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Sagamore Spirit debuts its Port Covington distillery

Sagamore Spirit debuts its Port Covington distillery

Sagamore Spirit, Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank's whiskey company, showed off its new distillery along the Patapsco River on Thursday, as the facility prepares to open to the public on Friday.

The Sagamore Spirit Distillery, located at 301 E. Cromwell St., is the first new building in the Port Covington development envisioned by Plank and his private real estate firm, Sagamore Development Co. The project is to include a new headquarters campus for Under Armour as well as offices, residences, stores and recreational amenities such as trails and fields at an estimated total cost of $5.5 billion.

The distillery will be open daily for tours and tastings of the Sagamore Rye whiskey it began selling last May.

The tour will take guests on an hourlong walk through the whiskey-making process, starting in a visitors center featuring a history wall that tells the story of distilling in Maryland.

The state was home to 44 distilleries before Prohibition, including at least 13 in Baltimore, according to Sagamore. They were converted to ethanol plants during World War II, and a few resumed making whiskey when the war ended.

"We can now remind the world that Maryland is back on the map as the premier distiller of rye whiskey," said Sagamore Spirit President Brian Treacy at Thursday's ribbon-cutting event for the facility.

Plank and Bill McDermond, a friend from Plank's time at Fork Union Military Academy, founded Sagamore Spirit in 2013 with a mission of restoring Maryland's whiskey distilling tradition. The company broke ground on the facility in 2015 and its rye whiskey hit shelves last year.

Tours of the new facility will take guests through the 22,000-square-foot distillery building, where the process starts with Sagamore's 6,000-gallon mash cooker and nine 6,500-gallon fermenting tanks. The star of the room is a 40-foot mirrored-finish copper column still, made by Kentucky-based Vendome Copper and the only one of its kind in the world, according to Sagamore.

Guests also can check out a 250-gallon copper pot still, which will be used for research and development, seasonal releases and new spirits.

The processing building is where Sagamore's whiskey is put into barrels and mixed with water from Sagamore Farms, Plank's horse breeding and training facility in Baltimore County. The water is stored in a 120-foot-high water tower on the property. Guests also will be able to see how the whiskey is bottled.

The tasting room will offer visitors the opportunity to try the finished product. Bottles will be available for sale, too. A restaurant and event space are expected to open this fall.

At the distillery's ribbon-cutting Thursday, Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford, and Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh applauded Port Covington as a job creator and tourism driver.

The distillery has 50 employees, and officials said it is expected to draw 100,000 visitors a year for tastings and tours.

The distillery will be open daily for tours and tastings from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and the visitors center will be open from 9:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.

Starting Monday, tickets will be $15, with discounts for service members and those under 21. They can be reserved online at sagamorespirit.com or by calling 410-624-7488. The distillery is offering free tours this Friday through Sunday.

sarah.gantz@baltsun.com

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