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Whiskeys fit for a president

  • presidential_whiskey_2.jpg

  • presidential_whiskey.jpg

    From left to right: George Washington Straight Rye Whiskey comes from our first president’s Mount Vernon distillery, made to Washington’s own recipe. Jefferson’s Reserve pays homage to bourbon produced by Thomas Jefferson himself at Monticello and Old Overholt was one of Abraham Lincoln’s favorite whiskeys.

George Washington helped forge our country in the fires of the Revolutionary War. Abraham Lincoln was kind enough to keep it from flying to pieces in the Civil War.  For their accomplishments, we honor them by taking a day off and taking advantage of a variety of sales offered by patriotic retailers everywhere.

If that doesn’t seem like quite enough respect for two of the greatest Americans in history, then it's time to raise a glass in their honor.

Both of these amazing men share something in common – they both were fans of tipping back a drink to celebrate their successes, on and off the battlefield. And given the list of accomplishments each of these titans of history had to their names, one can imagine they tipped back more than a few. And their sauce of choice? Whiskey.

Like many of their contemporaries, Washington and Lincoln were big fans of aged grain alcohol. And there are plenty of whiskies still around today with presidential pedigrees. Some are recreated versions of whiskey originally distilled by presidents, others can trace their success back to being the favored presidential nightcap. Either way, it’s worth picking up a bottle with which to toast the men who kept our country together during the most critical moments in its history. Here are a few with particularly impressive presidential value.

Old Overholt

According to lore, this rye whiskey was one of Abraham Lincoln’s favorites. Apparently The Great Emancipator had good taste. Supposedly first distilled in 1810 and named for the distiller, Abraham Overholt, it features all the spice of a typical rye.  But where most ryes are powerfully peppery and burn the throats of those who aren’t used to this most traditional of American whiskeys, this one translates the spice to a rich warmth instead of the usual harsh heat.  Old Overholt is a solid example of traditional rye done right. The only drawback is how quickly the tasty caramel and cinnamon flavors break down with anything more than a splash of water. Given how common it is for people to try to cut the peppery rye by diluting it, it can quickly turn into a watery mess if drinkers aren’t careful.

Jefferson’s Reserve Bourbon Whiskey

A “very” small batch bourbon, denoting that only somewhere between 12 and 15 barrels are produced a year, Jefferson’s Reserve seems to be a homage to bourbon produced by Thomas Jefferson himself. Whether it has the same flavor profiles as the whiskey that came out of Jefferson’s estate – Monticello, which is also pictured on the bottle.  And while Jefferson had a serious impact on the country, the taste of Jefferson’s Reserve doesn’t have the same punch. The flavors are complex and subtle, with muted caramel, oak and butterscotch wafting around the glass. The gentle warmth belies the 90 proof liquid, with the heat spreading slowly down into your belly and warming any presidential cockles that may lie dormant in your heart. The rich amber liquid is tasty, but with a bottle running about $45-$55, those looking to save their Washingtons may want to pass.

George Washington Straight Rye Whiskey 

Speaking of George Washington, a group of enterprising souls have reopened our first president’s Mount Vernon distillery for business, mixing up batches of rye made to Washington’s own recipe of 60 percent rye, 30 percent corn and 5 percent malted barley. At 140 proof, it’s a ridiculously powerful sipper that absolutely requires water to tame the fires. And while Washington was unlikely to ever intentionally age his whiskey, selling it long before it took on the flavors of the barrels it was stored in, this expression has plenty of oaky goodness to it. The smoke mingles with the peppery rye and sweet corn, delivering a surprisingly warm and mellow liquid with almost butterscotch undertones. Unfortunately, it’s a limited run, with each bottle costing $300. But isn’t our nation’s founding father worth it?