The American Whiskey Trail

The American Whiskey Trail provides an educational journey into the history and cultural heritage of distilled spirits in America. It includes historical sites and operating distilleries that are open to the public for tours.

Frommer's has rated the American Whiskey Trail one of the top international and domestic travel destinations from nominations submitted by travel editors and authors.

"We picked the American Whiskey Trail because it highlights a fascinating-- but an often overlooked and still ongoing -- part of U.S. history," said Frommer's editorial director. "Points along the trail make prime destinations for a leisurely road trip in some of the most charming parts of the country."

Probably the most popular destination on the American Whiskey Trail is George Washington's distillery at Mount Vernon in Virginia. George Washington was the new country's first large distiller and his reconstructed distillery demonstrates the complete distilling process. Other points on the Whiskey Trail are located in a number of states as well as in the Caribbean.

In 1777, as commander of the Continental Army, George Washington worried in writing about the morale and condition of his troops. To comfort them "when they are marching in hot or Cold weather, in Camp in Wet, on fatigue or in Working Parties," Washington said it was "so essential" that troops have "moderate supplies" of whiskey.

After the War of Independence, the new country needed revenue and placed an excise tax on whiskey. However, federal tax collectors were attacked in Pennsylvania by citizens outraged that the whiskey they had been making for years, much of it for their own consumption, was being taxed. Washington sent about 13,000 militia to end the rebellion.

By the late 1700s, whiskey was overtaking rum as the most popular spirit in America, in part because sugar and molasses, products of the British West Indies essential in making rum, were hard to come by and had the taint of political incorrectness at the time. Washington's farm manager persuaded him to build a distillery. Around that time there were about 3,500 distilleries in Virginia. However, at its peak, Washington's was the largest in the United States.

In the isolated frontiers west of the Appalachian Mountains, settlers used surplus corn and other grains to make whiskey, which was much cheaper to transport to market. Locally, it was used as a medium of exchange or a barter commodity in the absence of gold, silver or reliable currency.

In the 1830's the average American aged 15 or older consumed over seven gallons of absolute alcohol (resulting from an average of 9 1/2 gallons of spirits - primarily whiskey-, 1/2 gallon of wine, and 27 gallons of beer), a quantity about three times the current rate.16

The American Whiskey Trail is an enjoyable way to learn about our national past. It includes these historical sites:

Operating whiskey distilleries open to the public are part of The American Whiskey Trail. They are:

Also included are two rum distilleries:

Whiskey Facts and Trivia

Don't Be Fooled -- Be Safe

Few people realize that the alcohol content of a standard drink of beer, dinner wine, or distilled spirits (either straight or in a mixed drink) are equivalent. They are all the same to a breathalyzer.

A glass of white or red wine, a bottle of beer, and a shot of whiskey or other distilled spirits all contain equivalent amounts of alcohol and are the same to a Breathalyzer. A standard drink is:

Standard Drinks and Alcohol Equivalence

Learn what they are and why they'’re very important.

The health benefits associated with drinking in moderation are also similar for beer, wine and spirits. The primary factor associated with health and longevity appears to be the alcohol itself.

Knowing about equivalence can help you drink in moderation. For example, you won't be fooled by the misleading term "hard liquor," which implies that drinking distilled spirits leads more quickly to intoxication than other alcohol beverages. Moderation is in the drinker, not the beverage.

Learn more about the attractions found on the American Whiskey Trail.


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  • Rieser, James, et al. George Washington and the Whiskey Rebellion: Testing the Constitution. DVD video. St. Louis ,MO: Phoenix Learning Group, 2008.
  • Rothbard, Murray N. The Whiskey Rebellion: A Model for Our Time? Free Market, 1994, 12(9).
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  • Zoeller, Chester. Bourbon in Kentucky: A History and Directory of Distilleries in Kentucky. Louisville, KY: Butler Books, 2009.


  • Roueche, Burton. The Neutral Spirit: A Portrait of Alcohol. Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1960, p. 84.
  • Talk Like a Pilot. Syracuse, NY: Hancock International Airport, n.d., p. 1.
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  • See "Moonshine is Risky"
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  • Haught, R.L. Distilling the truth about George. Oklahoman, 2-20-03.
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