Early after colonists arived on Virginia's shores, they discovered the merits of corn. In 1620, George Thorpe made the first whiskey from corn. This was the forerunner of bourbon. Making whiskey from corn was common on many farms across the colonies. It was a popular way to use left over grains. Irish and Scottish immigrants used grains common in Virginia to turn into spirits. Whiskey production continued unabated for over one and a half centuries. Events became tense, though, after the Revolutionary War.
In 1791, during Washington's presidency, a tax was imposed on spirits including whiskey. Many people who made spirits, fought in the Revolutionary War and were aware of the philosophy "no taxation without representation." The tax did not sit well with many producers who rebelled. Washington sent troops to quell the rebellion in 1794. A few years later, Washington was making whiskey.
George Washington's Mt. Vernon Distillery
Over 170 years after George Thorpe's whiskey making in Virginia, George Washington joined the whiskey business at Mt. Vernon. Washington's farm manager, James Anderson was invoved in distilling back in Scotland. By 1797, 600 gallons were sold for a profit. A distillery building was constructed in 1797-1798. The distillery had 5 copper stills. Washington's distillery produced nearly 11,000 gallons in 1799, the year of Washington's death.
It was not until 1920, that Americans were once more at odds with the Federal Government concerning spirits. Prohibition did not stop the making of spirits in Virginia. Making spirits in the backwoods continued in the state, even after the repeal of Prohibition in 1934.
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