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Maryland-based Sagamore Spirit touts ‘Bourbon’s Older Brother’ with provocative billboard for Derby

I-65 toward Churchill Downs will be a high traffic zone before, during and after the Derby this weekend. Among the many out of towners coming to Louisville, a Maryland-based rye whiskey brand has made a major entrance with a provocative billboard along I-65, grabbing the attention of Derby goers, Bourbon drinkers and history buffs.

If you’re heading to Churchill Downs or walking around downtown Louisville this weekend, you’re bound to see the brands’ static billboard and mobile billboards, which will be roaming around the area throughout the weekend, in a grassroots effort to fuel a national debate about where American whiskey’s history truly began.

Sagamore Spirit claims that rye whiskey made in Maryland is “Bourbon’s Older Brother” in a giant billboard along the route to Churchill Downs in the heart of Bourbon country. The bold statement aims to draw consumers and industry experts to the newly launched WhiskeyWiki.us, an effort to set history straight about American whiskey making. The page calls for anyone with something to say to visit the page and share their knowledge of American whiskey history or jump in to comment on the records shared to date.

The timeline starts long before either state was founded with the “dawn of drinks” in the year 1,000 and the first record of whiskey distillation in Scotland in 1494. Skip ahead a few years and the Maryland State Archives show documentation of the imposition of the first whiskey tax in the colonies in 1756, which was apparently almost 40 years before Kentucky was founded, in 1792.

“The age-old story goes that Bourbon was the first whiskey distilled in the states, but after some serious digging in the Maryland State Archives we found records indicating taxation of whiskey in Maryland in the mid-1700s, years before Jacob Beam was born, and almost 40 years before Kentucky was even founded,” said Brian Treacy, President of Sagamore Spirit. “We’re a curious bunch at Sagamore Spirit and this got us thinking about what else might be out there. What do Pennsylvania or New York records say about whiskey distilling? We want find out!”

In a few short weeks WhiskeyWiki.us has developed into a robust timeline of spirits in pre- and post-colonial America. The goal is to settle the debate, and if the evidence irrefutably points to Kentucky – or Pennsylvania, or New York, as some believe – and not Maryland, Sagamore Spirit says it is ok with that.

The brand’s efforts to set the record straight about American whiskey come at a time when rye whiskey is red hot in the U.S., with the overall category standing at just over 1 million cases to date, up from 100,000 back in 2010, less than 10 years ago, according to Impact Databank.

Maryland was a hub for rye distilling until Prohibition and World War II factory conversion took their toll, all but eradicating all production by the 1970s. Today, more than 18 distilleries have popped up in Maryland in the last 5 years alone.

Sagamore Spirit opened its five-acre waterfront distillery campus in Baltimore in April 2017. Two short years since then, the brand’s rye whiskey was recently named the world’s Best Rye Whiskey at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition.

From Sagamore Spirit

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