Wal­dorf dis­tillery re­ceives award for first prod­uct

Blue Dyer grow­ing steadily, in­tro­duces first lo­cally pro­duced bour­bon

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By DAR­WIN WEIGEL dweigel@somd­news.com Twit­ter: @somd_bized­i­tor

Blue Dyer Dis­till­ing Co. in Wal­dorf was in busi­ness less than a year when it took home its first award — a sil­ver medal for its Blue Dyer Gold Rum in the aged rum cat­e­gory — at a com­pe­ti­tion in Bal­ti­more in April.

“We were floored. We de­cided to en­ter the prod­uct only be­cause this year’s [Amer­i­can Dis­till­ing In­sti­tute] con­ven­tion was in Bal­ti­more — we fig­ured we could drive to that,” said Ryan Vier­heller, who started Blue Dyer with his friend and busi­ness part­ner Walker Dun­bar last year. They got their fed­eral al­co­hol per­mit in March 2016 and sold their first bot­tle of dis­tilled spir­its in “late June or early July,” Dun­bar re­called.

Next year they’ll have at least two more prod­ucts to en­ter into the com­pe­ti­tion: a bour­bon whiskey and a gin. The bour­bon was in­tro­duced to the pub­lic Satur­day, May 6, and the gin is due out in late June or early July. Both, like the rum, are hand-crafted from scratch and bot­tled by hand at their dis­tillery on In­dus­trial Park Drive.

Al­ready, Blue Dyer has grown from self-dis­tribut­ing to work­ing with a large dis­trib­u­tor to get its rum into liquor stores and restau­rants around the state as well as Delaware and Wash­ing­ton, D.C. And now that Vier­heller is work­ing full time — he re­cently re­tired from law en­force­ment and Dun­bar hopes to join him by the end of the year — the two are step­ping up the whiskey pro­duc­tion to get it out beyond the tast­ing room by early June.

“It will only be avail­able here [in the tast­ing room] for about the first month,” Dun­bar said. “We just don’t have the quan­ti­ties to send out to stores in the first batch.”

They both said their tast­ing room cus­tomers and liquor stores have been wait­ing for the whiskey, with some stores telling them they’ll buy more than twice the amount at a time com­pared to the rum.

“The rum sells re­ally good. Peo­ple re­ally like it,” Vier­heller said. “They com­ment about the qual­ity and the price point, and then they ask when we’re mak­ing whiskey.”

Like the rum, the bour­bon is dis­tilled and aged at 110 proof and is cut down to 80 proof, or 40 per­cent al­co­hol, when it’s bot­tled. And while it meets the def­i­ni­tion of a bour­bon — made from corn, rye and malted bar­ley and aged in wood bar­rels — the choice of raw ma­te­ri­als and pro­cesses make it unique. The grain bill — the quan­ti­ties of pro­cessed grains — is 80 per­cent corn, 7 per­cent rye and 13 per­cent malted bar­ley.

“It’s a lit­tle un­con­ven­tional for a bour­bon grain bill with that much corn,” Vier­heller said. “And most bour­bon grain bills have more rye and less bar­ley. We were able to get a bar­ley that was pro­cessed and a rye that was pro­cessed and a corn that was pro­cessed just the way that we wanted them. It shows a lot big­ger of a spicy note, which typ­i­cally comes from rye, than the per­cent­age in­di­cates. Be­cause of the grain pro­cess­ing, we gain use of this unique grain bill and get a very unique taste.”

That unique­ness ex­tends to the gin com­ing this sum­mer. They made three vari­a­tions and got friends in the in­dus­try to taste it and give feed­back.

“We had a big ju­niper, lit­tle cit­rus [va­ri­ety]; big cit­rus, lit­tle ju­niper; and one in the mid­dle,” Vier­heller said. “We tasted it out to friends in the in­dus­try, and this is the big­ger cit­rus — it won by a nar­row mar­gin.”

He said they are al­ready plan­ning fu­ture whiskeys with unique fla­vors. He and Dun­bar have pur­chased used bar­rels from One Eight Dis­till­ing in the District to im­part a dif­fer­ent fla­vor, and other bar­rel types will also be tried.

“We’re work­ing on bring­ing in a port [wine] bar­rel, maybe from Run­ning Hare [Vine­yard in Prince Fred­er­ick], to do some whiskey fin­ish­ing — a spe­cial edi­tion for a hol­i­day sea­son,” Vier­heller said.

Blue Dyer has man­aged to get its rum — and soon its whiskey and gin — in 20 restau­rants around the state and is cur­rently sell­ing in 175 liquor stores.

“We’re look­ing for­ward to con­tin­ued growth and get­ting Walker in here full time,” Vier­heller said. “Next year, maybe we’ll add more stills and source our ma­te­ri­als lo­cally. We’re still go­ing to Penn­syl­va­nia for corn and mo­lasses. We’re get­ting ev­ery­thing else closer to home.”

And that growth ap­plies to all as­pects of the busi­ness, from work­ing with re­tail­ers and distributors to try­ing new in­gre­di­ents and pro­cesses to learn­ing all it takes to be suc­cess­ful in busi­ness.

“We’ve learned more about mar­ket­ing [in the last year],” Vier­heller said with a laugh. “We do it more on pur­pose now rather than by ac­ci­dent.”

And while not spe­cific to the busi­ness, he’s been tr ying to get a brew­ing, dis­till­ing and wine­mak­ing class go­ing at the Col­lege of South­ern Mary­land to en­cour­age fu­ture growth and get more peo­ple in­ter­ested in the craft al­co­hol in­dus­try.

“That would be a first-in-thes­tate class,” Vier­heller said. “In the Mid­west, you can get an ad­vanced de­gree in these dis­ci­plines.”

The tast­ing room at the dis­tillery — 52 In­dus­trial Park Drive in Wal­dorf — is open ev­ery Satur­day from 2 to 10 p.m.

A bot­tle shows the ra­tio of grains used to pro­duce Blue Dyer’s first bour­bon whiskey.

STAFF PHO­TOS BY DAR­WIN WEIGEL

Blue Dyer Dis­till­ing Co. own­ers Walker Dun­bar, left, and Ryan Vier­heller de­cant a sam­ple of their first bour­bon whiskey into a glass at their Wal­dorf dis­tillery.

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