Pikesville Straight Rye Whiskey
What the Distillery Says:
The long history of Maryland Rye began with the Civil War. From 1861 to 1865, the Civil War brought thousands and thousands of outsiders to Maryland, who, upon war’s end, returned to other parts of the country, preferring the Maryland Rye they enjoyed during their stay. Pioneering Maryland businessmen worked to satiate this thirst for Maryland Rye with the help of improved railway infrastructure and the rise of coast-to-coast brand marketing.
L. Winand & Brothers Distillery was founded in the town of Scott’s Level, Maryland, just Northwest of Baltimore, where they began producing Pikesville Rye in 1895, named after the adjacent town. Historians speculate L. Winand & Brothers named their product Pikesville because “Scott’s Level” would have sounded too much like Scotch.
The passage of the 18th Amendment, which enacted Prohibition, forced the L. Winand & Brothers Distillery to close. Following repeal, businessman Andrew Merle acquired the Pikesville brand in 1936 and contracted Monumental Distillery, owned by Standard Distillers in Baltimore for distillation of the brand.
A collapsing smokestack accident in 1946 at Monumental caused a change of hands and the renaming to Majestic Distilling Corporation. With sales of Maryland Rye dwindling, Majestic ceased distillation in Baltimore in 1972, marking the end of Maryland Rye production and securing Pikesville’s place in history as the last-standing Maryland Rye brand. Even with the distillery in Baltimore closed, the brand survived on existing whiskey stocks until 1982 when it was sold to Heaven Hill. Since then, it has been produced in Kentucky and is now produced at the historic Bernheim Distillery.
Pikesville Straight Rye Whiskey refuses to be forgotten. First produced in Maryland in the 1890s, the brand, along with the rest of the once-booming Maryland Rye industry, was shuttered by prohibition. The brand reemerged after prohibition and became the last standing Maryland Rye, as the rest of the industry’s production had ceased. Now produced in Kentucky from extra-aged barrels stored in prime warehouse locations, Heaven Hill keeps this historic Maryland mark alive with this award-winning six year old, 110 proof offering.
COLOR: Pale copper
AROMA: Dusty cocoa notes with oaky smoke underneath
TASTE: Dry and spicy, with honeyed rye and cloves
FINISH: Soft vanilla and baking spices
What Gary Says:
Nose: Rich, orange zest & a hint of dark chocolate under rye spice.
Palate: Bright pepper spice w/ warm cinnamon rolls & clove; intense with citrus undertones.
Finish: Medium & peppery.
Comments: I’m a big rye fan – and I really like this whiskey. I’d have it in my cabinet . . . if it were less expensive. I think Rittenhouse BIB (also by Heaven Hill) is one of the best rye-buys on the market. This is basically that same distillate with a couple more years of age and at a higher proof. Age and proof aren’t the whole story (not sure where these are aged vs Rittenhouse), but to charge more than twice what I can pick up Rittenhouse BIB for seems a bit much for me. If this were more like $35-$40 – I would call it a “Must Try” (and honestly, if you consider yourself a rye fan – I really would look for an opportunity to try it . . . ideally without having to buy a whole bottle first).
Rating: Stands Out
What Richard Says:
Nose: Melted chocolate oranges with mint tea by the smoker out in the backyard.
Palate: Aggressive and muscular. Cinnamon, brown sugar, cloves, allspice berries, crushed mint, and vanilla pods cured together in old, seasoned oak barrels.
Finish: Dry oak and slightly bitter with a dusting of cocoa powder.
Comments: A delicious and aggressive rye that, like it’s younger brother Rittenhouse, plays well in nearly all situations from cocktails to slow sippers and everything in between. Like Gary, my only complaint is the price. I realize that a number of ridiculously overpriced non-distilling producer bottled ryes of similar age are pushing up the market price. It really is a shame. Even still, I think this would be stellar in the $35 to $40 but at $50+ its a bit steep.
Rating: Stands Out