Skip to main content

George Washington's Rye Whiskey® Named as Virginia's Official Spirit

MOUNT VERNON, VA – Thanks to a bill sponsored by Virginia Senator Adam Ebbin (D-30th) and signed by Governor Terry McAuliffe, George Washington’s Rye Whiskey® made at Mount Vernon’s reconstructed distillery will be the official state spirit of the Commonwealth of Virginia. George Washington was once the largest whiskey producer in America. Today Mount Vernon continues the tradition of producing whiskey as well as other small batch distilled spirits at its historic Distillery & Gristmill site. George Washington’s Rye Whiskey® is available for purchase in-person only at the Shops at Mount Vernon and the Distillery & Gristmill site

Mount Vernon has faithfully reconstructed Washington’s Distillery and opened the space in 2007 thanks in part to a $2.1 million grant from Distilled Spirits Council of the United States which allowed Mount Vernon to excavate, research, and reconstruct the site. Guests to the Distillery & Gristmill, located three miles from Washington’s Mansion, can tour the buildings April through October.

The recipe for Washington’s whiskey was discovered by researchers examining the distillery ledgers from 1798 and 1799. His whiskey consisted of 60% rye, 35% corn and 5% malted barley. The records also indicate that George Washington’s whiskey was distilled at least twice before being sent to market. During Washington’s lifetime whiskey was not aged and was sold in its original form.

Mount Vernon staff used Washington’s original recipe and traditional 18th-century methods in the production of the George Washington Rye Whiskey. This included grinding of all the grain in Washington’s reconstructed water-powered gristmill, fermenting in wooden mash tubs and distilling in copper pot stills heated by wood fires, making this rye whiskey as close to the original recipe as possible.

George Washington began commercial distilling in 1797 at the urging of his Scottish farm manager, James Anderson, who had experience distilling grain in Scotland and Virginia. He successfully petitioned George Washington that Mount Vernon's crops, combined with the large merchant gristmill and the abundant water supply, would make the distillery a profitable venture. In February 1797, the cooperage at the mill was converted for distilling, and two stills began operating.

By the end of the summer, the makeshift distillery was so successful that Anderson lobbied George Washington to increase the number of stills. Anderson's son, John, managed the production and was assisted by six enslaved African-Americans named Hanson, Peter, Nat, Daniel, James, and Timothy.

Proceeds from George Washington’s Rye Whiskey® benefit the ongoing preservation and restoration of Mount Vernon and its educational programs. For more details, please visit


Whiskey Notification List

Sign up to receive an email alert when new batches of whiskey become available for purchase.

Subscribe Now

News Filming & Photography

Interested in filming or photographing at Mount Vernon? Check out our guide for professional photographers.

Learn more

News Backgrounders card

Access bulleted facts and background information about the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association, George Washington, the Estate, and more.

Learn more