Monday, June 22, 2015

Distillery To Open on Sisson Street

Lents, Newton, and Holshue talk business in their new space on Sisson street.

By Craig Bettenhausen

Rye whiskey is a Maryland tradition, one that will be alive again just across Sisson street in the coming weeks. The Baltimore Whiskey Company (BWC) is setting up its distillery now on the lower level of the old Broom Machine Factory building on Sisson Street, underneath Mill Valley General Store.

“The original plan was hatched 18 months ago maybe,” says co-owner Max Lents. Lents grew up in Houston, and has been working in the service and retail industries in Baltimore for 8 years. He considered opening a bar, but that morphed into a distillery in conversations with now-business-partner Ian Newton, a childhood friend. The idea “just took,” Lents says. “It went from dream to reality very quickly.” They brought in Jake Holshue from Montana, where he was head distiller for Trailhead Spirits. All three now live in Baltimore City.

As soon as the final permits and approvals come through, the team will be milling, mashing, fermenting, distilling, aging, blending, and bottling their products from scratch right on-site. They already have federal approval, and Lents expects that they will “be ready to hit the button when the city says it’s okay.”

“Rye is gonna be our thing,” Lents says, but the youngest whiskey they plan to put out will be aged two years in 53 gal oak barrels. Rye, a grain related to barley and wheat, will dominate BWC’s main recipe. A spirit must be made from at least 51% rye to be called a rye whiskey, but “ours will be significantly higher than that,” Lents says. “Maryland has not forgotten how to enjoy a good rye whiskey, so we intend to see that she does not forget how to manufacture it either.”

In the meantime, BWC will produce another traditional Maryland spirit, apple brandy, along with a ginger-apple liqueur based on that brandy, regular and barrel-aged gins, and a young rye cream liqueur.

The 4,200-sq-ft space, in addition to the whiskey-making equipment, will be decorated with work from local artists, and the owners hope for a gallery vibe. But it will not feature a public hangout space. “It’s not a bar,” Lents says. However, BWC will be open to visitors at certain hours offering factory tours, limited tastings, and limited on-site bottle sales.

“We’re excited about bringing rye whiskey back into Baltimore City,” Lents says. “I can count the weeks on my hands, I just don’t know how many fingers to use.” ◘