Thursday, October 7, 2010

Just Peachy

After two very productive days of work, our team has distilled about 50 gallons of premium peach brandy. And according to our gaggle of experts, it is a very tasty product, indeed. The spirit has gone into two toasted oak barrels for storage to await bottling. According to Ted Huber (here dressed in dark clothes, standing next to Thomas McKenzie of Fingerlakes Distillery) fruit brandies don't benefit from aging in wood to the degree that whiskey does, as the wood flavor can easily overpower the spirit. Since the barrels have only a light coating of char, the brandy shouldn't pick up much flavor from contact with the wood, which in this case is what we want. But since the barrels are not air-tight, the liquor will oxidize over time, and according to Ted that should have a positive effect on the flavor. We plan on keeping the brandy in the barrels for at least a year, then we will bottle it when we think the flavor is at its best. So once again, check back with us next year to find out the status.

We also are moving forward with plans to distill more rye whiskey next month. Dave Pickerell will return to work with our folks to produce another batch of 100 to 150 gallons of General Washington's finest. Once again, we plan on putting some away for aging, but we'll also offer bottles of the unaged product for sale. IF all goes well next month, we hope to have more bottles available in time for Christmas. Plan your gift purchases accordingly!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The 2010 Brandy Team

The ring leaders for this year's operation, left to right: Ted Huber from Huber Starlight Distillery, Brian McKenzie and Thomas McKenzie (no relation), both from Finger Lakes Distilling, Lance Winters from St. George Spirits, and Dave Pickerell, Oak View Consulting; missing in action (looking for a new rubber tube to fix the leaky discharge valve), Joe Dangler from Sazerac.

One Step Forward ...

This morning we transferred the peach low wines to the distillery as planned, and charged two of the stills. Unfortunately, the rubber hose on the discharge valve on one of the stills almost immediately failed -- apparently the rubber had dried out and split -- and began to leak. After trying some quick fixes (yes, duct tape!), the team decided to abort this still until we could come up with a better solution. We emptied the still and transferred the liquid to one of our hogsheads. In the meantime, we continued distilling on the second still -- and were rewarded with distillate beginning to flow within about 45 minutes.

And Now: Making George Washington's ... Brandy

In addition to distilling more than 10,000 gallons of rye whiskey in 1799, Washington's distillery also produced much smaller quantities of apple and peach brandy. It appears that Washington may have been his own best customer when it came to the brandy, as the plantation accounts record that in October of that year, 67 gallons of the apple and 60 gallons of the peach brandy were transferred to the "Mount Vernon house," presumably for the enjoyment of the Washington household.

Distillers from Huber Starlight Distillery, in Indiana, and from Finger Lakes Distilling, in New York, are bringing about 150 gallons of fermented peach wine to distill in our pot stills; making this the first time brandy will have been made at the distllery in almost 200 years. Dave Pickerell and Joe Dangler, old hands who are experts by now in operating our unique wood-fired stills, have agreed to participate as well. The distilling will take place starting today and should wrap up some time tomorrow. If everything goes well, our plan is to barrel the brandy -- possibly up to 50 gallons -- and bottle it and offer it for sale at some point in the future.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Sold Out!!

We knew from the many inquiries leading up to the event that there was a great deal of interest in tasting and buying our whiskey. But the level of response still was a surprise, as almost 300 people attended the dedication ceremony at the Distillery site, and another 200 came to our other gift shop in hopes of buying a bottle of General Washington's finest. Even though our cash registers failed at the Distillery (we were disconnected by our cable provider!), which meant that all of the transactions had to be carried out the old fashioned way, by hand, we sold every one of our 471 bottles by 5:00 yesterday. Given this remarkable turn of events, I don't think that there is any doubt that we will be planning on making more whiskey in the near future. Stay tuned for details.


The General, himself, honored us with his presence yesterday, and he took the first drink of the new George Washington Rye Whiskey. After pronouncing the spirit to be "fine," he offered a toast, "To all our friends," which was follwed by enthusiastic "huzzahs" of approval from the audience. Joining the General in making remarks on the historic nature of the event, were: Jim Rees, President of Mount Vernon, Peter Cressy, President of the Distilled Spirits Council of the US, Toddy Puller, Virginia State Senator, and Dennis Pogue, Vice President of Mount Vernon for Preservation. Immediately after the ceremony, 250 members of the public lined up for their free tastes and to purchase 375ml bottles of the whiskey (limit one to a customer).

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Come and Get It!

We will offer our whiskey for sale to the public for the first time on July 1. The 375ml bottle will sell for $85 -- only one to a customer, while supplies last. Taking advantage of a new law passed by the Virginia General Assembly, we can offer free tastes of the product (one-quarter once per person) that day as well. We've set aside four bottles for the tasting, which will take place between 12 and 1:00 or until the supply is exhausted.


471 bottles of George Washington's Rye Whiskey, ready to go.

Labeling GW's Rye

With front and neck labels, corks, neck wrapper, and heat gun in hand, we are ready to label our whiskey. Julia Mosley, Mount Vernon's Director of Retail, oversees the operation, manned by several volunteers from the MV Shops.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

A Label to Make Our First President Proud

Given the unique character of our whiskey -- using George Washington's recipe and the first whiskey made and bottled at Washington's distillery in almost 200 years -- we wanted a label that was equally distinctive. We think that our designer, Allan Guy, really rose to the occasion to produce a beautiful label; distiller and bottler extraordinaire, Joe Dangler, seems to agree.

Weeeee'rrrrre Baaaaaacckk!

We know, we promised that we would have whiskey available to purchase months ago. But the best laid plans ... At any rate, we have negotiated the label hurdles with TTB (we think), and we are planning to offer our unaged Rye Whiskey beginning July 1.

As a first step, today and yesterday we filled 471 375ml bottles with pure, clear rye whiskey, just like George Washington made. Virginia Gentleman master distiller, Joe Dangler, kindly agreed to come to the distillery to lead Mount Vernon staff in the bottling operation. Next step: labelling.