A while ago I visited this distillery. I wrote the following blog at the time – but never published it. As they will shortly be releasing the second batch of Baltimore Epoch Rye – I thought it timely. The previous batch sold out immediately. If you are looking for some – get down to the Baltimore Whiskey Company on April 28th 2018. Or be sorry you missed it!
It was baltic in Baltimore.
Our trip to Maryland coincided with storm front Stella resulting in a dowsing of snow with icy winds that would cut you in two.
Thankfully the sun was shining and the Baltimore Whiskey Company had some warming whiskey to taste on the day I visited!
Housed in an old industrial building just off Interstate 83 on Sisson Street near downtown Baltimore, the prominent & attractively designed Baltimore Whiskey Company logo announced you were in the right building.
Max & Eli – the other co-founder Ian was elsewhere – hadn’t made it in the previous day due to the storm, but were thankfully on hand when I called round to show me their distillery.
It very quickly became apparent that Baltimore Whiskey Company do things a little bit different to other start up whiskey distilleries.
To begin with, their rather roughshod looking 250 gallon (1,000 ltr) copper still had been made by their own hands – partly copied on Lagavulin’s stills to produce a heavier & oilier distillate – as well as putting in all the electrics for the plant.
The fact they are currently maturing a rye whiskey immediately reminded me of Peter Bignell at the Belgrove Distillery in Tasmania with his whole grain to glass, can do, make do & homemade kind of ethos.
The boys in Baltimore however don’t grow their own rye and source it elsewhere – but what they do do is rather special & unique. They use a mash-bill of 70% malted rye and 30% unmalted rye. A single pot still rye indeed!
And finally not only do they ‘keep it real’ by using only 53 gallon virgin oak barrels to mature that rye – they refuse to release a raw moonshine product and are prepared to sit on that rye for the full 2 years – or more – allowing it to be called a straight rye under US rules when eventually released.
A very brave decision indeed when there must be financial pressure to realise some return on the initial distillery setup costs. Baltimore Whiskey Company do have a range of gins & apple brandies – as well as the usual array of branded T-shirts, caps & Glencairn glasses – to sell that go some way in plugging that gap though.
In the meantime – from a whiskey perspective – what is that pot still rye really like?
Fortunately I was privileged to be allowed a sample from one of the quietly maturing 53 gallon barrels that are stored on an upper level.
Taken straight from the cask at around 115 proof – 57.5% – and at slightly over 1 year old, the liquid had already taken on a lovely rich dark brown colour.
There was still a slight new make nose present – sweaty socks or over-ripe fruit – but not overpowering – and for a 100% rye the rich dry spice hit I was expecting wasn’t ‘in yer face’, but a rather more gentle, softer, even rounder & complex experience.
The taste was deliciously smooth. Again the dry spice kick had a more balanced approach on the palate.
Max suggested this was the result of the unmalted rye used together with ageing in 53 gallon barrels – and who was I to disagree? The taste result certainly gave a different – yet welcoming – flavour profile to the other 1 year old 100% ryes I’ve sampled.
With that lovely long dry – yet slightly oily – soft rye spice finish still fading on my tongue I contemplated another 12 months in the barrel must surely iron out that new make nose, further deepen and balance that lovely rye spice as well as add some soft caramel & vanilla together with additional oaky tannins from the casks.
This is one expression to look out for in the future!
I’m very impressed with the whole ethos at Baltimore Whiskey Company.
The combination of hands on homemade ingenuity – the relaxed & casual welcome – a strong quality control desire to only release a product when deemed ready – a smart yet simple company logo using an iconic Baltimore building – these guys have all bases covered.
I raise a glass to their future success!