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Washington's Whiskey Begins To Flow

It could be available for a really rare holiday gift.

Actual rye whiskey flowed from the vats at George Washington's reconstructed distillery last Thursday for the first time since his death in 1799 — and, it was prepared using his recipe -- well sort of.

"We didn't actually have his exact recipe so we worked backwards from his account ledgers listing his grain receipts. That way we are able to back into the recipe. He was very meticulous about his record keeping," said Kenneth B. Pierce, chief chemist, Barton Brands, one of the distilleries that played a leading role in restoring Washington's whiskey production.

"Now we are working on perfecting the formula. However, it won't be ready for sale until it has aged properly," Pierce explained. That probably will take several months, he speculated.

When it is aged properly it is expected to be sold in small quantities at the Mount Vernon Gift Shop, according to Malissa Wood, media relations associate, Mount Vernon Estate & Gardens.

"That could be in time for the Christmas holidays or before," she said.

The Virginia General Assembly, prior to their adjournment, passed legislation allowing sale of the whiskey at Mount Vernon. That law went into effect in July, according to Ana Jovancicevic, director, Public Relations, Distilled Spirits Council of the United States.

Throughout the day last Thursday, Mount Vernon interpreters dressed in colonial attire, worked with distilled spirits specialists from the Council to create the rye whiskey. How much will be ultimately produced at the distillery, located on Route 235 approximately three miles from the Estate and adjacent to Washington's Grist Mill, is unknown at this time. It's eventual selling price has also yet to be determined.