Spirited Bidding: Rare-Liquor Auction Raises Money for Mount Vernon

What do George Washington, a North Dakota liquor-store owner, and an anonymous United Kingdom spirits fanatic have in common? They all know their whiskey.

By: Michael Gaynor

Whiskey was cause for celebration at Wednesday night’s rare-spirits auction, held at George Washington’s estate. The Spirit of Mount Vernon has held its annual Industry Heritage Dinner and auction since 2002 to raise money for education programs at Mount Vernon, and this year’s event brought in more than $200,000. Auctioned spirits came from the recently reconstructed distillery at the Virginia property, reopened to the public in 2007 to give researchers insight into Washington’s ahead-of-his-time distillation techniques.

The most sought-after item went to an anonymous bidder from the United Kingdom, who took home five gallons of George Washington Distillery Dedication Rye Whiskey for $25,000. The spirits were specially produced in honor of Prince Andrew, Duke of York, to mark his ribbon cutting at the distillery.

Hal Gershman, owner of Happy Harry’s Bottle Shops in North Dakota, got a limited-edition set of George Washington Distillery Straight Rye Whiskey and Martha Washington Colonial Rum for $12,000. The two bottles were auctioned together in honor of the couple’s 250th wedding anniversary.

The night also saw four new inductees into the George Washington Spirits Society, an organization that, according its mission statement, is dedicated to upholding the Founding Fathers’ “appreciation of the moderate use of spiritous liquors and their appropriate place in our society, culture, and history.”

Representative Shelley Berkley of Nevada; Judge John E. Jones, CEO of Young’s Holdings Vern Underwood; and Red Cavaney, former president and CEO of the American Petroleum Institute, were honored as Guardians of His Spirit and presented with a medal.

They join the ranks of other society members including Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson and former Oklahoma governor Frank Keating.

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