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Issue 93 - George and the Distilled Peach

Whisky Magazine Issue 93
January 2011

 

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George and the Distilled Peach

Liza Weisstuch joins a group of distillers bringing history back to life

Randolph Bragg was banking the fire. He was crouched over on the cement floor, leaning into the hearth and poking at the coals, just like the settlers used to do in the 18th century.

“When it was burned enough, there were no flames but it was hot enough that it would give off heat and then in the morning they'd add heat and they were back in business.

They could keep the fire going without having to add more fuel to it,” he explained.

Bragg is what's referred to as an ‘interpreter', Mount Vernon-speak for tour guide, and he was stoking the fire to fuel the still for an historic undertaking, of sorts, an attempt to distill peach brandy at George Washington's reconstructed distillery on the premises on a bright day this past autumn.

Wait a second...brandy?? Didn't we just establish that Washington was a rye whiskey maker? Indeed, the ledgers show that the plucky entrepreneur dabbled in eau de vie, too. He certainly didn't turn it out in the volumes that he made of whiskey, but he ran about 60 gallons of peach brandy, a popular spirit of the day, through his stills each year for consumption in the house. His records show that only eight gallons were sold in 1798. That's a drop in the bucket compared to about 11,000 gallons of rye that was snatched up annually by thirsty patriots.

The players in this historical re enactment, per se, had travelled to this lush Virginia plot from far and wide and brought a broad range of expertise. The Distilled Spirits Council of the US...

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