A Brief History of Pikesville Rye Whiskey

Last night I posted a list of my favorite obtainable rye whiskeys. A number of people commented on Instagram that I missed a good one...Pikesville Rye. I agree. It's a great whiskey made at Heaven Hill in Bardstown, Kentucky. But folks should know a little something about the original Pikesville Rye, which colored my choice to leave it off of the list. 

Not far from where I grew up, there's a little town called Scott's Level, Maryland. Once upon a time in Scott's Level (around the 1890s), a distillery called L. Winand & Bro. developed a rye whiskey named Pikesville for the nearby town. Prohibition knocked L. Winand out of business, but in 1936, a man named Andrew Merle purchased the rights to Pikesville Maryland Rye Whiskey. Merle contracted the Standard Distillers Products (SDP) to make rye whiskey and call it Pikesville for his new venture. Recently, we had a chance to sip on some very dusty and delicious SDP Pikesville Maryland Rye at Jack Rose in D.C.

SDP's distillery in Lansdowne, Maryland (owned by another company in Baltimore) burned in 1942 but was rebuilt and renamed The Majestic Distillery in 1943. The Majestic continued to make damn good Pikesville Rye for the next several decades along with brands like Old Setter (see my photo below of the little 1960s bottle we recently picked up) until 1972 when the last barrel was rolled into the warehouse and production ceased. Eventually, the entire Maryland rye whiskey industry went bust and the brand was sold to Heaven Hill where it's made today.
Don't get me wrong, the Pikesville Rye made at Heaven Hill is a great whiskey. And it's obtainable/affordable. It should have made my list. But 'm a nostalgic Marylander...so it did not.