Baltimore Spirits Co.'s Epoch Rye
The 2015 exhibit "Maryland Rye: Straight From the Bottle" showed what a force the distilling industry used to be in the area. A number of the bottles on display had labels that incorporated familiar spots for locals, such as Dundalk Rye, Dulaney Valley Maryland Straight Rye Whiskey and Roland Park Rare Maryland Straight Rye Whiskey.
But local distilling declined after World War II, and by the 1970s, there was only one Baltimore area company left, Standard Distillers Products Inc. Last year the Baltimore Spirits Company--back when it was still known as the Baltimore Whiskey Company--released the first rye to be produced in city limits in more than five decades.
Now, co-founder Max Lents says, the company is about to release its seventh batch of Epoch, with the first five selling out and the sixth well on its way to doing the same. They've also put out limited-run variations, such as a cask strength version and batches finished in a maple syrup barrel or a moscatel barrel.
Lents is quick to note the whiskey, while made in Maryland, is not strictly Maryland-style. The spirit counters the usual spice of a Maryland rye with a hit of sweetness, offering a more rounded flavor profile. The company's unique twist, he adds, felt appropriate for a city with a creative community that can pull off big ideas in spite of limited means.
"We wanted to help bring back the tradition of rye distilling to the city, but also have it reflect the very modern and vibrant creative community that is Baltimore."
Clearly, they're onto something, taking home a double gold medal last year in the prestigious San Francisco World Spirits Competition and a gold medal in this year's New York International Spirits Competition.
And with bartenders revisiting older recipes that call for rye, the whiskey is experiencing something of a renaissance.
"The public is ready, and I think there's a deep thirst for high-quality rye whiskey that there hasn't been for decades and decades," says Lents. "And we're excited to be part of that."
As much as there is to be said for being first, Lents says Baltimore Spirits Co. is more than happy to be joined by the likes of Louthan, Old Line and Sagamore Spirit.
"We're really happy that as an industry, we're not the only people doing it. Baltimore really deserves to have rye whiskey made here. It has so much history in its roots."