The resurgence of Maryland Distilling, USS Constellation Tobacco Barn Rum, a US Navy connection with Baltimore Partnerships

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Long before Kentucky or Tennessee citizens dreamed of distilling whiskey, Southern Marylanders such as Basil Hayden, Henry Wathen and Maryland Jesuit Priests were perfecting the art of Whiskey distilling. Then, in the late 1700’s, many of these early distillers moved from Southern Maryland to the frontier of Virginia, now known as Kentucky. Enter 2017 and Tobacco Barn Distillery, a company based in Southern Maryland who is brimming with excitement as they bring back distilling to their state.

Seen left, Dan Dawson and Scott Sanders.


Recently I had the honor of meeting with a special crew of highly acclaimed gentlemen who started the Maryland craft distillery, Tobacco Barn Distillery. The team is comprised of US Navy Retired Rear Admiral Scott Sanders, US Marine Sean Coogan and former Telemetry Designer, Dan Dawson, the team's Master Distiller. It is this small, USA Veteran-owned team that produced USS Constellation rum, representing the first time barrels of rum have been loaded aboard a Navy ship since 1862 since 1862. And, the ship, none other than the Maryland's gem, the historic ship, USS Constellation which is docked in Baltimore, Maryland's Inner Harbor. I have to mention, this is "the ONLY spirit permitted to age on a US Navy ship in the United States of America," states Sanders!


The small batch of almost 800 bottles have sold extraordinarily well, so don't wait to buy a bottle, 2/3 have been sold since the launch early April 2017. The owners chose the local city liquor store, Harborview Liquors to be its Baltimore City store because it is located in the heart of Domino territory, 21230 at Harborview Liquors, 549 E. Fort Avenue. The bottles retail at approximately $46. Call and tell them you read this article: (443) 835-3020 or facebook page (For a full list of the Maryland liquor store carrying the rum, click here.)


USS Constellation Rum is all Maryland:


The rum is aged on a historic Baltimore Ship, the USS Constellation, part of the National Historic Seaport of Baltimore. After years of restoration, she was returned to the Inner Harbor on July 2, 1999.  Commissioned in 1855, the U.S.S. Constellation was the last all-sail ship built by the United States Navy and the last Civil War vessel afloat.


Domino Sugar makes homemade molasses right in Baltimore Locust Point/Federal Hill neighborhood.  It’s fitting it is produced in the shadows of both Federal Hill and Fells Point. Did you know for 90 years Domino makes a huge portion of the country's molasses.

Why is Molasses Used?

In 1655, when Vice Admiral Penn (father of the founder of Pennsylvania, William Penn) conquered Jamaica, England had access to sugar production there. Molasses was an "industrial waste" product of making sugar in the 1600's so the Royal Navy got it for free (or very little). That's why they used molasses. "They never spent more money on their sailors than they had to. Rum from sugar cane was too expensive, that's why they chose molasses,"desribes Sanders.


Tobacco Barn Distillery team is committed for being green and local. The farm and distillery use a combination of solar, geothermal, and heat recovery systems as part of their commitment to protect Southern Maryland’s environment:


  • Electricity generated by the farm’s solar panels offsets much of the power its distillery consumes.
  • They designed, built, and installed a recycling geothermal cooling system combined with an integrated heat recovery system. This helps reduce the process heat requirements by 20% and reuse 100% of the cooling water.
  • After the corn, rye, and wheat are used in the distilling process, they are donated to other local farmers to be used as a feed source for their livestock.


Some Rum History:

Long ago, in the 1600's rum was first made from sugarcane plantations founded in the Carribean. It was from the keen creativity of the slaves of the plantations, who discovered that a byproduct of the sugar refining process, molasses, could be fermented into alcohol. Historians note that every plantation has a copper pot in which making alcohol from the fermented skimmings and molasses was ever present. To monetize their new product, plantations started selling to the British Navy, which also helped their land being protected.


Photo Courtesy Harborview Liquors Facebook:


1731 the Navy Board were persuaded to make the official daily ration, one pint of wine or half a pint of rum, to be issued neat (at 80% vol.) in two equal amounts daily.



1740 Admiral Edward Vernon claimed, ‘the vice of drunkenness is but too visibly increasing in our mariners’ and changed the ration to a quart of water to every half pint of rum. Because of the unusual grogram material of his naval cloak, he was known as ‘Old Grog’.  Hence when the lower strength ration was enforced it was referred to as ‘Grog’.  Vernon also suggested the addition of limes and sugar to make the drink more palatable, which led to grog mixed with lime juice being known as ‘limey’.  Americans calling British people ‘limeys’ derives from this. 


During the USA Prohibition Era, 'Rum runners' tried to make the new law unworkable.  The most famous being Bill McCoy ‘the real McCoy’. The drunkenness became a threat to naval efficiency, thus in 1850, the rum ration was fixed at an eighth of a pint, until it was abolished in 1970.

Source credit history of assisted in the history.


Patti Neumann is  Founder of Sip & Swirl Society & Publisher of, an award-winning blog. Email

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