Allison Aubrey at NPR:
Virginians have always enjoyed their liquor, and for much of the 18th century, their preferred drink was rum. But when war and tariffs made imported rum hard to come by, George Washington saw an opportunity. Why not make liquor out of grains he was growing on his farms?
“He was a businessman and he was a very, very successful one,” says Dennis Pogue, the director of preservation programs at Mount Vernon.
By 1799, Washington's distillery was the single most profitable part of his plantation. He couldn't make enough whiskey to meet demand, Pogue says. Now the distillery has been restored, and I got a chance to see what Washington's rye whiskey probably tasted like…
But there is some uncomfortable history here. In Washington's day, the hard work of making whiskey fell to six slaves.
It's a fact of history that Pogue says he would never paper over. Washington was a man of his time, and the whiskey we're drinking is made to his exact recipe.