New England Distilling Gunpowder Rye

If you read my post about the history of Michter's, you know that I am from Maryland. The Old Line State was once home to thousands of whiskey distilleries and many important brands. Maryland was once synonymous with rye whiskey. Baltimore County was the epicenter. You can read Chuck Cowdery's take on the Maryland style of rye whiskey here and John Lipman's explanation ( here.

Sadly, Prohibition and [later] the Vietnam/Cold War era decline in whiskey interest killed off the entire industry in both Pennsylvania and Maryland. Literally, the number of distilleries went from several thousand to zero.
I found this Prohibition-era Baltimore Distilling Co. crate at an antique emporium in NC (the backside says "for medicinal purposes only").
Maryland's modern whiskey industry is still a ghost of its former self. Today, there about 20 distilleries in Maryland, but that number will grow larger. The Maryland whiskey revival will be assisted by a sudden interest in rye whiskey across the country. But because Maryland rye is generally understood to be a style of whiskey (distinguished from Monongahela rye and Kentucky rye), Maryland style ryes are popping up left and right, most of which are not made in Maryland.

Heaven Hill produces the 6-year-old Pikesville Rye, a nod to a former Baltimore brand. Leopold Bros. in Denver, CO produces a well-liked Maryland style rye. New England Distilling in Portland, ME produces Gunpowder rye. The owner and master distiller at New England Distilling is Ned Wight.
Ned Wight supervising. Source: Portland Press Herald.
Over 150 years ago, Ned Wight's family began distilling rye whiskey just north of Baltimore, in Cockeysville, near the Gunpowder River on Old York Road. You can read an interesting history of the Wights, their distillery, and the pre-Prohibition lawsuit Dailey v. Wight here. You can read an even better history of the Wight Distillery and its post-Prohibition successor in Westminster, MD here. Today, the Gunpowder River is known for its abundant trout and good rapids for tubing. It's a great name for a Maryland style rye whiskey.

Ned Wight's Gunpowder Rye (70% rye, 30% barley) is an interpretation of his family's original product, now a distant memory, and a nod to Maryland's great whiskey past. Ned cut his teeth at Allagash Brewing Co. before opening his Portland distillery in 2011.

Gunpowder Rye

New England Distilling
87 proof
$45 MSRP* 

Color: Light to medium amber- on the orange side.

Nose: Funky! The nose stands out among hundreds of whiskeys I have nosed and sipped. That's not to say it is my favorite, but it is wild. I get fresh lemon peel, sweet and sour sauce, cedar wood, and something that reminds me of an old closet- leather or suede or mothballs maybe. 

Tasting Notes: The sip is sweet, but quickly transitions into a youthful heat. Sweetness and bitterness come through as orange rind and cinnamon. Grain and peppery spice dominate for a moment, but the experience ends with honey sweetness and lingering warmth.  

Overall: B. A damn fine rye, perhaps a little brash. The flavor profile reminds me of the Willett 2-year-old rye, but not quite as delicious. Gunpowder proves that rye whiskey can get really complex flavors despite less than two years in the wood.

Peer reviews:

Malt-Review (ridiculously verbose but fun review)

Weekend Sip (video)

*Disclaimer: New England Distilling sent me a bottle, no strings attached. I appreciate it.