You may have heard about some of the ultra-limited edition spirits that have been coming off the still at Mount Vernon’s recently restored, circa-1797 distillery building. Among them are a white rye, an aged rye and a peach brandy. But their newest release, a single malt, is something completely different. Not just because of the all-star lineup who made it–namely Cardhu’s Andy Cant, Glenmorangie’s Bill Lumsden, Laphraoig’s John Campbell and Whistle Pig’s Dave Pickerell–who spent three days in 2012 crafting the spirit with 18th century techniques and equipment (yes, like open fires). But also because unlike those other spirits, scotch-style malt was never actually produced at Mount Vernon during George Washington’s day.
Washington’s Scottish-born distiller, James Anderson, only attempted to make whiskey using malted barley at the Virginia plantation, before turning to rye and corn. “It was tried, so we’re going back to the roots here” of Scottish influence on American whiskey making, said David Frost of the Scotch Whisky Association.
The process began by grinding one ton of malted Scottish barley (mostly unpeated) on site. The distillers were so pleased with the first 10 gallons off the still, they barreled it immediately as “Distiller’s Reserve.” A second 10 gallons went through a second distillation and became known as “Limited Edition.” Both expressions were then aged nearly three years in new, toasted American oak before being finished in madeira casks, Washington being a big madeira fan.
Fast forward to this past Tuesday, when all returned for the unveiling (and tasting) of the newly bottled spirit.
If you didn’t know you were drinking an American malt, you might mistake these bottlings for Lowland scotch—light, delicate and restrained. Given the low peat levels, there’s just a background smokiness on the nose, with some sweet oaky notes.
On the palate, the Distiller’s Reserve is pleasantly hot, toasty and earthy with a long, nutty, iodine-y finish. The Limited Edition shows a more overtly malty character, with pepper and sea brine notes.
– 40% ABV
– Only available via charitable functions.
CE Rating: ★★★