Like Irish whiskey, American rye is experiencing extraordinary growth throughout the world.
This was not always the case. Historically speaking, the path American rye followed was similar to that of Irish whiskey—picture a roller coaster. It climbs to a peak, plummets to the ground, and then regains the potential height it once knew. This historical connection between both spirits is strengthened by the fact that American drinkers today are embracing and reviving both rye and Irish whiskey.
In the case of rye, the first surge in popularity was thanks to bartenders in the late 1800s. They crafted legendary cocktails including The Manhattan and Sazerac, always using rye as the base spirit. It was the spirit of choice for a country in renaissance. But starting in 1919, Prohibition took its toll and rye was forcibly pushed to backroom speakeasies. Only a single state, Maryland, stood in defiance of the Prohibition, refusing to ratify the amendment.
It was Maryland’s loyalty to its distilling culture that made it poised to take advantage of the rye resurgence post-prohibition. By 1939, Maryland held one-third of the nation’s rye whiskey supply and it was home to 44 distilleries. But just as soon as it hit its peak, ryes roller coaster ride plummeted, this time for patriotic reasons.
During the Second World War, 100% of Maryland distilleries converted to ethanol plant to support the war effort. Other distilleries followed suit. Over half of the government’s ethanol quota came from the nation’s distilling industry. Many distilleries never converted back—but it’s time again for a rise.
Brands such as Sagamore Spirit out of Baltimore, Maryland are committed to supporting the rye resurgence and telling the stories of great veteran distillers. Their five-acre waterfront distillery in downtown Baltimore invites guests to learn about the history of rye whiskey in Maryland and the important role distillation played to the economics of a growing port city.
Legendary Maryland Rye was known for its approachable palate; it was the limestone water that made that possible. While Sagamore Spirit is devoted to innovation, limestone water is a tradition they honor unconditionally. Each bottle of rye is proofed with a unique spring-fed water from Sagamore Farm, 22 miles from their distillery.
Sagamore Spirit launched its Signature Straight Rye Whiskey in 2016 on Friday the 13th. Now every time the date rolls around, Sagamore Spirit celebrates with bars, restaurants, and rye whiskey fans across the country. It’s a time to toast to the great distillers of the past and rye whiskey’s fruitful future. Of course, Rye Day the 13th festivities wouldn’t be complete without the creativity of exceptional mixologists. Whether it’s new take on classics or simply a perfect pour over a big ice cube, the men and women behind the bar bring the Rye Day experience to life.