The Governor of Virginia, Terry McAuliffe, recently passed a bill appointing the first American president, George Washington, the Father Distiller of Virginia’s State Spirit. At Mount Vernon, the rye whiskey produced at Washington’s estate has been bestowed with this rare honour. The historic site has consistently attracted visitors over the years, and this time they can drop in by the gift shop and get their own bottles. Currently, the business is managed by Mount Vernon Ladies' Association of the Union, a non-profit organization.
The bill goes on to describe Washington’s accomplishments over the years—calling him a ‘gentleman planter’. Additionally, it briefly mentions how Washington ventured into the distillery business. It was his farm manager and experienced Scottish distiller, James Anderson, who convinced him to use the grains farmed in his estate to make whiskey.
History says when Washington contested for the first time, while running for the House of Burgesses in Frederick County (1755), he lost by a landslide. Some attributed the defeat to the future president failing to provide resident voters with alcohol, a general practice of the times. Three years later, he, tried his luck again, and this time he changed his game. He supplied rum, wine, cider, beer, and rum punch, about 160 gallons in total, to his 391 voters.
With Anderson’s recommendations ringing in his ears, the victorious Washington realized importance of booze and entered the distillery business. He stepped carefully at first, producing a humble 600 gallons in 1797. However by the time he died in 1799, Washington’s distillery was producing about 11,000 gallons of whiskey. This went on to become the largest in the country during the late 18th century.