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George Washington Rye


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I recently toured Mount Vernon, the gristmill and distillery. I did some searches for tasting notes on the rye sold there but didn't find much. At Mount Vernon you can only sample the 2 they are serving with a steep payment, which i refused to do. It's a bit of a runaround if you expect things to work the way they do at most distillery tours. (was told it was because we were in Virginia, not Kentucky) You can't visit the distillery while it's up and running. That's only done when Mount Vernon is closed to the public off season, and when it's cooler I would imagine. There are no tastings at the distillery, only at the restaurant 3 miles back at Mount Vernon and good luck with that if they are over crowded . I recommend only visiting Mount Vernon early spring and fall. I was not given straight answers to any of my pointed questions at the distillery. For example, when I asked if their aged barrels were keep in their own rack house? I was told yes but no one knows where that location is on the property, for whatever reason. When asked if they use their own gristmill grains for distillations and I was told yes, but then later I asked the mill operator and he said no, because the equipment does not meet FDA specifications. 

   So anyway what I was wondering if anyone has any comparisons or if they have any tasting notes on any GW versions dating back to 2010? If this is all very much legit as it is purposed to be should it be good? I know the price is all about collectibility, charitable proceeds, limited editions, and the so-so GW connection means nothing to the outcome of the final product. I'm sure most of the purchased bottles have never been opened. So if you're one of the few people who have bought a bottle or two and drank enough to give it a good review I'd like to hear about it. I really am a huge history buff but also one with a limited budget and at these price points, $89 and $189, if I buy a bottle it's only going to be cracked on a super special occasion. I want it to be at least good, if not great for that day.

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My wife and I toured the distillery in April 2015, and I talked myself into a bottle of the unaged rye.  I wanted to see if it was "different" than what we have today (honestly not a big fan of white dog, but am also a huge history buff and wanted to see what rye whisky might have tasted like back in the day).  I did a blind sbs against HH and BT's rye white dogs (thread below), and honestly it was significantly different.  It was much more thick and syrupy than the other two - and in terms of drinking it neat - it stood out.  

 

It is a very expensive bottle for what it is, but I wasn't disappointed in the experience.  

 

I did a write up, but apparently never sent it over to BigRich for Whiskey Apostle (or did and he read it and thought "what was he thinking??", but guessing I just forgot!)  So below are my notes from last August on the blind tasting:

 

Unaged Rye Distillate Comparison

The Players:

Heaven Hill Trybox Series Rye New Make
Unconfirmed Mashbill*:  51% Rye, 39% Corn and 10% Malted Barley
62.5% ABV
$25 (750 mL)

Buffalo Trace White Dog Rye Mash
Mashbill Unknown (other than  Rye must be 51% or greater)
62.5% ABV
$15 (375 mL)

George Washington Rye Whiskey
Confirmed Mashbill:  60% Rye, 35% Corn, 5% Malted Barley
43% ABV
$100 (375 mL)

*By “Unconfirmed” our meaning is that this information isn’t provided by the distillery in writing where one could reference it.  While this is information from what we believe are reliable sources (otherwise we wouldn’t include it here!), we want to call out this fact to avoid any claims of misrepresentation.

 

The Setup: 

Earlier this year, I visited George Washington’s Mount Vernon Distillery and Gristmill (www.mountvernon.org/the-estate-gardens/distillery/).  They make whiskey a couple times a year, using the same techniques used in George Washington’s day (almost completely by hand!)  They sell a limited number of bottles, and I was anxious to taste what whiskey back in the day may have tasted like.  In that period, whiskey wasn’t aged (at least not intentionally), so the unaged rye whiskey is what I was looking for.  I am not a fan of what is referred to as “white dog” (or whiskey distillate right from the still), but I was curious – and prepared to pay for the privilege.  One stark difference was the lower proof – only 43% ABV (86 proof).  Nearly all “white dog” you buy today is 62.5% ABV (125 proof).  I’d read discussions on-line about how whiskey producers used to distill at a lower proof, and many feel that this produced a more robust spirit (although less of it, and therefore less efficient).  Besides a chance to “taste history”, I thought this would be an interesting comparison of a lower proof “off the still” spirit to what is produced today.

