“Wow! I've never seen so many whiskeys I don't recognize," one apparently overwhelmed drinker declared as he surveyed the row upon row of handcrafted tipples trotted out by the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States during its latest “Spirit of Mount Vernon” gala.
The annual fundraiser , held each year on the same grounds former president and founding father George Washington once called home, benefits causes ranging from the educational efforts spearheaded by the Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington which has cropped up nearby, to the veterans-focused Wounded Warriors Family Support Program.
Retiring Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich., was honored for his commitment to keeping tax rates low and as well as his ambitious plan to streamline the increasingly complex code.
Some people paid attention to the awards presentation.
Most folks, however, remained riveted by the rare and pricey pours offered up for public consumption. "This one grows on you," a fellow hack suggested after working his way through his first taste of Booker's .
A cocktail maven turned this boozehound on to Koval , a small batch bourbon that legitimately tasted like smoldering barbecue (not charcoal-y, per se, but definitely had a distinctly charred quality to it).
My first sip of Yamakazi 18-year-old single malt confirmed the Japanese can hold their own against the Scots when it comes to delivering impeccable smoothness.
I suspect, however, that no one can beat Ardbeg’s wildly aggressive Supernova (ridiculously smoky, but deliciously so) in terms of unapologetic peatiness.
Once well and liquored up, guests were invited to peruse a collection of silent auction items with some curious additions.
Yes, there were gift baskets stuffed with exotic spirits and hand-rolled stogies. And exclusive tasting tours of far-flung distilleries certainly appealed to some.
We were fascinated by those who couldn’t conceive of heading home without an autographed copy of the late William F. Buckley Jr.’s autobiography, “Miles Gone By”
The handsome tome, complete with a fancy-schmancy certificate of authenticity, fetched $250
That placed it between the bottle of Casamigos Tequila scribbled on by co-founder and newlywed actor George Clooney ($425) ...
And the bottle of Malibu Rum inked by pop rockers OneRepublic ($150).
The main event was a live auction of a rare rye whiskey produced at the estate’s fully functioning distillery. The commemorative hooch, one of only 24 bottles (number 11, to be exact) produced on-site and signed by former President Bill Clinton, was offered up to the well-heeled crowd — some of whom supped alongside a George Washington impersonator — starting at $25,000.
“We need a rich Democrat here,” the auctioneer stroked the crowd as the bidding climbed to $30,000. “And it’s real whiskey … you can drink it!”
In the end, the Clinton-marked bottle fetched some $32,000 — roughly 10 percent less than a similar selection featuring the John Hancock of former President George H.W. Bush that was auctioned off some years ago.
The grand total raised during the evening: approximately $400,000.
(Novelty checks handed out to others, notwithstanding, we would assume.)
"The desserts kinda sent me over the edge. I didn't need to eat all that," we overheard one overindulger belly-aching during the walk back to the car.
We suspect everyone’s heads are throbbing today from all the sticky toffee pudding and vanilla bean ice cream that got packed away.
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