George Washington: Major Distiller of Whiskey

George Washington was apparently the largest distiller of whiskey in the new American nation during the late 1700s. In 1798, the year before his death, Washington’s distillery at Mount Vernon produced 11,000 gallons of whiskey and produced a profit of $7,500. That was an enormous sum of money over 200 years ago.

Washington began producing whiskey at the suggestion of his plantation manager, who was Scottish. The new distiller first began by purchasing a copper still, but his first batch was so successful that he bought three more stills and built a larger distillery.

Washington’s distillery fell into disuse and was torn down about 15 years after his death. However, five years ago, archaeologists began excavating the site in preparation for its reconstruction. A $1.2 million gift from the Distilled Spirits Council of the US is funding the archaeological work and will fund the reconstruction of the distillery, which will be open to the public as an educational exhibit upon completion. It will be the only 18th century distillery operating in the country.

George Washington is also remembered as the first president of the United States.


  • Head, Thomas. First in war, first in peace, first in whiskey: George Washington as distiller. Southern Folkways Alliance, June 14, 2005; Eisele, Albert. Resurrecting George Washington’s booze. The Hill, June 9, 2005.