I bought both Buffalo Trace and Heaven Hill’s equivalent unaged rye whiskies, and made diluted samples of each – bringing them to 43% ABV.  I felt this was important to level the playing field for this blind comparison.  One interesting observation was that the diluted samples both clouded up a bit – with the Heaven Hill being the more cloudy of the two (note - neither bottle states it is non-chill filtered).  This actually made me optimistic about the Heaven Hill, though thankfully the cloudiness was less apparent in the glass (so it didn’t give away which was which).  I also waited two weeks after making the diluted samples before conducting the first of three blind taste tests.  The tests all yielded very similar results, which are combined and summarized here.

 

What Gary Says

Nose:  Despite the cloudiness, Heaven Hill’s nose was a distant 3rd place each time; light/faint corn with a hint of “something”.  Buffalo Trace was much more thick/heavy, and predominantly corny.  George Washington’s was thick like Buffalo Trace’s, but had a lot more going on – heavy corn, but also a cereal (oatmeal?), and a more grainy/herbal note.  It was the clear winner for me.

Palate:   Heaven Hill again came in a distant 3rd – very thin, corn sweetness with a bit of pepper at the end (and a hint of a cereal note?)  Buffalo Trace was a tad thicker, richer, and while still corn sweet is dominant – it had more pepper spice.  George Washintgon’s was more thick than Buffalo Trace, with a syrupy/creamy mouthfeel.  Surprisingly it had the least amount of pepper spice, but had more complexity than the other two (some maltiness, sweet corn, a sour cereal note?) 

Finish:    None had much of a finish worth noting, but here again I found the George Washington and Buffalo Trace lingered longer than the Heaven Hill.

Comments:  If I was picking one of these three to sip neat at this proof (full disclosure – I haven’t tried the Heaven Hill or Buffalo Trace at the bottled proof . . . yet!), AND money was no object (a problem I’ve not yet encountered, but I’m optimistic!), I would definitely reach for the George Washington Rye.  It is pretty unique, and I was able to pick it out blind every time pretty easily.  I expect the lower proof off the still contributes to a more enjoyable mouthfeel, and more “character”.  While I would pick it over the other two, I have to admit that I was most impressed with the Buffalo Trace.  It wasn’t a big departure from the George Washington on the nose, and on the palate – while it is different on one of my three tastings I thought it was a tie with the GW.  Since money has not ceased being an object in my household, I’d recommend the Buffalo Trace as the most “bang for the buck”. 

 

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I have seen 2 different labels for the George Washington products. Some say distilled at Mt. Vernon in Virginia while others say Hillrock Estate Distillery in New York. Are they 2 different products?

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I bought mine at the distillery, and the label says distilled/bottled by George Washington's Distillery, Mount Vernon, VA.  I've seen the other label (I think the whiskey is sold by some other retailers under that label), but not sure if the whiskey is identical or not.  

 

 

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  • 2 weeks later...

According to what they told me, everything they make they bottle and sell there at Mount Vernon. Nothing is relabeled and sold as something else. They produce a small amount due to the restrictions. Proceeds go to Mount Vernon Charities. Most people are buying as souvenirs or momentoes of their visit. It's not intended to be or presented as worth the cost.

 

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here's a picture taken on my first visit to Mount Vernon in the gift shop.

IMG_0027.JPG

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  • 1 month later...
Tony Santana

Cool looking bottles.  Thanks for the write-up.  I'd be interested what a little aging does to the white dog.

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 8/2/2016 at 9:42 PM, Tony Santana said:

Cool looking bottles.  Thanks for the write-up.  I'd be interested what a little aging does to the white dog.

Nothing very good.  A friend got a bottle of the aged and it tasted young and "white doggy", like a lot of craft distilleries

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2 yrs isn't much aging, so I'd expect it to taste young (which would be like most craft).  I thought they were using 53 gal barrels, which would help if they let it age longer (although if you can sell a half-bottle of white dog for $100 - why in the @#$% would you bother aging it?)  

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