Mount Vernon celebrates July 4 in a manner befitting the Father of Our Country: daytime fireworks over the Potomac, reenactments by Revolutionary War troops, free birthday cake for America, and a visit by "General and Mrs. Washington."
But there's something else special this year: George Washington Rye Whiskey will be on sale.
After retiring from public life, Washington was the largest whiskey producer in the country, with the copper stills near Mount Vernon's gristmill producing more than 11,000 gallons of rye at the distillery's peak. George Washington's Gristmill and Distillery reopened in 2007 after a lengthy restoration project, and its stills now produce small batches of whiskey made to Washington's original recipe (60 percent rye, 35 percent corn, 5 percent malted barley) in equipment similar to 18th-century originals and aged in charred oak barrels on the estate for two years.
The whiskey is sold a few times a year to raise money for Mount Vernon's educational programs. Six hundred bottles will go on sale at the distillery and at Mount Vernon's main gift shop tomorrow, but this isn't something you pick up to bring to a cookout: A 375mL bottle will set you back $185. I've tried it neat at a tasting and it has a soft rye spice in the nose, a bit of citrus and not too much heat. At $185, it's too much for an everyday sipping whiskey, but it would make a great gift for a historian and whiskey lover – and, after all, sales support Mount Vernon.
Sadly, there are no samples available. But if you want to buy the whiskey, which goes on sale at 10 a.m. tomorrow, you're able to enter the distillery or Mount Vernon's main shop without paying admission. (Admission to Mount Vernon, which includes the distillery and gristmill, is $17 for adults; admission to the distillery and gristmill alone is $5.)