When helping customers choose the perfect gift at Bin 604 in Harbor East, general manager Matt Anderson suggests abiding by one golden rule: “Try to get somebody something that they wouldn't get for themselves,” he says. This philosophy certainly applies to whiskey, which is always a popular choice at the wine and spirits shop around Father’s Day.
“The versatility and range of whiskies out there right now allows you to get something really unique,” adds assistant manager Elizabeth Samolis. “The stories behind the people who are making these products are what really grab you.”
Though they admit it is a bit easier to do with wine, the team at Bin 604 has gotten quite good at being able to pair a bottle of whiskey to a customer’s personality. For example, they suggest a fruit-forward bottle, like the Koval single-barrel bourbon, for someone whose tastes are a bit more outside of the box.
“Some people like very tough, aggressive, rustic whiskies,” Anderson says. “And some like something with a little more curves. It’s been a lot of fun to discover what it is people like and how they match themselves to their whiskey preference.”
Aside from the flavor versatility, cocktail professionals agree that the production stories behind most whiskies make it a thoughtful gift.
“Whiskey is such an expressive spirit,” says Max Lents, co-owner of The Baltimore Whiskey Company (BWC), which will soon debut its new facility at Union Collective. “There are so many decisions put into it, and there’s such a wide breadth of brands and stories behind it.”
Locally, the BWC—which will soon officially change to The Baltimore Spirits Company to better reflect the range of its products—has one of the most compelling success stories. After a five-year aging process, the distillery recently released its new Epoch Rye Whiskey. The spirit marks the first of its kind to be distilled in Baltimore in more than 50 years, and last month, Epoch took home the coveted double gold medal (all judges gave it a unanimous gold rating) at the prestigious San Francisco World Spirits Competition.
“We’re thrilled about the response,” Lents says. “With Epoch, all of the decisions we made ended up being very quality-oriented rather than efficiency-oriented. That lead to a lot of long days and nights, but it all paid off.”
Lents attributes Epoch’s uniqueness to its mash bill with more than 30 percent malted rye, open-top fermentation method, and double distillation process through a copper pot still—which is similar to what many early-American distillers used.
Bin 604 is highlighting other locally made bottles like the white whiskey from McClintock Distilling in Frederick for Father’s Day gifting. Anderson and Somalis also suggest the Belle Meade sour mash bourbon from Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery in Nashville, and the Longmorn Distillery's single-malt scotch—a spirit that was introduced to Anderson by Bin 604 owner Tony Foreman.
“You think about how people say, ‘Oh I’ve found my person.’ When I first tasted this is was like, ‘I’ve found my whiskey,’” Anderson quips. “It’s so mature, and has a way of revealing itself that other whiskies just miss.”
Above all, experts agree whiskey has a metaphorical quality that makes it a great gift for dads. (And many moms enjoy it just as much.)
“Great whiskey takes a lot of time, patience, and attention to detail,” Lents explains. “These are all things that parents put into raising kids. Making whiskey requires the same sort of dedication.”