Thomas Earl at Mount Vernon- George Washington’s Peach Brandy Part 1

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As some of you may recall, FLD was tapped several years ago to make peach brandy at George Washington’s reconstructed distillery. Washington, who was one of, if not the largest distiller of his time, distilled rye whiskey primarily. He owned a wood-fired, five copper pot distillery which was state of the art at the time. It was run for him by a Scotsman, James Anderson.

Aint that something? You never read much about Washington being a distiller in school did you? It was kept out of the history books. His distillery was located about 2 miles from Washington’s estate, at Mount Vernon, next to his very profitable gristmill on Dogue creek. In 1997, archaeologists uncovered Washington’s distillery site and DISCUS, a trade organization for the distilled spirits industry, had the distillery rebuilt exactly as it was in Washington’s day. Because there are no examples of an 18th century distillery, this took nearly a decade of archaeological study.

Well, FLD was asked again to take on the task of making peach brandy this year. I take it as a great honor to be able to help distill, along with the workers at Mount Vernon. About 12 days ago, I traveled down and set to fermenting about 900 gallons of peach juice. The juice was fermented in 100 gallon oak hogsheads just as Washington’s distiller, James Anderson would have done. Rye may have been the mainstay of the distillery, but every year, a small amount of fruit brandy was made to grace the palettes of Washington’s many guests at Mount Vernon. Today, Wednesday, June, 11th, I once again traveled to the distillery, and distillation of the fine peach brandy will begin.

Peach Wine ready for distillation.
Peach Wine ready for distillation.

All of the juice which has now fully fermented, will be bucketed into the small copper potstills, fires will be lit under the pots, the wine stirred gently to prevent burning of solids. When the wine is hot enough, the copper caps which will cause the alcohol vapor and lovely aromas and flavors of the peaches to flow into what is called a copper worm( or sometimes a flake stand) where the cool water from the nearby creek will flow over the worm. This is a coiled copper pipe contained in a barrel. The vapor will then condense back into a flavorful, alcoholic liquid.

The old potstill method requires all the wine to be distilled twice. The first run is where the wine is poured into the potstill and “low wines”(or low strength alcohol) are produced. Once the low wines are collected from the first run, the stills are cleaned and the low wines will be distilled again. This is where the brandy is refined into a lovely, true-to-the-fruit, liquor. Last time, all the brandy was aged, but this run will be sold unaged (or white), just as it would have been in the days of old. It will be for sale in the onsite gift shop in the near future. For any of our fans who are interested in stopping by while the production is going on, tours are now allowed in the distillery during operation, so please visit! FLD is very proud to be able to have such a good reputation in the US distilling industry to be trusted with this noble task.

You can follow this all week as Thomas keeps us posted. Reports from Thomas thus far deem the peach wine to have a fine aroma and should make very nice brandy. Thanks and stay tuned.

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