Virginia, the Birthplace of American Whiskey...
The Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia. (Photo credit: Getty Images. Used under license.)
Two of the reasons we started Catoctin Creek Distillery were (1) our love of whiskey, and (2) our love for Virginia. Many Americans, when asked, "What is America's native spirit?" will answer, "Bourbon!" This is actually incorrect, as the first whiskey to be enjoyed in America was actually rye whiskey from Virginia, which predates bourbon by about 100 years. Prohibition did many things, including wiping out most of the old family-run distilleries of the 1800's, but it also gave us a cultural amnesia when it comes to our alcoholic history. So, please allow me to illustrate that history for you here:
When the British started coming to America in the 1600s and more massively in the 1700s, the spirits they drank were almost exclusively rum. This was because sugar was easy to obtain in the Caribbean, and trade routes brought both raw sugar, molasses, and finished rum to America. It was used in all kinds of ways, from making punch to making tinctures and medicines. Rum was the king spirit in a land full of citizens of the British crown. When the colonists rebelled against King George III, going as far as to declare war against him, he got rather peeved and cut off the supply of sugar, molasses and rum coming into the country. Americans were an enterprising sort, and after the war in the 1780s and 1790s, having found themselves in a country with many Scots, Irish, and English peoples, lots of arable land, and we must acknowledge a large enslaved African work-force, colonists began making whiskey in large scale for the first time. Distilling whiskey had always been done for many years in America; nearly every small-grain farm was producing small amounts for home consumption. But with the rum gone, and many new city dwellers to quench, whiskey production goes commercial. In the states from Virginia, through Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York, and even up into Canada, the grain that grew best was rye (not corn). And so rye whiskey production goes big and goes commercial.
George Washington, our first president and revolutionary general, had retired at his estate at Mount Vernon, and began producing rye whiskey commercially. His distillery was the largest commercial distillery during his lifetime. His biggest production was rye whiskey.
Those early settlers in the "wild west" who started to experiment with corn (a grain introduced to them by the Native Americans), would start producing corn whiskey that we today call Bourbon. In those early days, however, Kentucky territory was still called Virginia! (Kentucky doesn't become a state until 1794.) And so it may be cheeky to say it--I'll say it anyway--Virginia is also the birthplace of Bourbon!
Therefore, we honor Virginia and the birthplace of American whiskey. What we produce at Catoctin Creek is meant to honor that spirit that would have been very common in our area in the 1800's. So drink a glass and let your imagination wander a bit, and you might just find yourself transported back to a simpler time.
We have some great events in May. Here is the full list of events planned at the distillery and in the area this month. Many events are free, so be sure to join us for something fun:
- Aug 10 - Bottling Workshop - Join us for this always fun, always free workshop and bottle your own whisky! FREE
- Sep 14 - Whisky Dinner at Aldie Mill - Now in our ninth year, this dinner is one of our best events each year! $115/pp
- Sept 20 - Dinner at the Distillery - Join us for our autumn dinner at the distillery. $99/pp
For the full list of events, check our events page.
Cocktail of the Month – The Uranus
We frequently will dive into the Tiki genre with our whiskey. Some may regard rum as the sole heir to Tiki cocktails, but quoting Matt Perkins, the beverage manager at Magnolias at the Mill, "If you argue about whether or not it's Tiki, you're entirely missing the point of Tiki."
This cocktail comes to us from @adventuresofriad on Instagram, and we're very impressed with this cool summertime refresher:
The #cocktail group I’m in feels like that this summer should be dedicated to #mezcal tiki cocktails, and I whole-heartedly agree! Here’s a #riff on one of my #favorite tiki cocktails the #Saturn
The Saturn is initially made with gin, falernum, orgeat, passion, and lemon and it’s blended as well!
My take is a little more #fun than that! I’m calling it the Uranus because there’s a lot going on in Uranus! 😘 it features some of my #favorite ingredients in a fantastic #amalgamation of #love in a glass!
¾ oz El Silencio Mezcal
¾ oz Catoctin Creek Roundstone Rye
½ oz lemon juice
½ oz passion fruit juice
¼ Luxardo maraschino liqueuer
2 barspoons creme de violette
Split base of mezcal and rye whisky with passion fruit purée, fresh squeezed lime juice Luxardo maraschino and creme de violette strained over crushed ice in a glass rimmed with tajin and garnish simply with mint (but go crazy because the bigger the garnish the better ).
Cocktail and photo courtesy of @adventuresofriad and used with permission.
See this cocktail and hundreds more on our cocktails page.
As always, there are lots of fun and information on our Instagram, Facebook and Twitter pages, where you can stay up to date with the daily activities at the distillery. We are open every Tuesday through Sunday for tastings and bottle purchases, so stop by and see us sometime!
Scott & Becky