According to the Maryland Distillers Guild , distilling in Maryland dates back to as early as the 1500s, when colonists first began producing rum and whiskey. Distilling was so prevalent that prior to Prohibition, the state was the third largest producer of rye whiskey. And Maryland gained its reputation as the “Free State” by refusing to pass legislation enforcing Prohibition. Today, the production of craft spirits is booming once again with more than 20 distilleries operating in the state. Here is a look at some of those distilleries and destinations for cocktails.
Located in Frederick, Tenth Ward Distilling Co. specializes in whiskey, brandy, seasonal liqueurs and absinthe. The name Tenth Ward is a references a period in the 19th century when the city was divided into 10 wards. The distillery’s original location was in what used to be considered the Tenth Ward. The distillery’s year-round products include Genever Style Gin, Smoked Bourbon, Absinthe Nouvelle, Caraway Rye, Smoked Corn Whiskey and Applejack, an apple brandy aged in bourbon barrels and finished in sweet honey mead barrels. The Smoked Bourbon is made with corn grown and smoked in-house by a farmer 30 miles from Frederick in Charles Town, West Virginia, as well as barley grown and malted on the same farm. Absinthe Nouvelle is Maryland’s first absinthe, and it is distilled with wormwood, anise and fennel. Earlier this month, the distillery opened its Cocktail Lab, where it serves 10 drinks designed by Tenth Ward’s Head Distiller, Mark A. Vierthaler.
East of Frederick, MISCellaneous Distillery opened in Mount Airy in 2017. Founded by husband and wife Dan and Meg McNeil, the distillery won four medals at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition this year, including double gold for Gregarious Gin (made from a Domino Sugar molasses base, which is vapor-infused with six botanicals) and Popi’s Finest Rum (which pays homage to Dan McNeill’s great-grandfather, who grew up in Cuba and serves as the inspiration behind the 600-day barrel aged spirit). The distiller also took home silver for the Risky Rum (which won a gold medal in 2018) and bronze for the Gertrude’s 100% Rye Whiskey (named after Dan’s grandmother). The distillery also makes Dew Point Rum, Brill’s Batch Bourbon Whisky, Restless Rye Whisky, Diametric Rye, Vivacious Vodka and MISCellaneous Corn Whiskey.
In Baltimore, Sagamore Spirit specializes in crafting rye whiskey. Its Signature Rye Whiskey is 83 proof and features vanilla, caramel and baking spices on the nose with candied dried orange peel, notes of cloves and nutmeg and hints of walnut and brown sugar on the palate. Cask Strength Rye is 113.6 proof and offers smooth dark chocolate paired with intense notes of black pepper and brown sugar on the palate. At 96.6 proof, Double Oak Rye Whiskey is aged in a second oak barrel (after an initial four-year aging process), creating flavors of caramel and dark vanilla. Sagamore Spirit also makes Port Finish, Vintner’s Finish and Moscatel Barrel Finished Whiskey.
Seacrets Distilling Co. of Ocean City produces a wide range of rum, vodka, gin and whiskey. Seacrets launched in 2014 and opened its 12,000-square-foot distillery in 2016. The distillery’s flagship spirit Spiced Rum has garnered numerous awards. The 70 proof spirit begins as Seacrets White Rum and is macerated with cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, clove and crystallized ginger for one month. Then it is blended in aged rum and finished with blackstrap molasses and a double-fold Madagascar vanilla extract. Seacrets also produces Gold Rum, Coconut Rum, Handcrafted Vodka, Lemon Drop Vodka, Orange Vodka, Ruby Red Grapefruit Vodka, Bumbleberry Vodka, Handcrafted Gin, American Whiskey and Bourbon Whiskey.
On the outskirts of Washington, D.C., in Hyattsville, Sangroid Distilling focuses on brandies, Dutch-style gin and Maryland rye whiskey. All of the distillery’s spirits use fruit grown in its western Maryland orchard and grains from Maryland farmers. The distillery was founded by brothers-in-law Nate Groenendyk and Jeff Harner and opened in late 2018.
More distilleries worthy of attention in Maryland include Lyon Distilling Co . in St. Michaels, McClintock Distilling Co. in Frederick, Fiore Winery & Distillery in Pylesville, Tobacco Barn Distillery and Baltimore Spirits Co. For bars creating great cocktails with craft spirits, seek out Sailor Oyster Bar and Preserve —both in Annapolis—and White Rabbit Gastropub in Frederick.