The American Whiskey Trail (A Top Travel Destination)

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

I.   Overview

II.  Distilleries

III. Other Attractions

IV.  Fun Alcohol Trivia

V.   Resources

Frommer’s has rated the American Whiskey Trail one of the top travel destinations.

“We picked the American Whiskey Trail because it highlights a fascinating part of U.S. history,” said Frommer’s editor. “Points along the trail make for a leisurely road trip in some of the most charming parts of the country.”

American Whiskey Trail

I. Overview: American Whiskey Trail

George Washington’s Distillery

American Whiskey Trail
George Washington’s reconstructed distillery.

Probably the most popular destination on the American Whiskey Trail is George Washington’s distillery at Mount Vernon. George Washington was the new country’s first large distiller. His reconstructed distillery shows the complete distilling process.

In 1777, as commander of the Continental Army, Washington worried about the morale and condition of his troops. To comfort them he said it was “so essential” that they have adequate supplies of whiskey.

Whiskey Rebellion

American Whiskey Trail
Whiskey Rebellion

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. They were outraged that the whiskey they had been making for years 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 this was because sugar and molasses were products of the British West Indies. Thus they were seen as being unpatriotic at the time.

Washington’s farm manager persuaded him to build a distillery. Around that time there were about 3,500 distilleries in Virginia. But at its peak, his was the largest in the US.

The frontier west of the Appalachian Mountains were very isolated.  So settlers used surplus corn and other grains to make whiskey. This was much cheaper to transport to market. Locally, it was a barter product used 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 per year. It came from an average of 9 1/2 gallons of spirits, 1/2 gallon of wine, and 27 gallons of beer. That’s a quantity about three times the current rate.

II. Distilleries

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

Also included are two rum distilleries:

III. Other Attractions

The American Whiskey Trail is a great way to learn about our national past. It includes these historical sites.

      • George Washington Distillery, Mount Vernon, VA. George Washington was one of the new country’s largest and most successful whiskey distillers. An excavations at Mount Vernon show that Washington was a highly inventive entrepreneur. His reconstructed whiskey distillery has an interpretive museum.
      • Frauces Tavern Museum, Manhattan, NY. The Tavern is where Washington gave his famous farewell address to his officers in 1783. He toasted them with whiskey.
      • Gadsby’s Tavern Museum, Alexandria, VA. Prominent patrons of the tavern included George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and the marquis de Lafayette.
      • Woodville Plantation, Allegheny County, PA. The plantation was built by General John Neville. He was a major defender of the US Constitution.
      • Oscar Getz Museum, Bardstown, KY. The museum includes a collection of rare whiskey artifacts dating from the Colonial period through post-Prohibition times. Abraham Lincoln’s 1833 liquor store license is on display.61
      • West Overton Museum, Scottdale, PA. The museum contain an 1838 whiskey distillery. It’s set within an intact pre-Civil War village.
      • Oliver Miller Homestead, South Park, PA. The house became a National Historical Landmark in 1936.

IV. Fun Alcohol Trivia

Did you know that Abraham Lincoln operated several taverns? That the first Kentucky whiskey was made in 1789 by a Baptist minister? Or that in George Washington’s White House, “happy hour” began at 3:00 p.m. and continued until dinner?

Discover more alcohol trivia to enjoy and share with family and friends.

Here’s a general guide: Alcohol Trivia Resources (& Links to Alcohol Trivia).

Don’t Be Fooled

American Whiskey Trail
Standard Drinks

Standard drinks all contain the same amount of pure alcohol. (6/10 of an ounce.) So they’re all the same in terms of alcohol.

The health benefits of drinking in moderation are also similar. That’s for beer, wine and spirits or liquor. The major factor causing good health and long life is the alcohol itself.

American Whiskey Trail

V. Resources

General Appreciation
Cocktail Recipe Books
    • Cate, M. and R. Exotic Cocktails.
    • Foley, R. The Rum 1000: The Ultimate Collection of Rum Cocktails.
    • Gin: Classic & Contemporary Cocktails.
    • Harris, J. Rum Drinks.
    • Hutson, L. ¡Viva Tequila! Cocktails & Cooking.
    • Schmid, A. The Old Fashioned.
    • ______. The Manhattan Cocktail.
    • Simonson, R. The Martini Cocktail.
    • Sipsmith. 100 Gin Cocktails with Only 3 Ingredients.

Want more more spirits recipe books? See Cooking with Liquor or Spirits.