At Blackwater Distilling, we have a riveted focus on quality and creativity. Our philosophy has always been that marketing and advertising might be able to get someone to buy the first bottle, but it can’t keep them coming back for more unless what’s inside is better than what they're used to. It’s all about what’s in the bottle for us, and we’ve grown to where we are today largely on word of mouth about world-class spirits being made right here in Maryland. For us, that means working with a combination of spirits we distill in-house and spirits we source from outstanding producers around the world—and, most importantly, being honest about which is which.
“Produced and Bottled” vs. “Distilled and Bottled”
There is, unfortunately, a lot of dishonesty and downright deceit in the craft distilling world. One example: about ninety-five percent of the rye whiskey sold in America comes from one distillery in Indiana but it’s sold under countless brands trying to convince you they make it from an old family recipe by the “small batch.” In our opinion, that’s disingenuous. What’s not dishonest: transparently sourcing spirits from other distilleries and crafting them in unique ways through blending, filtering, or aging them in barrels. It’s estimated, for example, that 60-70% of a whiskey’s flavor comes from the barrels it’s aged in. We, like you, want to know what we’re buying when we pull a bottle of “handcrafted” spirit off the shelf. So we would offer the following lesson in transparency. And really, who else would offer this much detail?
If you look on the back of a bottle of our Sloop Betty Handcrafted Wheat Vodka, you’ll notice the words “Produced and Bottled by Blackwater Distilling.” Those words are our honest acknowledgement that we do not distill the spirits that make up Sloop Betty, but we are transforming spirits distilled elsewhere into something uniquely delicious at our distillery.
When we set out to make Sloop Betty, we wanted to make a vodka that would stand out against other top-shelf vodkas with millions in marketing dollars behind them based on quality alone. To accomplish that, we did a number of recipe development distillations on our three-gallon Holstein still (the biggest still we could afford when we founded the company in the midst of the 2008 financial crisis!), and settled on a combination of organic wheat and organic sugar cane as our base. We then went in search of distillers who could make truly outstanding neutral spirits out of those two raw materials.
Sloop Betty is a blend of those two spirits: 80% organic wheat, and 20% organic sugar cane. At the distillery, we lightly filter the combination of spirits through a blend of activated carbon that highlights, rather than eliminates, the berry notes from the organic wheat, and bring the vodka down to bottle proof with water from local aquifers that we filter on site.
On the back of a bottle of Picaroon Maryland Rum, you’ll see the words “Distilled and Bottled by Blackwater Distilling.” This is how we indicate that we are making Picaroon entirely from scratch, right here in Maryland. We start with a cane sugar that is as raw as you can get—nothing added, nothing removed—and a strain of yeast isolated from natural sugar cane fermentations to bring out the tropical fruit aromas that are a signature of our rum. Click here to read more about the process we use to make Maryland’s most sippable rum.
In the future, you’ll see Blackwater Distilling products, particularly whiskies, some of which we’ll be making entirely from scratch at the distillery, and others where we’ll be adding our own touch to something born half a world away. Others will be collaborations with local breweries and wineries where we’re distilling an alcohol on-site that was mashed or fermented elsewhere. Our promise to you is that we’ll always be honest about what we’re doing, and you’ll always be able to tell from our packaging whether a product is “produced and bottled,” “distilled and bottled,” or "blended, barreled, and bottled" by Blackwater Distilling.
Chris, Jon, Andy, Mark, Lily and the gang