It’s been about three years since Arch Watkins and Mark McLaughlin opened Old Line Spirits in East Baltimore, an area rich in distilling history with Seagram’s in nearby Dundalk and Standard Distillers on Lombard operating back in the day.
Baltimore’s distilling industry is now bouncing back, as Baltimore Spirits Co. and Sagamore Spirit are populating local shelves and bars along with Old Line.
But unlike those operations, Old Line is creating something entirely new to Baltimore: an American single-malt whiskey.
“[With Single Malt] we’re not restrained by rules like the bourbon industry,” says Watkins from the distillery’s tasting room, tucked deep into an old warehouse in the former industrial neighborhood of Kresson, near Highlandtown. “We’re making a single malt something totally new here.”
Old Line decided to forego the traditional rye whiskey the Free State is know for in favor of something more challenging.
“We make it old-world style but age it new-world style,” Watkins says. “We use American white oak and let the seasons have an effect. In Scotland, say, the barrels are stored in cellars and such. Here, the humidity and temperature give the whiskey [character.]”
Old Line is also known for its Caribbean rum, which doesn’t take as long to age in the rackhouse and can therefore be turned around more quickly.
“We’re exploring other spirits like vodka and gin,” Watkins says. “But for now we’re really concentrating on the single malt. It’s what [Old Line] is known for.”