21 February 2007

George Washington, Distiller Of Spirits.


A little news about the father of our country, just in time for Lent. . .

MOUNT VERNON, Va.--Although George Washington was born 275 years ago tomorrow, most Americans think they know a great deal about him. He led American soldiers in winning our independence from Britain. He was the nation's first president. He adorns our dollar bill and a new dollar coin. But how many people know he was also a leading businessman, probably the No. 1 whiskey producer in all of colonial America?

Indeed, Washington was a prosperous farmer and entrepreneur throughout his life. "He thought like an American businessman," says Jim Rees, the executive director of Washington's Mount Vernon estate. "He was a true disciple of the free enterprise system, and he sensed that our new system of government would encourage people to think creatively, take chances and invest."

Mr. Rees is proud that Mount Vernon is helping showcase our Founding Father's business career by opening a complete reconstruction of his 75-by-30-foot distillery, which at its peak turned out 11,000 gallons a year of corn and rye whiskey along with fruit brandy. (The distillery and accompanying museum open to the public on March 31.) James Anderson, a Scot who was convinced making whiskey was a growth industry, pitched the idea to Washington just weeks before he retired from office. Import taxes had reduced the consumption of molasses-based rum and made home-grown hooch popular. At the time, the average American consumed five gallons of distilled spirits every year, compared with only 1.8 gallons today.


 

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