By John Lipman (American Whiskey, ©2006)
Sometime in 1972 a wooden bung was pounded home, and the last barrel of Pikesville Maryland rye whiskey was rolled into the warehouse at Majestic’s distillery in Lansdowne. And with that event, the great Maryland rye whiskey industry, which had once been a major player in the American whiskey business, came to a final close.
Well, sort of… Straight rye whiskey isn’t “done yet” until it’s aged in a new charred oak barrel for upwards of four years, so it would be the mid-to-late seventies at the earliest before it would be bottled. Some would continue to age well into the early ’80s. The company that made it didn’t close; they just stopped distilling new whiskey. Pikesville would continue to be bottled there for several years. But the whiskey would be from other distilleries. And Majestic was the last one in Maryland.
Then again, the saga of American whiskey wouldn’t be anywhere near so fascinating if the stories were short, direct, and not intertangled with one another. And Pikesville, as the last brand to proudly wear the words “Maryland Rye” on its label, is certainly not about to be an exception to that rule.
For one thing, there’s the little fact that Pikesville still exists. In fact, it may well be the most popular rye whiskey in Maryland today, easily outselling its Kentucky cousins. The complication is simply that today’s Pikesville — Pikesville Supreme Straight Rye Whiskey (as opposed to Pikesville Maryland Straight Rye Whiskey) — really is its own Kentucky cousin.
The Baltimore company that produced Pikesville when it was a Maryland rye was Standard Distillers Products, Inc., which appears to have been related to the Corporation Trust Corporation of Baltimore. Both companies shared an address at 300 East Lombard Street, and CTC were, until very recently, the owners of the Majestic Distillery where Pikesville was made and bottled for most of its post-prohibition career as a Maryland rye whiskey.
A career which met a formidable obstacle in 1972, when Majestic ceased its distilling operations, and a final blow in 1982 with the sale of the Pikesville brand to Heaven Hill of Bardstown, Kentucky. So it seems that Maryland’s most popular rye whiskey is now being made and bottled (as it has been for nearly a quarter-century now!) in Kentucky.
Continue reading “Pikesville Maryland Rye: The End of an Era” at American Whiskey.