Tasting the Entrepreneurial Sprit

Distilling Sloop Betty, a 40-year first

As Bay Weekly’s 20th birthday approaches, we reflect on entrepreneurial courage. What crazy notion compelled three family members to start a community newspaper on a wing and a prayer?
    Innovative thinking drives small, independent businesses. Some like to follow, some to lead and others to create. Creating is risky, expensive and typically fueled by passion. That’s the American way.
    The same spirit motivated brothers Chris and Jon Cook to get into the boutique distillery business. Seeded back in 2004 by Jon’s interest in rye whiskey, the brothers discovered a void of independent distilleries in Maryland. The cottage industry for wineries and craft brews has begun to flourish, but hard liquor is a niche waiting to be filled. With the Internet as their guide, the Cooks developed a plan and launched Blackwater Distilling, the first distillery in Maryland in 40 years.
    Based in a business park in Stevensville, Blackwater began as a one-trick pony specializing in the award-winning wheat and sugar cane vodka Sloop Betty. Now the brothers are finalizing the recipe for their next product, a honey vodka. Sloop Betty, which debuted in April 2011, has been recognized as a Best in Show at the 2012 New York World Wine and Spirits Competition, as well as earning a 94-point rating (exceptional) from The Tasting Panel magazine and 91-point rating (exceptional) from Tastings.com. That’s an impressive start for rookies.
    The Cooks have signed a distribution deal with Total Wine & Spirits, which gets their product on shelves throughout the mid-Atlantic and as far away as the Pacific Northwest. Look for the bottle with the provocative Betty in the wispy short dress.
    Locally, Blackwater is happy to conduct tours (www.sloopbetty.com) with tastings and discounts on purchases made at the intimate showroom ($5 per adult). Taste the entrepreneurial spirit for yourself.

Got a tasty tip for next week’s Dish? Email Lisa Knoll at thedish@bayweekly.com.