Whiskey from one of our Founding Fathers – George Washington’s Distillery

Happy Independence Day to all my loyal readers. You might be surprised to learn that U.S. Presidents and whiskey are entwined in the fabric of our country.   Did you know our first president was a whiskey distiller? George Washington’s Mount Vernon Distillery produced nearly 11,000 gallons of whiskey in 1799 (according to its website). That was one of the largest distilleries in the country with 5 copper pot stills – larger than many distilleries today.


Mount Vernon Distillery was not the first in the country. General Washington was buying whiskey for his troops from Pennsylvania distillers during the Revolutionary War. He later angered these distillers after the war when, to help pay war debts, the country decided to tax whiskey.


If you are ever get a chance to visit Mount Vernon make a side trip to the Mount Vernon Distillery. They give an interesting and fun tour of George Washington’s distillery operation. While there you can buy rye whiskey at the distillery which has been restored and is a working distillery.


George Washington was making mostly Rye whiskey with 60% rye, 30% corn, and 5% barley. This rye was distilled twice and sold as common whiskey. He also distilled apple, peach, and persimmon brandy.


Prior to the revolution rum was the preferred beverage. We know from our tours in Barbados that Washington spent time studying the rum making process when he was in Barbados with his brother. After the war, molasses from the west Indies, which is required for the rum making process, became more expensive. The ingredients for whiskey were more easily acquired and less expensive. And thus, distillers turned to whiskey.


As you celebrate the 4th of July you may be celebrating with a beer, which was Thomas Jefferson’s preferred beverage. I would suggest you toast our first president, and perhaps the most famous Founding Father, with a sip of American whiskey.

Catoctin Creek Distillery (Purcellville, Virginia)

While in Northern Virginia a couple weeks ago, we decided to visit Catoctin Creek Distillery in Purcellville in the heart of Loudoun County. Virginia was the birthplace of American Whiskey so it we had to go visit! Right in the heart of Purcellville in an old automobile dealership is Catoctin Creek Distillery.


It is a very inviting setting with the tasting room in the old showroom part of the building. They have set up the room with a horseshoe shaped bar and tables to accommodate lots of visitors. I have to admit I had not heard of them until we did some research prior to our visit. I know a lot more now and suggest you look them up.


The distillery lives where the shop used to be located. This isn’t the distillery’s first home and, with the growth they have experienced, probably won’t be their last. The distillery was founded in 2009 by Becky and Scott Harris. They have set up a first class operation with 2 stills. They use the larger still for making their Rye and whisky (I have dropped the “e” from whiskey as have they in respect to their Scottish heritage). The smaller still is used for making their gin and other distilled products.


They use locally sourced grain and materials. Their products include: Roundstone Rye, Roundstone Rye 92, and Roundstone Rye Cask Strength. The Roundstonne line has built their reputation for their outstanding quality. Their Rabble Rouser Rye is a lower proof and very vivacious. Mosby’s Spirit is an unaged whisky with a refined taste for a white whiskey. They have their Watershed Gin which is packs a punch of flavor and really grab’s you with its intensity. Their product line then goes to their 1757 Virginia Brandy and their fruit brandies. With a line up like this it is obvious why they run their stills almost every day.


They make the award winning Roundstone Rye, which I thought was outstanding.


I had a whisky flight in the tasting room. In the tasting room they have a few old rye bottles on display that pay homage to the old ryes. Their rye is in that tradition and a must have for any serious bar keep, collector who wants likes to mix drinks, or serve to a serious whisky drinker neat, or on the rocks.


Lynn and our son-in-law Carter had cocktail flights (our daughter Taylor was busy getting ready for a friend’s wedding). As much as I enjoyed my whiskey flight after seeing their cocktail flights I was jealous. They change the cocktail flights seasonally. If you take a look at the “Enjoy” tab on their website there are lots of very creative cocktails.

I can’t say enough about their friendly and helpful staff. They made us feel at home, and gave a very relaxed honest tour. It is well worth the drive to enjoy an afternoon of fun and learn about whisky. Go enjoy, have some cocktails, and a bite while learning about Catoctin Creek, and Virginia spirits.