GUIDE TO AMERICAN WHISKEY

1797: Georg Washington, following his role as a general in the Revolutionary War, Founding Father and the first president of the United States, Washington became a successful distiller.

American whiskey is a distilled beverage produced in the United States from a fermented mash of cereal grain. The production and labeling of American whiskey are governed by Title 27 of the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations.

Spelt with an 'e' when referring to American or Irish whiskeys. Refers to any alcohol distilled from fermented grain mash - the wet grain mixture (typically corn, malted barley and wheat or rye) from which the raw whiskey is fermented - and aged in wooden casks, usually oak. 

SOUR MASH

A sour-mash whiskey uses mash from a previous fermentation to add acidity and control bacteria growth. 

BOURBON

Corn-based whiskey was a product of 18th-century Bourbon County, Kentucky. It's now a legally protected term. Bourbon must be made from a mash of at least 51% corn, be distilled at no more than 80 per cent ABV / 160 proof and aged for a minimum of 2 years in new, white-oak barrels, with nothing added.  Though the law does not stipulate origin, 99% of Bourbon Whiskey comes from Kentucky. The unique limestone spring water found in Kentucky is considered by many as the only water with the ideal proportion of minerals that can yield the finest Bourbons.

Characteristics: caramel, vanilla, toffee and a nice earthy spice.

TENNESSEE WHISKEY

Identical to bourbon, but filtered through sugar maple charcoal for a sweeter flavour.  is another type of American whiskey, that bears similarity to Bourbon, in that it is composed of a mash of at least 51% corn (maize) and is aged in charred oak barrels, typically for four or more years. But unlike Bourbon, Tennessee whiskey undergoes  filtering  through a thick layer of maple charcoal before it is put into casks for aging. This filtering imparts the whiskey with a distinctive smooth and sweet flavour.

Characteristics: like bourbon but with a sweeter, smoother, and smoky charcoal finish.

RYE WHISKEY

Similar to bourbon but mash must contain at least 51 per cent rye.  Rye malt whiskey, which is made from mash that consists of at least 51% malted rye aged in new charred oak.

Characteristics: A little leaner but assertive. Bitter with spicy pepper and hints of dried fruit. Think rye bread.

CORN WHISKEY

Another precursor to bourbon, many were made with sugar, aged in Mason jars and made for legal trade, before going underground for illegal production and sale. Today, corn whiskies are at least 80% corn and aged in un-charred or previously used oak barrels, if it's aged at all. So corn whiskey often lacks the deep oaky flavor and color of other whiskies. Many are high in alcohol content, contain sugar, and are sometimes infused with fun and interesting flavors.

Characteristics: Bourbon's crazy little brother, with a bad reputation that belies its sweet, spicy, earthy soul.

American MALT WHISKEY

Single malt Scotch must be made from a single distillery and from a single grain: barley. The Scotch single malt industry is well known, highly regulated and respected, but the American version is becoming quite the trend. American malt whiskey must be made from 51% malted barley. Distillers can also use peat (like many Scotches do) or other smoking techniques in the process, resulting in a charred or smoky flavor.

Characteristics: Deep and complex, with a creamy, malt cereal or cookie sweetness.

WHEAT WHISKEY

American distillers have a habit of striking off into unexpected directions. So while wheat has been minimally incorporated into mash bills before, few whiskies have used it as the primary grain (at least 51%, aged in new charred oak barrels). Like all prodigies, wheat whiskies shine with American independence and a delicious mellow taste that lands somewhere in between a sweet bourbon and a spicy rye.

Characteristics: The unusual prodigy of the family, soft and smooth, with a honey-like roundness.

G Washington

Georg Washington

In 1797, following his role as a general in the Revolutionary War, Founding Father and the first president of the United States, Washington became a successful distiller.

He was the largest distiller of his time producing almost 11,000 gallons of rye whiskey in 1799.
The un-aged spirit calls for a mash of rye, corn and malted barley. After distilling the mash two times it is ready to go. Some have referred to the substance as post revolutionary white lightning.  Except that unlike moonshine, this of course was legal. Washington, we know, paid his taxes. He paid $300 in taxes in 1799. So, it was very legal."

Some Historical facts

George Washington inherited Mount Vernon in 1754. In 1771 he erected a large stone gristmill on the plantation to replace a mill his father had built in the 1730s. The new mill was located three miles (5 km) west of Mount Vernon on Dogue Run Creek. It was used to produce flour and cornmeal for the plantation as well as high-quality flour for export to the West Indies, England, and continental Europe.

Washington also built a house for the miller and a cooperage to supply barrels for the mill, and later, the distillery operation. The mill was powered by a large water wheel. To ensure a steady power supply, water was diverted from Piney Branch into Dogue Run Creek above the mill's headrace. The additional waterflow significantly increased the mill’s production capacity.

In 1791 Washington automated his mill using technology developed and patented by Oliver Evans of Delaware. Evans was personally acquainted with the mill and had repaired some of its works.

Once the gristmill was well established, Washington’s farm manager, James Anderson, suggested building a whiskey distillery adjacent to the mill. When it was completed in 1797, the distillery was the largest in America. By 1799 it had become one of Washington’s most successful enterprises, producing 11,000 gallons of whiskey per year.

A variety of whiskeys were produced at the site along with brandy and vinegar. The most common whiskey recipe used 60% rye, 35% corn, and 5% malted barley. Smaller amounts of rye whiskey were distilled up to four times and were more expensive. Some whiskey was also flavored with cinnamon. When rye was scarce the distillery used wheat. Apple, peach and persimmon brandies were also produced.

The whiskey was marketed in Alexandria, Virginia, or shipped directly from Mount Vernon’s dock on the Potomac River. The distillery process produced a significant waste stream, which was fed to 150 cattle and 30 hogs that were kept at the site.