I have a ton of respect for our armed services and those who have served. So, when I learned about former US Navy Prowler pilots Arch Walkins’ and Mark McLaughlin’s stories, it garnered my attention. They both served in different squadrons at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island in Washington and found themselves neighbors in Baltimore post-retirement. The duo enjoyed whiskey and decided they wanted to own and operate their own distillery.
As luck would have it, two Vietnam veterans owned Golden Distillery in Puget Sound and were ready to sell. Arch and Mark learned how to distill American Single Malt whiskey and everything involved in the process at Golden. But, they didn’t want to call Washington home; they loved Baltimore. What they didn’t have, however, was a distillery.
While they were trying to work out all the behind-the-scenes red tape, financing, design, and construction of their distillery, they were introduced to the owners at Middle West Spirits in Columbus, Ohio. After discussing distilling and whiskey styles, the four decided to partner together, allowing Arch and Mark to distill Old Line Spirits at Middle West. Thus, the dream was born.
In 2016, Arch and Mark took possession of a former commercial laundry facility in Baltimore. They converted it to a distillery, and in 2017, the duo had opened for business. They have been going hard ever since.
Today I’m exploring three Old Line Spirits Single Malt whiskeys: A Cask Strength, a Port-Finished, and a Madeira-Finished. I drank these in the order of Madeira, Port, and Cask Strength under the assumption of a sweet to bold journey. The Cask Strength is also the base whiskey for the others.
I acquired the three samples from a friend curious about my opinion and asked if I’d put together reviews of each. So, let’s #DrinkCurious and get things started.
Cask Strength American Single Malt
This whiskey starts with 100% malted barley distilled through a copper pot still. It rested for two years in new, charred American oak using smaller barrels. Packaged at 124.4°, a 750ml bottle has a suggested retail price of $55.00.
Appearance: The Cask Strength whiskey presented as a reddish amber. It made a thinner rim on the wall of my Glencairn glass and released a wavy curtain of tears to fall back into the pool.
Nose: An exciting combination of maple and strawberry was joined by cherry and leather. When I pulled the air past my lips, the strawberry continued.
Palate: I discovered a creamy yet light-bodied texture. Nutmeg and cinnamon were on the front and led to caramel and maple on the middle. The back tasted of dry oak and rye spice.
Finish: Ginger snaps, brown sugar, dry oak, and cinnamon Red Hots created a spice-building, long finish. It left a sizzling spot on the tip of my tongue.
Bottle, Bar, or Bust: The Cask Strength is uncomplicated with some serious spice notes. That moisture-sucking oak is a telltale sign of smaller cooperage, which isn’t bad; it is something that happens when non-standard American oak is used. Is it worth $55.00? Perhaps. I recommend trying this at a Bar first, then deciding from there.
Madiera Cask Finished American Single Malt
Next is the Madeira finish, part of the distillery’s Double Oak Series. This one rested at least four years in oak, then an additional six months in former Madeira casks. It is a limited-edition whiskey offered in the Fall of 2021. A 100°, 750ml bottle was priced at $64.99 but is not available for purchase through the distillery’s website.
Appearance: Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, this Single Malt was the color of mahogany. A thin rim unloaded heavy, thick tears.
Nose: Aromas of cinnamon, nutmeg, apple, raisin, and oak competed for attention. When I drew the air into my mouth, tobacco leaf rolled across my tongue.
Palate: An oily, medium-weighted mouthfeel offered fruity plum, cherry, and lemon on the front. Raisin took charge of the middle as it moved across my tongue, while leather and tobacco leaf controlled the back.
Finish: Leather, tobacco leaf, plum, and raisin remained for a medium-length finish.
Bottle, Bar, or Bust: When I taste whiskey, there is at least one quality that I expect to find, and with this Madeira finish, it is notably absent. I cleansed my palate and tried it again to make sure, but try as I might, there were no wood notes! What did that accomplish? It hid any evidence of smaller cooperage. I enjoyed this, and I would be comfortable spending the $64.99 for a Bottle of it (assuming I could find one).
Port Cask Finished American Single Malt
Last up (and also part of the Double Oak series) is the Port finish. Old Line used tawny port barrels, but there isn’t an indication of age. In the same vein as the Madeira finish, the Port finish spent four years in oak before being transferred for its six-month finishing. It, too, was a Fall 2021 limited-edition release, bottled at 100° and formerly priced at $64.99.
Appearance: This Single Malt looked of burnt umber in my Glencairn glass. A thin rim reluctantly gave up fat, slow legs.
Nose: Fruit meshed to spice, beginning with strawberry and plum, then leather, oak, and sawdust. Strawberry dominated as I inhaled the vapor through my lips.
Palate: A buttery mouthfeel had flavors of strawberry, plum, and apricot on the front, introducing and yanking away the fruit as the middle became coffee, tobacco, and cocoa. The back was black pepper and oak.
Finish: The plum came back for an encore and, like the palate, was quickly subdued by black pepper and oak. Then the coffee returned and painted those two out of the picture in a very, very long finish.
Bottle, Bar, or Bust: The Port finish was the most fun to sip of the three with the tug-of-war between sweet and spice. Unlike the Madeira, sawdust remained behind, which can also indicate smaller cooperage. I was a bit shocked the Port didn’t mask that. But, even with its fun factor, I’m not sold at $64.99, and my final recommendation is a Bar.
Final Thoughts: Of the three, my favorite was the Madeira finish, then the Cask Strength, and lastly, the Port finish. If you polled me before I started, I would have predicted a reverse of that order, as I enjoy Port-finished whiskeys. I do like what Old Line Spirits is doing; I believe using 53-gallon barrels could also do a lot of good for this distillery. Cheers!
My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System
- Bottle = Buy It
- Bar = Try It
- Bust = Leave It
Whiskeyfellow encourages you to enjoy your whiskey as you see fit but begs you do so responsibly.