Viebranz is president of George Washington's historic Mount Vernon estate. The estate makes rye whiskey in its reconstructed distillery according to Washington's own whiskey recipe. A limited number of bottles went on sale Thursday for $95 each.
Why did George Washington decide to start distilling whiskey in the first place?
He was first and foremost a businessman, and he saw demand for alcohol, for whiskey, and so he started to make it. He started in 1797, just before retiring from the presidency, and by 1798 he had five stills, and it was selling robustly.
Was his one of the only distilleries in the area?
A lot of people, even at that time, would have been getting alcohol from outside the U.S., but he would have been one of very few in the immediate area. ... And there was also a thriving barter trade, so he'd get grain from farmers and repay them with whiskey.
What does the whiskey taste like? Is it unique?
Yes, it's unique. It's rye whiskey, which is not necessarily something that people drink normally, but we have robust demand for it now, and we'll sell out.
What's next for the Mount Vernon estate? Is the library for the study of George Washington still on track to open soon?
Yes. Washington has never had a national library, believe it or not, so we are opening a new national library in September of this year, a 45,000-square-foot facility which is adjacent to the historic footprint.
Do you think there's still a lot to learn about George Washington?
I think that there's a lot to learn about Washington, the man, by further study, and really I think part of it comes from the interaction of scholars. ... We'll hope that the library will really become a gathering place for scholars of Washington and the Revolutionary era, and through their collaboration we'll learn a lot more.