The first site chosen was the Baltimore Whiskey Company. They are open for tours on Saturday from noon till four, and I'd be getting there right around noon.
"There" is the hindquarters of an unpreposessing brick building in Jones Falls. I got the Jones Falls bit off their website; I know almost nothing about Baltimore neighborhoods. The rest of the description of "there" I got from personal experience.
|The entrance. You want fancy, go to the waterfront, hon.|
|Can a whiskey company door get more Baltimore than this?|
Well, and whiskey too. They are building up stock, from a rye and malted rye mashbill, that will age in 53 gallon barrels for two years before it hits the market. I admire them for that, considering very young ryes do sell these days, and some of them are even
In the meantime, cash must flow. To make their gin, they macerate botanicals in grain neutral spirit (sourced, if we say "sourced" about pharmaceutical grade GNS; their copper pot still isn't ever going to give them a pure enough spirit), run it through the still a couple of times, and bottle it at 100 proof as Baltimore Shot Tower Gin. (The shot tower, a Baltimore landmark, is also featured on their logo.)
On my visit, the open 500-gallon fermenters -- they're cypress, and they're spectacular -- were filled with apple juice bubbling away, post-pressing peels and such floating on top. This will show up this summer as Charles St. Apple Brandy, following some months in used rye barrels. (The barrels are purchased from Speyside Cooperage, which opened a Kentucky office in 2010, so they're probably from one of the major distilleries.) I'm easing into apple brandy as a hobby, so I'm really looking forward to getting some Charles Street when it comes out.
They're also excited about a ginger apple liqueur -- their brandy "macerated with ginger and other botanicals, and distilled ... then sweetened with molasses, sugar, and apple juice" -- that's coming soon. It sounds like it could make a fantastic toddy, or bread pudding sauce.
|Apple brandy in its larval stage.|
There was no distilling going when I was there, so I got a good look at the inside of their still. The still, mashtun, and fermenters were all made by different independent craftsmen from around the country; the BWC operation is sort of a compounded craft effort, which is kind of cool -- always assuming the whiskey turns out good.
|The freshly scrubbed inside of the 250 gallon still.|
|The outside of the still.|
|The left side of the still.|
It's the juniper that always gets me. Pine trees aren't people food. I'm happy to say BWC's gin is not particularly heavy on the juniper; you'd never take it for a London dry gin. I could even convince myself it tasted more like an herbal infused aquavit than a gin. It's not something I needed to buy, but I wouldn't wince if someone poured me a glass and I can believe Baltimore bartenders are coming up with good recipes that use it. I hope to try the "barrel rested" gin they'll be releasing in several months; I expect I'd be able to make some cocktails both my Sapphire-drinking wife and I would enjoy.
It's a bit sad to finish a post on a distillery visit with talk of gin, but considering that the Baltimore Whiskey Company started distilling in November, maybe it's just as well. I shall watch their future career with interest, and no doubt some investment as the product line matures.