Mount Vernon Whisk(e)y Flavored With Tartan: Scottish Distillers Make Single Malt at George Washington’s Distillery
Mount Vernon, Va. – Raising a glass to toast the Scottish connection to George Washington’s Distillery, three of Scotland’s top distillers joined with representatives of the Scottish Government, Mount Vernon Estate, the Distilled Spirits Council and the Scotch Whisky Association in celebrating U.S.-Scotland ties and the first ever Scottish-style Single Malt at the Founding Father’s distillery.
The barrel-filling ceremony was the culmination of three days of hard work using 100% Scottish barley and specially constructed oak barrels to produce the whiskey by Bill Lumsden, Master Distiller for The Glenmorangie Co.; Andy Cant, Master Distiller, Cardhu Single Malt Distillery, the home of Johnnie Walker; and John Campbell, Distillery Manager, Laphroaig Distillery. They were joined by George Washington Distillery Master Distiller David Pickerell and a dozen reporters from around the country.
After three years of aging according to the Scotch style, a limited edition of one hundred of the bottles — marking the 100th anniversary of the Scotch Whisky Association–will be auctioned for charities around the world to further celebrate George Washington’s history as a whiskey producer and the global appreciation of whiskey and whisky (however one chooses to spell it).
The Scottish Connection to George Washington’s Distillery
In 1797 George Washington’s farm manager, a Scot named James Anderson, convinced his employer that producing whiskey made from corn and rye grown on the plantation would be a natural complement to his milling business.
Washington was initially skeptical but soon granted permission to build the 2,250 square foot distillery, making it among the largest whiskey distilleries in early America. By 1799, Washington produced 11,000 gallons of whiskey, worth the then-substantial sum of $7,500. The distillery ceased operating in 1814 when the building burned.
Beginning in 2000, with a $2.1 million grant from the distilled spirits industry, Mount Vernon began the excavation and restoration of the distillery. In the Fall of 2006, the distillery was officially dedicated at a ribbon-cutting ceremony presided over by Britain’s Prince Andrew and then-Virginia Attorney General Robert McDonnell.
Previously, master distillers have recreated George Washington’s Rye recipe, with the first two bottles selling for $100,000 in 2006. Since then, small batches of limited edition rye have been produced periodically and sold to the public.
Other specialty distilling projects have produced Rum, Peach Brandy and Apple Brandy. All were spirits either made by Washington at the distillery or consumed at the mansion table.
Robin Naysmith, Scottish Government Counsellor, North America, stated, “It’s a fitting tribute to the enduring friendship between Scotland and the USA, that more than 200 years after George Washington embraced our national drink, Mount Vernon is once again looking to Scotland and our finest whisky makers to produce this unique single malt. I hope the funds raised for charity and educational purposes from the auction of this unique product will further strengthen the relationship between our two great nations.”
Dennis Pogue, Mount Vernon Estate’s Vice President for Preservation, who spearheaded the distillery reconstruction project for Mount Vernon, added, “Given that the man who operated George Washington’s distillery, James Anderson, was a Scot, Mount Vernon is pleased to help celebrate that historic connection by hosting this first-ever production of malt whiskey at Washington’s reconstructed distillery.”
Gavin Hewitt, Chief Executive of the Scotch Whisky Association, said, “This exciting project brings together three modern masters of Scotch Whisky making to produce what will be a unique Single Malt. It is a fitting way to celebrate Scotch Whisky’s continued success in the United States and the Association’s centenary year.”
Distilled Spirits Council President and CEO Peter Cressy stated, “We are very grateful to the master distillers and their companies for their hard work and support of the George Washington Distillery. This project once again showcases both the global nature of our industry today and its important historic roots in the heritage of both countries.”
Bill Lumsden, Master Distiller for The Glenmorangie Co., said, “Modern day distilling is all carefully controlled, measured, analyzed, and automated, so I am truly thrilled to have the opportunity to lead this project and actually roll my sleeves up and get my hands dirty! As a Master Distiller, you genuinely learn something new every single day, so I can’t wait to supplement my knowledge of making Glenmorangie with something a little bit more ‘old fashioned’.”
Andy Cant, Cardhu Master Distiller, said, “Over the past 35 years, I have had the distinct pleasure of working at several of Diageo’s Scotch Whisky distilleries — Lagavulin, Caol Ila and now Cardhu. It is a privilege to craft a single malt that is as highly sought after by malt enthusiasts as it is by blenders. I am honored to be a part of this barrel-filling ceremony, surrounded by such remarkable industry talent. Thank you to DISCUS for inviting all of us to Mount Vernon today.”
John Campbell, Distillery Manager for Laphroaig Distillery, stated, “I am honored to be a part of this momentous event at the George Washington Distillery at Mount Vernon. I look forward to working together with my fellow Scotch Whisky distillers to craft a truly historic Whisky.”
George Washington Distillery Master Distiller David Pickerell, formerly of Maker’s Mark Bourbon, stated, “It is an honor to be involved in such an historic event at Mount Vernon. This was a particularly challenging opportunity in that we had to invent and build a relatively efficient means of hand separating the grain solids from the liquid between the mashing and fermenting operations, using items that would have been generally available in the late 1700’s. That is a major difference between the whiskey production process in the US and Scotland. In the US, we generally tend to leave the grain in during fermentation and distillation.”
Photos available upon request.