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.
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.
Irish Single Grain Whiskey is a bit of a rare breed. Malted barley in pot stills is the norm and has been for centuries – even after fellow Irishman Aeneas Coffey invented his new continuous still around 1830 which sparked the rise of Scottish blended whisky. He did offer it to his fellow countrymen first – but so tied to their superior product they declined – so Aeneas went abroad and the rest is history.
Blended whiskey – a mixture of both malted pot still and grain continuous still spirits – accounts for about 90% of whisky sales worldwide – so is nothing to be scoffed.
Grain Whiskey is generally seen as the inferior spirit in a blend and only a few offerings are available in Ireland or even Scotland.
Ireland had to wait until the 1990’s before it’s first single grain offering was released from the Cooley Distillery in Louth when it opened in 1987.
Released as an 8 year old – Greenore Single Grain has recently been re-branded as Kilbeggan Single Grain by the current owners of Cooley, Beam/Suntory. Other age statements are available; 6, 10, 15, 18, 19 and 21 but may be hard to find and/or limited release.
Grain generally needs longer in the barrel to absorb the flavours than malt. Greenore reflects that by being a mild tasting approachable whiskey not unlike The Glenlivet but very enjoyable nonetheless. Bottled at 40% ,mainly made from maize. B
Teeling Single Grain follows on from Greenore in more ways than one. Also produced at Cooley by the former owners under John Teeling, many of the team at that plant are now the main force behind the Teeling Whiskey Distillery. Innovation is almost part of the Teeling culture and finishing this single grain in Californian Wine Casks certainly does that in raising the aroma and taste of this lovely smooth whiskey. Bottled at 46%, non-chill filtered, no age statement – it’s no surprise that World’s Best Single Grain 2104 went to this expression. B+
Glendalough Double Barrel is another new player in the Irish Whiskey market. They certainly hit the mark with this expression. As with many new entrants waiting for their spirit to mature – Glendalough has sourced this product from a third party. I originally thought Cooley – but with a malted barley and corn mash I’m not so certain. The malted barley certainly adds a bit more depth to the taste and the olorosso finish only adds to the experience. One to keep Teeling on their toes! Bottled at 42%, no age statement. B+
A delightful trio of Single Grain Whiskeys to tempt you with their individual take on the silent spirit. All very good whiskeys too for a gentle evening drink. I’m finding it hard to decide between the Teeling or Glendalough as my favorite but think the latter just wins out with the fuller body – probably imparted by the barley content.
If you haven’t tried a single grain yet – now is the time!