Tasting Baltimore Whiskey Company’s Epoch Rye. Photo by Brandon Weigel.
Tasting Baltimore Whiskey Company’s Epoch Rye. Photo by Brandon Weigel.

On a recent Wednesday, a couple dozen bottles of Epoch Rye are all lined up, freshly labeled, in the Baltimore Whiskey Company’s distillery, waiting to go out into the world. Three employees stand nearby labeling more.

Two hundred are already spoken for as part of a pre-order in 2015, when Baltimore Whiskey Company was founded, that quickly sold out. And the rest of the batch, close to 200 more bottles, will likely be gone by mid-Saturday afternoon, after the distillery opens its doors for the official release party of Epoch Rye, the first opportunity for the drinking public that didn’t get in on the pre-order to buy a bottle.

Epoch Rye is the first rye distilled in Baltimore in more than 50 years, the distillery says, resurrecting a tradition of making the spirit in Maryland that had been dormant for years before the recent resurgence in craft brewing and distilling.

But that doesn’t mean this will be a straight replication of an older Maryland rye. Co-founders Max Lents and Eli Breitburg-Smith say there’s still so much room for creativity in originality in the resurgent world of distilling, and they wanted to create something distinctive.

“We are partaking in history, making rye in Maryland and bringing distilling back to the state, but we wanted to do something new,” says Lents.

“We wanted people to know it was our whiskey,” adds Breitburg-Smith. “We wanted to make something of our own.”

Rows of freshly labeled bottles of Epoch Rye. Photo by Brandon Weigel.

Historically, Maryland ryes had more corn than their Pennsylvania counterparts. With a mash bill of 70 percent rye and 30 percent malted rye, Epoch is unique while still having the spice one would expect from a rye.

So how does it taste? I had to use my press privileges to find out. Thankfully, Lents and Breitburg-Smith, who are the assistant distiller and head distiller, respectively, were nice enough to offer me a pour ahead of Saturday’s release party.

Epoch Rye offers a light, malty smell that hints at the whiskey’s complex flavor profile. But the thing that strikes me about the first sip is how smooth it is–there’s no bite whatsoever, and it’s enjoyable to let sit on your tongue for a moment. Subsequent sips reveal the depth, with the malty sweetness of the whiskey hinting at notes of honey, maple syrup or vanilla mixed with a little spice, followed by a back-end note of oak.

It’s delicious. If you consider yourself a whiskey drinker, you will enjoy Epoch Rye.

Lents and Breitburg-Smith say they are holding back enough whiskey to make sure everyone gets a taste at the release party, which will also include food by Well Crafted Pizza and cocktails by Sugarvale.

And if you miss out on getting a bottle, don’t worry: The next batch is due out in April.

Now that the aging process is finally through and the bottles are ready to go, Breitburg-Smith notes that the Baltimore Whiskey Company’s first whiskey has been “a long time coming.”

“A long time coming and a lot of work,” adds Lents.

And, Breitburg-Smith says, “It was 100 percent worth the wait.”

The Official Rye Whiskey Release Party, March 17, 1-5 p.m., Baltimore Whiskey Company, 2800 Sisson St., (443) 687-9099, thebaltimorewhiskeycompany.com. Bottles from the first single batch will be $59.99. Subsequent releases will be $39.99.

Brandon Weigel is the managing editor of Baltimore Fishbowl. A graduate of the University of Maryland, he has been published in The Washington Post, The Sun, Baltimore Magazine, Urbanite, The Baltimore...