Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe joined representatives from the Distilled Spirits Council and Mount Vernon to launch a yearlong celebration of the 10th anniversary of the reopening of George Washington’s Distillery at a special event this evening at the distillery in Alexandria, Va.
The event, hosted by the Council, included a ceremonial bill signing by Governor McAuliffe and an exclusive spirits tasting for media, featuring more than 20 craft distillers from Virginia and the surrounding region.
The bill signed by Governor McAuliffe atop a whiskey barrel was SB 1261, naming George Washington’s Rye Whiskey Virginia’s official “state spirit.”
“George Washington is not only our nation’s founding father, he was also the father of craft distilling in America,” said Distilled Spirits Council President & CEO Kraig R. Naasz. “George Washington’s Distillery binds the old world with the new world through the art of distilling.”
Other special guests at the event included Virginia State Senator Adam P. Ebbin (D-Alexandria), sponsor of SB 1261; Virginia State Delegates Nick Freitas(R-Culpeper) and Kaye Cory(D-Falls Church); Gareth Moore, president of the Virginia Distillers Association; Jeff Painter, chair of the Virginia ABC; and Diane Béchamps, vice president of the Virginia Tourism Corporation.
“Washington quickly learned that distilling is the epitome of value-added agriculture and his principle product was rye whiskey,” said Naasz. “U.S. rye whiskey sales have surged more than 1,000 percent since the distillery reopened in 2006, suggesting what was once old is new again.”
Gateway to American Whiskey Trail
George Washington’s Distillery is the Gateway to the American Whiskey Trail, a cultural heritage and tourism initiative of the Distilled Spirits Council and Mount Vernon.
Guests and media in attendance previewed the Council’s new American Whiskey Trail video and sampled craft spirits.
The distilleries showcasing their spirits at the tasting event were: George Washington’s Distillery; Virginia Distillery Company; George Washington’s Distillery; Virginia Distillery Company; Copper Fox Distillery; Catoctin Creek; KO Distilling; Vitae Spirits Distillery LLC; Belmont Farm Distillery; Reservoir Distillery; Filibuster Bourbon; Williamsburg Distillery; Mt. Defiance Distillery; Boar Creek Whiskey; James Pepper Distilling Co.; District Distilling Co.; Lyon Distilling; Millstone Spirits Group/New Liberty; Wigle Whiskey; Hemingway Rum Co.; Spirit Lab Distilling; Bardstown Bourbon Company; Southern Grace Distilleries; and AKAL Chai Rum.
The Reconstruction of George Washington’s Distillery
Beginning in 2000, with a $2.1 million grant from the Distilled Spirits Council and its members, 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 and it opened to the public in spring 2007.
The first limited edition run of 471 bottles of George Washington Rye was produced in the reconstructed distillery in 2009 in accordance with the Washington’s own recipe, which was discovered by historians in the mansion’s extensive records. These bottles sold out to the public in two hours on the first day of sale in 2010.
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 of which Washington either sold commercially or entertained with at the mansion table.