Whiskey Review Round Up: New Liberty Distillery Maryland Heritage Series - The Whiskey Wash

Whiskey Review Round Up: New Liberty Distillery Maryland Heritage Series

New Liberty Distillery Maryland Heritage Series

image via Sarah Coppola/The Whiskey Wash

America’s whiskey distilling heritage and culture is marked by unique variances across different regions and states. While certain regions are newer to whiskey distilling and production, the activity in others began centuries ago. And today, when anything “vintage” is particularly attractive, some distillers have identified an opportunity to offer whiskey drinkers a taste of what used to be, and modernize older and beloved spirits.

Maryland, known for many things marine (blue crabs, sailing), happens to boast an incredibly rich and storied history in distilling, dating back to the 1500s. (Fun fact: during Prohibition, Maryland became known as the “Free State” – while they did not escape this period unscathed, they rejected passing legislation outlawing alcohol.)

The award-winning New Liberty Distillery of Philadelphia has developed a Maryland Heritage Series to pay homage to this somewhat under-appreciated episode of America’s whiskey history. The series features three different whiskeys: a straight bourbon, a straight rye, and an eight-year-old American whiskey. New Liberty Distillery describes the undertaking as “reinterpreting some of the famous, but forgotten, Maryland brands that once formed the foundation of the American whiskey industry” – and in doing so, they’re reviving some classics for today’s whiskey drinkers.

At the creative and technical helm of cultivating this series is New Liberty Distillery’s master distiller Robert J. Cassell, an award-winning pioneer in craft distilling. His quest to re-create new whiskeys that capture the spirit of old, Cassel developed Maryland Club Straight Bourbon, Melvale Straight Rye, and Melky Miller 8 Year Old American Whiskey.

Tasting Notes: Maryland Club Straight Bourbon

Vital Stats: Mash bill of 51% corn and 49% malted barley, aged in new oak barrels for at least three years, bottled at 95 proof.

Appearance: Unlike some of its richer bourbon counterparts, the Maryland Club Straight Bourbon glows a pale golden-yellow.

Nose: The heat is ON. From first smell, an alcohol astringency can make the sinuses tingle and the eyes water. More dedicated nosing releases undertones of sugar cookie and maple.

Palate: Burn baby burn! And not surprising, given the nose. Upon first sip, this has some fieriness to start, particularly in the front of the mouth, enhanced with a hint of citrus-like acidity. The heat moves so slowly backward it almost seems the heat has dissipated – but then it resurfaces to warm the throat, and with it, a whisper of vanilla bean.

Final Thoughts & Score:

Score: 72/100

The heat of this bourbon is a bit overpowering, and somewhat buries its subtle nuances. The addition of one or a few rocks (depending on size) helps to mellow the heat of this bourbon.

Tasting Notes: Melvale Straight Rye

Vital Stats: Mash bill of 51% rye and 49% malted barley. It is aged three years and bottled at 90 proof, priced on average at $32.99.

Appearance: Melvale Straight Rye boast an appealingly rich, medium copper color.

Nose: The aroma is layered with all-spice and a hint of Chinese five-spice, counterbalanced with notes reminiscent of bourbon-esque toasted oak.

Palate: A bit of heat and tingling upfront dissipates quickly to unveil a savory and herbal quality, complemented by a mild honey sweetness. It is a simple, non-complex rye.

Final Thoughts & Score:

Score: 75/100

Melvale Straight Rye is straightforward, making for an easily adaptable spirit that can be enjoyed straight or featured in a cocktail. Interestingly, it was awarded a Gold medal for Straight Rye Whiskey Aged 2-5 years at the 2016 American Distilling Institute’s 10th Annual Craft Spirit Competition.

Tasting Notes: Melky Miller 8 Year Old American Whiskey

Vital Stats: A sourced 100% corn whiskey aged eight years in used, charred American oak cooperage. Bottled at the distillery at 90 proof, sold on average at $32.99.

Appearance: This whiskey has a warm, wildflower honey hue with long-lasting legs.

Nose: Soft floral notes are first detected, followed by a richer scent reminiscent of a caramel-dipped apple.

Palate: This was both the gentlest yet the most dynamic whiskey of the three in the Heritage series. Soft spice notes upfront give way to toffee that fills the mouth, with sweetness balanced by minerality and a clean finish.

Final Thoughts & Score: 

Score: 80/100

A well-balanced and easy sipper, Melky Miller 8 Year Old American Whiskey fares as well neat as it does with the addition of one ice cube. It’s also worth noting that this whiskey is named after Melchior “Melky” Miller, a respected 19th-to-early-20th-century Maryland distiller-farmer-entrepreneur whose business continued to live on posthumously through his sons until their distillery was forced closed in 1919 due to the Prohibition. Known perhaps as much for their whiskey as for their namesake stoneware and glassware, Melky Miller branded jugs remain desirable collectables today.

Editor’s Note: The Whiskey Wash welcomes Sarah Coppola to our review team.