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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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Glenfarclas, Speyside, Scotland

Glenfarclas, Speyside, Scotland Describe Glenfarclas in two words?  Old school.  Putting aside the slightly annoying and confusing matter that this is yet another famous Speyside distillery with a Grant family prominent in its history (a different Grant from Glenfiddich and Balvenie and also not the same Grant as Glen Grant) and overlooking the slightly 1960's state school look and feel of the place, Glenfarclas produces high quality Speyside whiskies with a heavy sherry influence.

The visitor's center does not have any café and the $5 tour is the usual fare with the interesting highlight that you will see the tallest stills in Speyside.  They also store and age all their whisky on site which many of the "corporate" distilleries don't do for rather dull reasons like they want to rent cheaper warehouse space in a more central location or for "risk management" (ie in case the distillery burns down they don't lose all the stock).    After walking around the site you leave with a strong feeling that this is still very much an independent family run business, that they are proud of what they do and they are not about to change anything any time soon.  Good for them.

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