First in War, First in Peace, And Near the Top in Brandy
George Washington Distillery's Peach Brandy will go on sale April 1 at the distillery in Mount Vernon, Va. The unique peach brandy was recreated at the distillery in 2010 by a team of Distilled Spirits Council small distillers, using a recipe straight from the 18th century records and distilling methods of Washington himself. (George Washington Distillery/MCT)
Everything is just peachy at the George Washington Distillery in Mount Vernon, Va.
The historic distillery and museum, open from April until October each year, will offer peach brandy for sale beginning April 1, with the recipe straight from the 18th century records and distilling methods of Washington himself.
The unique peach brandy was recreated at the distillery in 2010 by a team of Distilled Spirits Council small distillers. The brandy was double-distilled in copper pot stills heated by wood fires and then afterward slumbered for two years in toasted oak barrels.
It is the first peach brandy from the distillery in more than 200 years. Only 400 bottles will be available for sale at $150 each.
“A team of master distillers from some of America’s leading small distilleries worked on the project.
The distillery, sitting atop a hill in the rolling countryside of Virginia just south of Washington, D.C., is the only place in the country where visitors can actually see how whiskey and brandies were made during Washington’s time.
“Peach was a pretty common fruit brandy in the day, as peaches grew from Virginia to Georgia,” says Peter Cressy, president of the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States. “And it doesn’t take too much aging.”
Cressy adds that according to historical records of Mount Vernon, Washington personally used his brandy. Those records indicate that after one distilling, he sold 11 gallons but kept 60 for himself. Since it had a good flavor, Cressy says, it paired well with myriad dishes of chicken, beef and especially desserts.
“Washington was a gracious host once he left the presidency,” says Curt Viebranz, president of George Washington’s Mount Vernon. “Eight hundred people visited that year, and he liked to serve his whiskies and brandies, but first and foremost he was a businessman and liked to sell it, too.”
The recently distilled brandy has hit high notes on its taste, too.
“The peach brandy really has nice hints of peach that stay with you after you taste it,” Viebranz says, with Cressy adding that he also likes the oak feel that complements the peach.
The brandy is perfect for spirits aficionados, history buffs or for anyone who just enjoys a fine brandy.
Washington built the 2,250-square-foot distillery in 1797, making it among the largest whiskey distilleries in early America. In 1799, Washington produced 11,000 gallons of whiskey.
In 2000, Mount Vernon began excavation and restoration of the $2 million distillery project with a grant from the distilled spirits industry. In autumn of 2006, the distillery was dedicated by Britain’s Prince Andrew, and in March 2007 it officially opened to the public.
“It’s good to be able to tell Washington’s story,” Viebranz says. “It’s a great story.”
In 2010, a limited edition of 471 bottles of the first rye whiskey produced at the distillery sold out to the public in two hours. The 400 bottles of brandy is expected to go fast, too, Viebranz says.
Viebranz also says that a cooperage — where casks and barrels are made — similar to one that was once on the distillery site is also planned for the future.
“The distillery continues to help educate the public on Washington as an entrepreneur and distiller,” Cressy says. “There is so much interest around the country in craft distilling, so it’s a very exciting and romantic thing for anyone who wants to get back to those roots.”
George Washington’s Peach Brandy is available only onsite at the Gristmill Shop at Mount Vernon.