Wednesday, July 19, 2017

TasteCamp Maryland: Tenth Ward Distilling Company

"There was one mistake Baltimore never made. Baltimore, and the state of Maryland, never endorsed Prohibition. We were known as the wettest state, where beer and liquor was freely available before and after the Volstead Act's repeal in 1933."
--The Baltimore Sun, April 30, 2010

As I recently wrote, I attended TasteCamp 2017 in Maryland and during our weekend visit we sampled a number of local spirits. During our visit to McClintock Distilling Company, we also had the opportunity to taste some spirits from the Tenth Ward Distilling Company, and I found three of their products to be interesting, innovative and delicious.

The Tenth Ward Distilling Company, which opened in July 2016, is located at 508 East Church Street in Frederick, in a part of the city which was once known as the Tenth Ward. The distillery is owned by Monica Pearce and Kyle Pfalzer. Monica and Kyle are committed to environmental sustainability and also try to be as local as possible. For example, all of the grain they use is sourced relatively local, about 33 miles away, from the Ripon Lodge Farm in Rippon, West Virginia. In addition to providing the grains, the farm also malts their barley and rye, as well as smokes their corn.

The distillery's slogan is “Ward off ordinary,” which is a partial play off their name and also indicative of their objective to "push the limits with unconventional distilling and aging techniques while at the same time bringing back some historical and local aspects to our process." And based on the spirits I tasted, I see some of that unconventionality as well as homage to local history. They currently produce three spirits year-round, and a few others seasonally or as limited releases.

The Claude Countee Corn Whiskey ($28), produced year-round, is named after a famous Prohibition-era bootlegger from Frederick. The whiskey is made from a mashbill of 80% corn and 20% malted barley, and comes in at 95 proof. Though their website states this whiskey drinks similar to a peated Scotch or Mezcal, I feel that it is more like a smoky bourbon. You have the sweetness from the corn, enhanced by a prominent, but not overwhelming, smoky aspect. Sweet and smoky, it was quite tasty and smooth, despite the high alcohol content. This could be enjoyed on its own, though it would make for an excellent ingredient in a cocktail, maybe a smoky Manhattan.

The Lindsay Stunkle Rye Whiskey ($36), produced year-round, is also named after a famous Prohibition-era bootlegger from Frederick. This limited-release whiskey is made from a mashbill of 80% malted rye and 20% malted barley, and comes in at a whopping 120 proof. It is released twice a year, in June and November, and is intended for home aging. It is spicy and potent, enhanced by the addition of a little water, and will definitely appeal to rye lovers. There is complexity to its taste and a lengthy finish, and I would love to see this aged in the barrel for a number of years.

The most unique of their spirits was the White Caraway Rye ($36) which is made from a mashbill of 80% malted rye and 20% malted barley, and comes in at 95 proof. The spirit is mashed with caraway seed so it is intended to taste more like rye bread, though it may also remind you of Scandinavian Akvavit. I was captivated by the intriguing flavors of this spirit, as it certainly reminded me of spicy rye bread, with a hint of mint. Though you could drink this on its own, I think it would be best used in creating some fascinating cocktails.

Tenth Ward Distilling is producing some impressive and innovative spirits and there is much potential for the future. If you ever get to Maryland, seek out their spirits.

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