Skip to:

Legislator wants George Washington’s whiskey declared ‘state spirit’

Near the end of his life, George Washington authorized the making of whiskey at Mount Vernon. Now, a state legislator wants the drink declared the official state spirit of Virginia. (White House photo)

The rye whiskey developed by George Washington at Mount Vernon in the late 1700s would be designated Virginia’s official “state spirit” under legislation that has passed the state Senate and been sent to the House of Delegates.

The measure, patroned by Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-30th), would add the whiskey to Virginia’s long list of official emblems and designations, joining the likes of milk (state beverage), American foxhound (state dog), Northern cardinal (state bird), tiger swallowtail butterfly (state insect), nelsonite (state rock), brook trout (state freshwater fish) and striped bass (state saltwater fish).

According to Ebbin, Washington – described in the legislation as “a son of Virginia and father of the nation” – was convinced by his farm manager, James Anderson, in the 1790s that a distilling operation would complement Mount Vernon’s other economic ventures. The operation began in 1797, two years before Washington’s death, and initially produced 600 gallons of rye whiskey.

Within a few years, it was the nation’s largest whiskey distillery.

The proposal passed the state Senate, 31-8, and was forwarded to the House Committee on General Laws.