A variety of stills on display at the Frazier Museum in Louisville, Kentucky

George Washington

In today’s political climate it is hard to fathom the thought of whiskey and presidents being in the news in either a positive or negative way. However, two United States Presidents not only can be associated with whiskey but owned distilling equipment at different points in our countries history.

Our first president George Washington under the advice of his Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton, instituted a whiskey tax to help pay the debts of the revolutionary war. This tax proved especially unpopular and was met with outward rebellion. President Washington activated troops to squash the uprising.

However, his association with whiskey does not end there. After his presidency, Washington built the largest distillery in Virginia at the time. The distillery was over 2000 square feet and would eventually produce as much as eleven thousand gallons of whiskey per year. There is proof that Washington’s whiskey was was more than 50% Rye which meant it was a Rye whiskey and would not qualify as to what later became known as bourbon.

Washington was a successful distiller but was well know to prefer Madeira and varieties of beer over spirits.

Andrew Jackson

Andrew Jackson is a name that can be included in any discussion of whiskey and presidents. There is not as much history documented of President Jackson and his involvement with whiskey but there are enough to create a simple story.

Beginning in 1799 he began distilling with two pot stills that could produce a combined 190 gallons. Unfortunately, the distillery burned down during the very next year and was a total loss. A few years later, Jackson rebuilt the distillery with the help of Mr. Watson who became his business partner. Later on, in 1804, Jackson moved to his beloved plantation known as the Hermitage

During his time in office Andrew Jackson was known to relate to the common man and was very likely a consumer of whiskey while in office. Even after his death, companies that made whiskey tried to capitalize on his image while promoting whiskey brands such as Old Hickory and Hermitage.