The American Whiskey Trail is a cultural heritage and tourism initiative of the Distilled Spirits Council in cooperation with historic Mount Vernon. It provides an educational journey into the history and cultural heritage of distilled spirits in the United States.
Whiskey and other distilled spirits, such as rum, played an important role in both the American colonies and in the new American republic. As early as 1657, a rum distillery was operating in Boston. It was highly successful and within a generation the production of rum became colonial New England's largest and most prosperous industry.
When the British blockade prevented the importation of sugar and molasses, and thereby disrupted the production of rum, a substitute was sought to meet the demand for spirits in general and for provisions for the Revolutionary Army in particular. It was found in whiskey.Even before the Revolution, whiskey had become the preferred way to use surplus grains in the frontier settlements west of the Appalachian Mountains. The
The American Whiskey Trail
expansion of a corn belt in Kentucky and Ohio had created a corn glut. There were no roads in the region and most transportation was by packhorse. It cost more to transport corn or grain than it could bring on the eastern markets, so farmers distilled it into "liquid assets" that could easily be shipped or bartered. Practically every farmer made whiskey and it became a medium of exchange.
A tax on whiskey led to the first test of federal power, the Whiskey Rebellion in 1794. After serving as president, George Washington became probably the new republic's largest whiskey distiller.
By 1810, there were at least 2,000 distillers producing more than two million gallons of whiskey. Annual absolute alcohol consumption (including wine, beer, etc.) may have been as high as ten gallons per person, a level over four times the current rate.
The American Whiskey Trail consists of historical sites and operating distilleries that are open to the public for tours:
- George Washington Distillery Museum, in Mount Vernon, Virginia
- Fraunces Tavern Museum, in Manhattan, New York
- Gadsby's Tavern Museum, in Alexandria, Virginia
- Woodville Plantation, in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania
- Oscar Getz Museum of Whiskey, in Bardstown, Kentucky
- West Overton Museums, in Scottdale, Pennsylvania
- Oliver Miller Homestead, in South Park, Pennsylvania
Operating whiskey distilleries open to the public:
- Jim Beam, in Clermont, Kentucky
- Maker's Mark, in Loretto, Kentucky
- Wild Turkey, in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky
- Woodford Reserve, in Versailles, Kentucky
- George Dickel, in Tullahoma, Tennessee
- Jack Daniel's, in Lynchburg, Tennessee
Also included are two rum distilleries:
- Bacardi, in Catano, Puerto Rico
- Cruzan, in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands
- Sites along the American Whiskey Trail can be visited in any order or sequence desired.