A distillery creates a welcoming experience for visitors, from the corporate brand right down to the bottle
By Katie Nale
Right off of I-95 in downtown Baltimore, the Sagamore Spirit Distillery can be seen from the waterfront, providing an homage to Maryland’s rye whiskey heritage. The interior and exterior lighting of the 22,000-sq ft building, as well as the 27,000-sq ft welcome and processing center next door, are used to promote the Sagamore brand to guests already on-site and travelers looking for their next stop. The distillery, located in Port Covington, offers tours where guests can learn about the state’s whiskey history, drink in the site’s 40-ft copper column still and taste three award-winning-tall spirits.
“Our goal, determined through discussions with Ayers Saint Gross (project architects), was to create a unique destination that evokes the warmth of whiskey. We also wanted to create a design that made the project site visible and inviting, attracting visitors from all over,” says Ryan Conover of The Lighting Practice (TLP), Philadelphia. As the project’s lead lighting designer, Conover worked with TLP colleagues Al Borden, John Conley and Erick Leininger on the distillery between 2015 and 2017, crafting interior lighting, as well as façade, site and water tower lighting.
Outside of the building campus, platform-mounted linear LED uplights wash the site’s water tower tank, highlighting the distillery’s triple diamond logo and creating a beacon that can be seen from a distance. On the sides of the buildings, diamond reliefs integrated into the façades are highlighted by arm-mounted LED linear grazer uplights. In a more subtle expression of brand identity, exterior screen walls are accented with narrow-spot LED uplights, creating visual texture on the wooden slats and giving the location a sense of character. “Wood architectural elements reminiscent of whiskey barrels appeared throughout the project, so it was key to light these features,” recalls Conover. In-grade LED uplights also wash tree canopies and textured stone façades while LED toe-kick lighting integrated into stone stairs welcomes visitors arriving by boat, adding to the warm and relaxing atmosphere for those enjoying the outdoor seating area. In collaboration with Evoke Light Studio, decorative string lights and 3000K in-grade LED uplights were used outside the eatery to highlight wood-clad entries and summon visitors inside.
With the exception of the site’s restaurant, the TLP team also illuminated the interior of the buildings, including front-of-house and retail spaces, as well as the visitor center, whiskey stills and tasting rooms. The design features 3000K LEDs tied to an architectural dimming system. The distillery, which includes a 6,000-gallon cooker and nine fermenters, showcases the 40-ft copper column still highlighted by explosion-proof LED adjustable accents, as it was critical to the client that this feature element be seen from the exterior.
Warm lighting was key indoors in keeping with the warm whiskey branding theme. Decorative fixtures are set to 2700K and warmer. “We typically used warmer color temperatures to evoke the hospitality feel of the project,” says Conover, who selected the temperatures to be used in conjunction with the material of the building. “There’s a lot of texture in this building, I think that’s the beauty of the space. The stone and the wood were the type of materials we wanted to highlight, and that carried through to the exterior.” The interior design also uses a minimal lighting approach helping to keep the focus on elements most important to the distillery’s production process. “We didn’t try to draw too much attention into the interior; we supported the concept and emphasized the materials. We highlighted the equipment, treating it like art.”
Lighting the equipment, however, was not without its challenges. A Hazardous Area classification requirement had to be met for a number of the distillery’s lighting fixtures. “We had to find fixtures that met these stringent requirements while giving us the right beam angles, color temperature and light output to highlight specialized equipment, specifically the main copper column still,” says Conover. The designer recalled the most rigorous areas on the project being the pot still and fermenter rooms as the National Fire Protection Association classifies certain locations as hazardous for electrical equipment, especially when gases or vapors may exist under normal conditions.
Outside of the equipment lighting, high-CRI luminaires were used in select areas to highlight graphics and whiskey products. “With this project, it was about branding,” says Conover. “Wherever we had the opportunity to showcase the bottles of whiskey or the Sagamore brand, that’s what we tried to highlight.” Track lighting and small LED accents were used to illuminate signage. “We were selective with decorative lighting. Most of the lighting is architectural in nature, but in areas like the tasting experience where people gather, we brought in the decorative lighting.”