D.C. and its environs have a long history of tippling and distilling (see: George Washington’s whiskey production at Mt. Vernon). And a random rye bottle serendipitously discovered during the pandemic is the genesis for the latest line of whiskey to hit shelves and rocks glasses around D.C.
Mt. Pleasant Club Whiskey comes from Reboot Beverages, a fledgling liquor company from five-year Mt. Pleasant resident and longtime local John Loughner.
During a neighbor’s recent row home renovation at 19th Street NW, workers found an old whiskey bottle in the attic with an intact “Mt. Pleasant Club Whiskey” label. Loughner says the dusty relic was likely left behind by the home’s builders in 1911, as part of a time capsule-type tradition in which crews “celebrated the completion of the job by leaving the last bottle consumed hidden in the house for future discovery,” he says.
Over backyard bonfires during COVID-19, Loughner and that neighbor with the attic decided to “bring the contents of the bottle back to life,” he says.
Under the revived Mt. Pleasant Club Whiskey moniker, Loughner plans to produce consecutive small-batch, limited-run releases in collaboration with local distillers.
The first, released in late 2021, is called the 19th Street Batch. The single-barrel whiskey pays homage to the street where the old bottle was found. Loughner says stock is already running low on the inaugural line of bottles splashed with a hunter green logo.
The 19th Street Batch was created with Springfield Distillers using ingredients sourced from Virginia. The “mash bill” — or list ingredients — features mostly corn, with elements of barley and wheat.
Mt. Pleasant Club Whiskey is currently sold in three D.C. liquor stores: Irvine Wine and Spirits, Sportsman’s Wine & Liquors, and Cleveland Park Fine Wines & Spirits. It’s also poured at Northwest neighborhood establishments Purple Patch, Beau Thai Mt. Pleasant, and Atomic Billiards.
Moving forward, Reboot will develop additional limited liquor releases with unique tasting notes and distinct inputs. Next up is the Kilbourne Place Batch, a rye whiskey release made with a to-be-named D.C. distillery.
While researching the background of the unearthed bottle, Loughner says the original Mt. Pleasant Club Whiskey was sold by a proprietor named William Barry during the pre-Prohibition era. The then-prominent merchant owned a shop at the corner of 14th and U streets NW (where the current Reeves Center is located).
While Barry was forced to shutter at the start of Prohibition in 1920, he resumed sales in 1933. He passed away soon after, and the company closed with his death. Loughner discovered that Barry sold other hyperlocal spirits as well, including a Meridian Hill gin brand.
Unfortunately, Loughner was unable to source the exact ratio of inputs that went into the original Mt. Pleasant Club Whiskey. But research revealed that much of the whiskey produced at the time was rye whiskey, as rye was widely farmed in the Mid-Atlantic much more than corn. Excess crop then made its way into the whiskey distilling processes.
Future Mt. Pleasant Club Whiskey releases will be named for different streets in Mt. Pleasant, to “capture the spirit of the street,” says Loughner, “whether that’s block parties, porch concerts, or the farmer’s market.”
Based on their deep dive into the backstory of Barry’s bottle, Loughner and his neighbor are currently writing a book on the spirited history of Mt. Pleasant Club Whiskey. Reboot is also donating 25 percent of its proceeds to community organizations in Mt. Pleasant.
This isn’t the first time a long-lost, homegrown booze brand has resurfaced in D.C. The recipe for Chr. Heurich Brewing Co.’s Senate Beer, popularized in the 1890s and produced until 1955, was resurrected in recent years and canned for public consumption by D.C.’s Right Proper Brewing Company.