum.
The big draw for this event was His Royal Highness, the Duke of York (Randy Andy to you and me). That's why most of the guests, including most of the press, was there, so it was hard to have a substantive discussion with anyone about what happens next.
The dedication ceremony was in the afternoon. In the evening there was a big "gala" reception and dinner. The fireworks over the Potomac were cool and the beef tenderloin was pretty tasty.
The open bar was pretty great, but the whiskey selection was mostly standard expressions, good ones but not what people here would consider special. As journalists have since the beginning of drinking and journalism (which had to have been invented at about the same time), the ink-stained wretches quickly sought out the best spirit that was on offer, without prejudice as to type, and it was Martell Cordon Blue Cognac.
They have so many different things going on at these events, it's almost too much. After dinner there was an auction to raise money for Mount Vernon. Early in the afternoon, about 20 bottles of rye whiskey that was distilled at Mount Vernon about three years ago were filled. The bottles are very nice, very fancy, with hand-carved wooden stoppers. They are numbered. The one they presented to the Prince was number 4 (since he's fourth in the line of succession). They auctioned off bottles number 1 and 2 as a set, with the idea that the winning bidder would take one and donate the other one to the museum. The winning bidder was Marvin Shanken, for $100,000.
Will the distillery at mount vernon be a fully operational distillery?
It is fully operational but probably won't be fully operated, but they built it to be authentic, i.e., fully capable of making distilled spirits. And it's fully licensed (it has to be licensed because it is operational, even if they never operate it). So, the main obstacle to them operating it is the will to do so.
While there, I obtained a 50 ml bottle of the vatted American whiskey I helped make there a year ago. Per the new TSA rules, I put it in my sealed, one-quart zip lock bag along with my shampoo, toothpaste, etc.
If anyone asked, I was going to say it was mouthwash. Nobody asked.
It is a shame that it may never fully operate. I would be glad to run it for them, I was trained on equipment very similar to that which they have installed. That was very clever of you to get the sample on the plane.:lol:
The set-up is about as basic as it can get but, that said, it's interesting to see how they "industrialized" it within the limits of their technology. The only process controls are sensory; the sound of the cooking pot, the intensity of the fire, the color of the distillate, its smell. People think it's important to keep crafts like hand weaving or broom making alive, why not spirits-making?
The other interesting part to me is the encasement. With the demonstration still, the pot is about half encased in concrete and brick. With the five in the new distillery, the pots are completely encased. I didn't see a drain, so I'm not sure how they cleaned them. I have to believe there is a drain of some sort. The demo unit has one.
That is the old fashined way to do it, and it should be kept alive. Few people I would guess still now how to run a still that way. They must have a drain, if they ever intent to use it the way Washington would have, water was usually heated in the still for the mash unless he had a separate boiler. I noticed the pictures of the stills and they are totally incased it may be historically correct. I have seen some older still designs set up like that. They were totally encased in sand, and then brick. This allowed for a more even heating and less chance of scorching the grain. It would be interesting to know if they used this technique.
Washington did have a separate boiler for heating mash water. I'll have to ask about the sand. Whatever is inside, they topped it with concrete.
Picture of the exterior, from the current issue of WHISKY Magazine.
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