Overview

  • Two cask strength bottles of the initial blend of un-aged rye spirit and three-year corn whiskey
  • Two cask strength bottles after one year in the barrel
  • Two cask strength bottles after two years in the barrel
  • Two cask strength bottles after finishing in port casks
  • Exclusive access to a series of in-depth educational workshops and barrel tastings outlined below

Update

Membership to Whiskey Project No. 1 is closed and the whiskey is in barrels! Stay tuned for info on Whiskey Project No. 2.

Background

Before Prohibition, Maryland was America’s third-largest distilling state, and the state was known for its whiskey, specifically, rye whiskey. The Maryland Rye “brand” was so popular that distilleries as far away as Massachusetts were releasing Maryland Ryes. There were three phases of Maryland Rye whiskey:

  • The “bad old days” before the 1906 Pure Food and Drug Act, which among other things stated that Maryland Rye could only be made in Maryland. Prior to this law, the quality of Maryland Ryes varied widely, and much of what was called Maryland Rye Whiskey today could not even legally be called whiskey. Many distilleries blended in neutral spirits, prune juice, and used other disqualifying practices.

  • Pre-Prohibition. Between the implementation of the Pure Food and Drug Act and the beginning of Prohibition, Maryland Rye Whiskey existed in a state that would have been recognized today as a distinctive style of rye whiskey. Little information exists about the makeup of Maryland Ryes distilled in this era, but our research indicates that Maryland Rye generally had a rye content somewhere between what would today be called the Kentucky (near the legal minimum of 51% rye) and Monongahela (close to 100% rye) styles of rye whiskey

  • Post-Prohibition. Prohibition killed off all the original Maryland Rye brands. Late in the Prohibition era, many entrepreneurs read the tea leaves and began laying the groundwork for massive distilling operations for the day Prohibition was repealed. After Prohibition, Maryland Rye whiskey flooded the market, but with the outbreak of world war, these distilleries were conscripted to produce fuel ethanol, and Maryland Rye again became scarce. After the war, the explosion of vodka onto the market and consumer preferences for “light” spirits, caused whiskey in general to fall out of favor. Maryland Rye whiskies of that era became lighter and lighter, satisfying neither whiskey lovers nor vodka drinkers. By 1972, Pikesville Rye, the last fully licensed distillery in Maryland, had shut its doors. Pikesville is now owned by Heaven Hill and distilled in Kentucky in the Kentucky style of minimal rye content and is no longer an example of a Maryland-style rye.

At Blackwater Distilling, the first distillery to open in Maryland since the shuttering of Pikesville, we intend to bring back the Pre-Prohibition style of Maryland Rye. We’ve made small-scale efforts toward this at the distillery, making the first legal distillations of Maryland Rye since 1972 beginning in 2013. While we save up the capital to roll our in-house distilled Maryland Rye out on a larger scale, we plan to take a unique approach to bringing back the style of Maryland Rye by combining spirits carefully sourced elsewhere in proportions that would approximate the pre-Prohibition makeup of Maryland Rye.

Proposal

Blackwater Distilling will acquire, barrel, and bottle a limited edition whiskey with the characteristics of a historic Maryland Rye. We will achieve this by blending together two whiskey spirits: an un-aged Indiana rye spirit of 95% rye and 5% malted barley, and a three-year Canadian corn whiskey of 95% corn and 5% malted barley. By combining these two excellent whiskies, we will approximate a mash bill of 72% rye, 23% corn, and 5% malted barley. We will store the blended whiskies in new, 53-gallon American white oak barrels with a No. 3 char (or No. 4/5 char if the barrels, currently scarce, can be sourced). We would like to note that there are currently almost no examples of rye whiskies of similar mash bills on the market that have been aged in the industry standard 53-gallon American white oak barrel.

