George Washingtons Distillery and Grist Mill were the place to be on August 9-10 for the commemoration of the Whiskey Rebellion, not a traditional American Holiiday.
Among the activities were drilling and firing demonstrations by militia re-enactors, a militia encampment, live period music, cooking demonstrations, and re-enactors debating the merits of taking up arms against the tax men.
Costumed guides led tours through the grist mill and explained the process of distilling whiskey. Although neither of the structures is original (the original distillery burned down in 1814), they are meticulous reconstructions based upon archeological findings and detailed insurance records filed in Richmond.
Mount Vernon is now the only site in the country that shows how whiskey was made in the 18th century, said Jim Rees, executive director of Mount Vernon.
Washingtons distillery, established in 1797, was one of the largest if not the largest distilleries in America. The five copper stills encased in brick for insulation produced about 11,000 gallons of whiskey. Like the stills, the large boiler which has heating coils now stands on the site of the original.
Interpreters demonstrate how distillers ladled the mash from the boiler into the aromatic hogsheads or mash tubs. When the mash tub is nearly full, a thin layer of yeast begins the fermentation process. The liquor from the top of the barrel something akin to beer is distilled into whiskey and the mash at the bottom of the barrel is fed to the pigs.
Finding a market for his product was no problem. In 1799, Washington wrote to his nephew: Two hundred gallons of Whiskey will be ready this day for your call, and the sooner it is taken the better, as the demand for this article (in these parts) is brisk
The whiskey is aged as our guide told us from three seconds to three days before being served, with or without taxes.
Todays Mount Vernon does pay its taxes, and so visitors may purchase the first whiskey produced at Mount Vernon in 200 years. Mount Vernons gift shop has just begun selling $25 commemorative gift sets of whiskey, including a shot glass and a 50 ml bottle of whiskey consisting of 11 famous brands combined and re-aged.