ST MICHAELS — Jaime Windon and her rum distillery in St. Michaels are going for the gold.
Windon is founder and CEO of Windon Distilling Company. The company's Lyon Rum has been nominated for the Best Craft Rum Distillery in USA Today’s much watched Readers’ Choice Awards.
“This is a really big national recognition,” said Windon, who is also a St. Michaels town commissioner.
Lyon Rum also has been nominated to the USA Today list by a panel of industry experts the previous three years, finishing fourth in 2017, fifth in 2018 and second in 2019. The Maryland-based rum is competing with 19 other finalists.
“We like this one because the panel of experts that selected the 20 distilleries is really legit. Just being selected every year is an awesome honor,” Windon said.
This year Windon wants to take home first place touting Lyon Rum’s American roots. The Eastern Shore-based rum is sold in nine states including Maryland, New York, New Jersey and Florida.
“All our (sugar) cane comes from Louisiana. All our bottles come from Pennsylvania. We are really devoted to being an American rum,” she said.
Voting for the USA Today awards ends Sept. 14. Lyon Rum is up against competitors from Hawaii, Florida, California, Indiana, Massachusetts and other states. “We are just super excited. It’s such a cool honor,” Windon said.
Windon launched the distillery business in 2012 and has adjusted her business model to focus on rum. “How do you become the best if you are not super focused?” Windon said. “We are the only distillery in Maryland that focuses on rum.”
The Eastern Shore does have a colorful history with rum and other spirits. "Rum rummers" used the Shore and Chesapeake Bay to smuggle alcohol, including during Prohibition. There were also plenty of homemade distilleries before, during and after Prohibition.
Windon said her business is still navigating the COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing that impacts when and whether to host tastings, tours and events. “We haven’t done that since March 13th even though other distilleries in the state have opened. It’s not a good fit for us yet,” Windon said.
She misses the events and outreach side of the business because of the pandemic. “It feels like a big part of who we are is missing because we are not doing events, because we are not participating in festivals,” she said.