We will be making an exclusive “behind the scenes” series of bottles available to our customers who would like to preorder bottles of whiskey from this project. We refer to these exclusive bottles as a “share” of the project. A “share” will be equal to:

  • Two 750ml bottles of the initial blend of the un-aged rye spirit and three-year corn whiskey

  • Two 750ml bottles of one-year whiskey from the "workshop barrel" (simply the barrel that samples and pre-release bottles are pulled from)

  • Two 750ml bottles of two-year straight rye whiskey from the "workshop" barrel

  • Two 750ml bottles of 30-month straight rye whiskey finished in port casks

All bottles in a share will be filled, without chill filtering, at "cask strength." At the end of the project, additional whiskey will be available to shareholders and general consumers only at bottle strength. The cost of a share is $500. The purchase of one or more shares offers the subscriber the opportunity to own multiple expressions of the spirit that will be available only to those purchasing shares in advance. Blackwater Distilling will require the sale of 40 shares in order to proceed with the project.

Workshops

In addition to the “shares,” we will offer a behind-the-scenes educational "workshop" experience about barrel aging and Maryland Rye. The workshops will include:

  • Kickoff meeting: Tour of the Blackwater distillery, a tasting of existing Blackwater Distilling products (vodkas and rums), a tasting of the pre-blended rye spirit and corn whiskey, and a discussion of the project.

  • At the six-month mark (or thereabouts): a workshop and tasting at the distillery with Distiller Andy Keller who will discuss the science and decision-making behind barrel aging and the history of Maryland Rye. The workshop will include samples from the workshop barrel, which is simply the barrel that will be used for all barrel samplings and exclusive early-release bottles. Tasting will also include a comparison of the un-aged spirit with the barrel sample at six months. Shareholders will receive their bottles of unaged spirit at this meeting, as well as a Blackwater Distilling snifter glass.

  • At the eighteen month mark (or thereabouts): a workshop and tasting at the distillery with Distiller Andy Keller, which will include samples from the workshop barrel, a comparison with the product bottled previously at one year, and a discussion of the changes that have occurred in the barrel so far. Shareholders will receive their bottles of one-year whiskey at this meeting.

  • At the two-year mark (or thereabouts): a workshop at the distillery with Distiller Andy Keller to select the barrel(s) that will be finished in the port cask and allocated first to those who have purchased shares. The workshop will include samples from five barrels selected by the Blackwater team for consideration.

  • Bottling and labelling: workshop members will have the opportunity to join for the bottling and labeling of the final product and will have to option to have their bottles signed by the Blackwater Distilling team.

The workshops will be free to the 40 people purchasing “shares.” Shareholders will have the option of purchasing up to two additional workshop experiences for spouses and friends at a cost of $100 per person.

A note on the naming of the final product

United States law is quite specific restrictive on the naming of whiskies and unlike the laws of some other countries, does not allow for the separate distillation of spirits to be combined before barrel aging. Because the whiskey Blackwater Distilling will eventually be bottling will be a combination of a rye whiskey and a corn whiskey made to mimic a certain mash bill rather than a single whiskey distilled from that mash bill, American whiskey law will not allow us to label the whiskey as “rye whiskey.” Most likely, it will have to be labeled as “a blend of whiskies.” Blackwater Distilling will attempt to clarify via text on the back label of the product, that the whiskey has been created by blending an un-aged Indiana rye spirit with a three-year Canadian corn whiskey and re-barreling the blend in new oak.

The law also specifies that only time spent in a new, charred, white oak barrel counts toward age statements in most categories of whiskey, and that in a blend, the youngest whiskey determines the allowable age statement. So after two years of additional aging, the whiskey will only be considered to be two years old, despite containing some whiskey that has been aged a total of five years. Blackwater Distilling will coordinate with the TTB and will attempt to categorize the whiskey as “a blend of straight whiskies”, but the possibility exists that the category of “a blend of whiskies” may be the only category legally applicable to this whiskey, regardless of time in barrels.

How to participate

Whiskey Project No. 1 is full. Please check back for info on Whiskey Project No. 2!

 

Cheers!

 

Chris, Jon, and Andy