In 1797 George Washington established one of the largest whiskey distilleries in America. The stone still house was 75’ x 30’, including a distilling room outfitted with five copper pot stills, a storage cellar for whiskey, and an office. Storage space for grain and quarters for the distillery manager and his assistant occupied the floor above. In 1799, the year George Washington died, the distillery produced more than 10,500 gallons of rye whiskey and brandy valued at $7,600. After Washington’s death, the distillery was operated by Lawrence Lewis, who had married Martha Washington’s grand-daughter, Nellie. The distillery burned down in 1814 and was never rebuilt.
Mount Vernon’s archeologists excavated the remarkably well preserved site from 1999-2005. They uncovered portions of the cobblestone foundation, as well as remains of the brick furnaces for heating the stills and the boiler, and underground drains used to carry water away from the building. When combined with documentary evidence such as plantation records, the distillery ledger of accounts, and Washington’s correspondence, the findings allowed scholars to prepare a blueprint of how the distillery looked and operated.
Mount Vernon’s craftsmen began reconstructing the distillery in July 2005, and it was completed and opened to the public in March 2007 as an authentic replica of Washington’s distilling operation. It is the only distillery in the nation to demonstrate the process of making whiskey as it was done more that two centuries ago. Together with Mount Vernon’s farm site, the gristmill, and the exhibits in the Education Center, the distillery teaches visitors about Washington’s entrepreneurial business activities.
Funding to reconstruct the distillery was provided by the member companies of the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States and the Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America.
The stone-textured polyresin ornament holds a stamped copper replica of the still and Washington’s quote from October 29, 1799, “Two hundred gallons of Whiskey will be ready this day…the demand for this article is brisk”. It is packaged in a handsome black box with a copper foil image of the still.
Approximately 2 ¾” x 2”.