Rye Whiskey, I Cry

A journey into Maryland ’s past . . . and future

By Baynard Woods (Baltimore City Paper, 11/14/2012)

Rye Whiskey used to be the drink of Maryland. There were two styles, in fact: a Pennsylvania and a Maryland style. The Pennsylvania style was reportedly spicier, whereas the Maryland style was a bit sweeter. But by the 1970s, as ’s popularity reached its nadir, the authentic versions of both styles had largely disappeared. Majestic Distillers, in Landsowne, distilled its last batch in 1972, ultimately selling the company to Heaven Hill.

We at “City That Drinks” drink Pikesville on a regular basis, but we wanted to see how close it was to actual Maryland rye, so we called up Clay Risen, an editor at The New York Times and the author of the forthcoming encyclopedic American Whiskey, Bourbon, and Rye (and a fellow with whom “City That Drinks” has shared a few tastings).

“Most people old enough to have tasted Pikesville when it was a product of Maryland say it is not the same,” Risen says. “It is a legacy brand and the thing about a lot of legacy brands is that the brand is where the value is, not the stuff in the bottle.”

Risen goes on to say, however, “The cool thing about Pikesville is that it exists. It is not made in Maryland anymore, but it is really a product for Maryland. It’s [one of Maryland’s] foodway[s], part of a residual culture. I can’t think of another whiskey like that.”

In many ways, Pikesville parallels National Bohemian: made elsewhere but still beloved by Baltimore and largely available only here.

Continue reading “Rye Whiskey, I Cry” at Baltimore City Paper.

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