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Hailing from Baltimore Maryland, Sagamore Spirits are “committed to putting Maryland back on the map as the premier distiller of rye whiskey.”
Construction began on Sagamores five-acre distilling complex in Baltimore’s Port Covington neighbourhood in 2015. Their first release, Sagamore Signature Rye, hit stores in early 2016 using rye whiskey sourced from MGP, whilst their own distillate matures to a target minimum age of 4 years under the watchful eye of master distiller Larry Ebersold. Known as the ‘God Father of Rye’, Larry Ebersold distilled Rye, and other whiskies, for nearly 40 years for what was Seagram’s, then LDI and now know as the MGP Distillery.
Today Sagamore Spirits boast a multi award winning Rye line up; the aforementioned Signature Rye, Sagamore Cask Strength Rye, and 4 barrel finishes; Double Oak, Cognac, Port and Vintners finishes.
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Sagamore currently achieves its ‘Maryland Style’ flavour profile by blending ’high rye’ and ‘lower rye’ whiskeys that were matured in 53-gallon barrels at MGP in Indiana. Blending two rye mash bills gives the flexibility to produce the sweet roundedness Maryland rye is renowned for. Once aged the barrels are shipped to Sagamore’s Maryland distillery where the distilling team blends, (finishes and further ages in the case of the special releases) and proofs the whiskey. The water used to proof Sagamore’s Ryes comes from Sagamore Farm’s spring house built in 1909 - where naturally filtered spring water bubbles beneath. Sagamore Farm is a fabled horse farm which sits atop a bed of precious limestone rock 22 miles outside of Baltimore, the same water which “fuels our champion thoroughbreds.”
Brief history of ‘Maryland Style’ Rye.
As Americas early settlers moved south from the northern states the distillers amongst them used the crop grains that were most abundant to distill their liquor. Rye grew better in the north with corn more abundant in the central and southern states. Pennsylvania Rye, otherwise knows as Monongahela Rye, was typically made from either a 100% rye mash bill or 95% rye and 5% malted barley, whereas Maryland Style Rye was typically blended with other grains; corn barley and or wheat.
Maryland rye was sweeter, more floral, smoother and less spicy than the Pennsylvania style. Advertisements from the late 19th century promoted Maryland Rye as a more refined alternative to its rougher and spicier cousin from Pennsylvania. Baltimore style rye proved to be popular with the Midwest producers and would eventually, with the more abundant corn in the mash bill, become the template for producing bourbon.
Maryland was once the third largest producer of rye whiskey in the US, reaching a production high point of 5.6 million gallons in 1911. The state was home to 44 distilleries, 13 of which were in Baltimore. Although many distilleries never recovered from forced closing during Prohibition 1920 - 1933. Despite Prohibition, in 1939, Maryland was still holding 14.1 million gallons of rye whiskey, one third of the entire US supply. On Americas intervention into World War II the distilleries that did reopen were converted to ethanol production and after the war, few returned to making rye.
Sagamore Spirits Distillery
Completed April 2017 and amongst the first distilleries built in Maryland since the beginning of Prohibition, 2015 saw the Sagamore Spirit company begin construction of their distillery on a 22,000-square-foot plot of land in Baltimore’s Port Covington neighbourhood.
The distillery includes a 6,000-gallon mash cooker and nine, 6,500-gallon fermentation tanks. Distillation is from the worlds first 40 foot mirror finished copper column still custom built for the distillery by the Kentucky based Vendome company. The facility also has a small, 250-gallon pot still that is used for R & D purposes and for small batch seasonal releases and new spirits. The whiskey is aged in a 20,000-barrel capacity facility in North Point, Maryland where the company ages to taste rather than for a specific period, but anticipates that spirit will be aged for at least four years.
The entire five-acre distilling complex includes a 27,000-square-foot welcome and processing centre containing a bottling line, barrel filter, dump trough, and ten, 1,000-gallon capacity, proofing and gauging tanks. The iconic 130 foot water tower holds the unique spring-fed water from Sagamore Farm, transported 22 miles form the farm to the distillery. The complex also has a gift store, two tasting rooms, a full-service bar and restaurant and a Rye Street Tavern, which is independently owned.
Sagamore Core Range
Sagamore Signature Rye was first released in early 2016. Distilled and matured in 53-gallon barrels at MGP in Indiana, the finished whiskey is a blend of two rye recipes, one that is high rye-based and another that is low rye-based, developed by a team of experts led by master distiller Larry Ebersold, formerly of Seagrams. Once matured the ryes are transported to Sagamore’s Maryland distillery for blending and proofing with to the bottling strength of 83 proof using limestone-filtered spring water from Sagamore Farm. The Sagamore Spirit distillery is currently open and operational, with the brand putting away its own stock for future releases.
Sagamore Cask Strength Rye, first released in 2018, is fuelled by Maryland’s great veteran distillers. Sagamore have forged a new path to define cask strength rye whiskey. There are no shortcuts, no dilutions or alterations – simply a splash of spring water and a time-honored tradition of patience and purpose. Aged fully, and exploding in colour and flavor, it’s a spirit that connects us to a storied past only Maryland Rye Whiskey can claim. These are Sagamore's deepest roots, distilled.
Sagamore Double Oak was first released in December 2018, by Sagamore Spirit in Baltimore, Maryland. After ageing Sagamore's award-winning spirit for four years, its is placed into a second first use oak barrel for an additional four to six months. These barrels are made from staves with grooves milled into the interior ('wave stave') which increases the surface area of the inside of the barrel, ensuring a combination of charred and more lightly-toasted wood comes into contact with the whiskey. The new toasted staves re-energise the ageing process, creating flavors full of caramel and dark vanilla and colours that radiate amber and warm chestnut. It’s a Straight Rye Whiskey perfect for the spirit of celebration. Three diamonds. Two barrels. One extraordinary Straight Rye Whiskey.