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My Handcrafted Opinions on Whiskies, Distilleries and Other Related Stuff

George Washington's Distillery, Virginia, USA

I can't say how excited I was when I realised I had a business meeting less than 30 minutes from this distillery in Arlington.  This is really more of a museum than a working distillery, but twice a year (March and November) the months immediately before and after the distillery is open for tours, they fire up the only LEGAL open fire stills in the United States and make whiskey to George Washington's original recipe.  The whiskey is extremely hard to get hold of and only available at the the distillery shop or the Mount Vernon (George's plantation a few miles away).  At the time of my visit they had sold out and I was unable to try it.  The tour costs a very reasonable $5 and consists of two major attractions... a working water mill (not original but an authentic recreation) which was used to grind the various grains on the Mount Vernon estate and a recreation of the original distillery based on an archeological dig.  The tour guides explain the history of the mill and George's decision to enter the distilling business very late in life, the disillery was built in 1797 and GW died in 1799, and how it was briefly the largest distillery operating in the USA.  More of an historical tour (understandably) than a whisky tour it was however interesting to see everything used in whisky making process on a relatively small scale and how it would all done by hand. 

Only one complaint.... no whiskey.  I feel that considering the relatively small volumes it can produce (open fire stills and whisky production is obviously limited to the times that there are no tourist wandering around) surely keeping it to pour at end of tours as a sample would be a much more democratic way to treat the limited production rather than seeing be snapped up by "collectors" and hoarded.  Personally I think it is what George would have wanted.  Add a few bucks added to the tour price for those who want a sample and I bet you would still sell for same price (or close enough anyway) per bottle.

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Yellow Rose Distilling, Texas, USA

Yellow Rose Distilling, Texas, USA

I was very fortunate to live in Aberdeen for almost three years. For that time I was a short drive from Speyside, the Highlands and just 11 miles from the nearest single malt distillery, Glen Garioch. Moving back to Texas in 2011, even though Texas whisky was starting to appear on the scene in form of Balcones, Garrison Bros and Ranger Creek I never expected to be living so close to a whisky distillery again. Then Yellow Rose Distilling moved from the outskirts of Houston to an industrial park less than five miles from my house. Five miles!   Not yet operational (they have a new still but are not rigged up yet) I went to visit the site, sample some of the house products and meet the master distiller, Troy, in January 2014. It is always nice to be taken around a site by the actual distiller and Troy’s passion is clear. Yellow Rose started making their Outlaw Bourbon with a tiny hand-made still they purchased from Portugal.   They will continue to make their Outlaw Bourbon when their new still is up and running (though I have to wonder how similar the product will be as the stills are very different?) but also have a line extension strategy which includes making vodka with the same still, a blended “Canadian” style whiskey and a Rye whiskey, both of which they have made for them offsite out of state and a Double Barrel bourbon which they also have made for them offsite and then put into Californian red wine casks for additional maturation onsite. Think Angel’s Envy. As well as the warehouse space they will use for distillation and maturation they are developing a nice visitor experience with the original Portuguese still on display, a bar with all of the Yellow Rose products for sampling, some of the usual goodies like Yellow Rose Glencairn glasses and they can even sell bottles (under the archaic Texas licensing laws they can sell up to 2 commemorative bottles every 30 days per person). If you want the “classic” distillery experience… this definitely is not it. But the whiskey is good, the people are nice and you have to drive a long way from Houston to find the next nearest distillery.

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