mill was critical to the distillery,” says Bashore. It’s certainly critical to the man in charge of Washington’s distillery today — Bashore is trained as a miller and more than happy to bring his trades together. Washington’s grain of choice was rye, and it was the preferred grain for whiskey in his time. But once he started the distillery, he ran into issues in the division of his estate’s resources. He did not have enough grain to feed the people living on his property as well as the needs of his distillery. Ultimately, Washington contracted a relative and another outside source for corn and sometimes rye to fulfill his responsibilities to the business and his home. Today, Bashore and his team source their grain from a farm in Northumberland County, Virginia. Their malt comes from a major supplier, like most, but they try to use Virginia products as much as possible in their whiskey. This, however, is not the only way that they remain true to Mount Vernon’s roots. Everything about the distillery is designed to emulate an 18th century experience as authentically as possible. For instance, Bashore and his team ferment in 120-gallon wood barrels, and they rely entirely on manual labor for their distillation. “90% of what we do is by bucketing or mash by hand and moving spirits in buckets to get them into the stills.” All of which is done in periodappropriate garb, of course. “We try to be true to the history of it, but when we bottle we do have a small bottling system and filtration system that we have to do to get juice into our retail shops.” So what did Washington’s whiskey taste like? Well for one, it was not yet fashionable to barrel-age spirits at that time, so all of his whiskey was unaged. The team at Mount Vernon release their own unaged rye as well. It’s incredibly smooth, with a full body and lots of great spice character, but they do reserve a portion of each run to mature in oak. “Over the years, we’ve aged more because we realize the market is there. We now have started to lay down barrels with the eye toward aging them six to eight years.” This has come after the move to standard 53-gallon barrels. Washington’s whiskey is made from approximatly 65% rye, 35% corn, and 5% malt. That mash bill was deduced after painstakingly picking through the ledgers and noting what was brought in. If you look at the experiences of the Mount Vernon distillery and compare it to other household names that were just getting their foothold in Washington’s time, you’ll find there are little similarities left over. Evan Williams, Jim Beam, Buffalo Trace: they all began stoking the fires beneath their stills in the later part of the 18th century, same as Washington, but since that
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