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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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Henry Schmidt's Illegal Still Site, Texas, USA

Henry Schmidt's Illegal Still Site, Texas, USA

OK, I admit this is stretch but I did visit it as it is just a few miles from Houston in what is now a wildlife park in Dickinson, Texas.    Of course before posting this entry I did some very thorough research.  By "thorough" I mean I typed three of four versions of "Schmidt+stills+Dickinson"  into Google but I got less hits than Donald Sterling's www.onlineguidetoracerelations.com webpage.  All I could find was information on the sign which says the site "was used by Henry Schmidt in the 1920s and destroyed by Hurricane Carla".  At end of day I can still say it may not be the worst distillery  visit I ever made (Tobermory; I have not forgotten you and NEVER will).  Also my daughter really enjoyed this trip a lot more than others as it had turtles and camels as well.  You never see those at Glenfiddich.  Not unless you hit the samples a little too hard.

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