When Kevin Plank was playing football for the Maryland Terrapins, he was continuously frustrated by the fact that his cotton T-shirts didn’t keep his body comfortable and dry. Being an individual who wasn’t easily daunted by a challenge and who liked to pursue passion projects, he searched for a fabric that could wick the sweat from athletes’ bodies when they were on the field.
Eventually, his search led him to a moisture-wicking microfiber fabric that had previously been used for underwear, from which he designed a new T-shirt that kept athletes dry, cool and light by wicking moisture.
The Establishment and Development of Under Armour
Based on the success of his early prototypes, Plank went on to found his company Under Armour in 1996 to produce sports apparel made from microfiber. At the time, he had $40,000 in credit card debt and $20,000 in personal savings, and he began selling his T-shirts from his grandmother’s basement. Nevertheless, thanks to his entrepreneurial drive and sharp business skills, he managed to keep growing the company by expanding its product lines and making smart marketing investments. Now, almost 25 years after its establishment, Under Armour has grown into a multinational enterprise that’s known for some of corporate America’s fastest growth rates, making a total of $5.2 billion in revenue in 2018 alone.
However, as the company dealt with concerns about questionable accounting practices and slowing sales, Plank announced his retirement as CEO in October 2019.
Sagamore Spirit Produces Award-Winning Ryes
Never one to sit still, Plank also founded several other businesses while heading up Under Armour. One of these ventures was the Maryland-based Sagamore Spirit company, which began construction on a 22,000-square-foot whiskey distillery in 2015. The distillery also features a welcome center, a processing center, a gift store, two tasting rooms, and a full-service restaurant and bar named Rye Street Tavern.
Maryland has long been a center of U.S. rye whiskey production. According to Forbes, before Prohibition, there were 13 distilleries in Baltimore and 31 located throughout the rest of the state. Maryland-style rye is known to be smoother, sweeter and less spicy than its Pennsylvania counterpart, made from 65 percent rye and 35 percent corn.
As another passion project of Plank’s, Sagamore Spirit’s mission is to produce rye-whiskey that stands out from the crowd due to its unique Maryland style. Sagamore Spirit sets itself apart due to the use of spring water sourced from Plank’s Sagamore Farm, a renowned horse farm that’s located on a bed of limestone rock. The water is filtered naturally through a limestone aquifer, which ensures its refreshing pureness and zest. The rye whiskey is aged in North Point, in a facility with a capacity of 20,000 barrels.
And it seems that Plank’s rye whiskey is a success, as The Whiskey Wash reports. While experts agree that the distillery has room for growth, its ryes have already won several industry awards. For example, the cognac finish expression won a noteworthy double-gold citation at the 2020 Denver International Spirits Competition. This cognac finish is one of seven ryes the distillery is currently producing.
Sagamore Spirit Cognac Finish Rye Whiskey
First produced as a distillery exclusive, the Sagamore Spirit cognac finish rye is a delicious 101 proof that’s been aged for four years in charred barrels made of American white oak before being finished for eight months in barrels that formerly contained French cognac. It’s a pleasing dark amber color, with a nose that contains hints of maple bar donuts, vanilla and new leather jackets. As rye aficionados would expect, it hits the palate with spicy notes of cinnamon and fresh-cut ginger before melting down into date bars and brown sugar.
Now available in wide release, the cognac finish rye makes for good sipping, although it might be sweeter, moodier and darker than some comparable ryes. For those bourbon drinkers who are less experienced with ryes, the Sagamore Spirit cognac finish rye might be a pleasant cross-over.
While the finish has a long duration, its fading could be more elegant and pleasing — as the sweetness and spice dwindle, drinkers are left with an enduring black tea taste on the palate.
Fine-Tuning the Ryes
Overall, the Sagamore Spirit company is well on its way to producing some delectable ryes. Nevertheless, some may need a little more fine-tuning before they become true classics.