Kevin Plank is a modern visionary, a risk taker and a doer. Passionate about sports, he was a “walk-on” football player who became a special teams captain for the University of Maryland. He and his teammates disliked the cotton t-shirts that didn’t effectively wick away moisture during play, so after earning a degree in business, he cobbled together some cash and developed an alternative.
The company he founded in 1996 operated originally out of his grandmother’s basement. During its first full year in business, Under Armour recorded sales of $17,000, for an innovative sweat-wicking athletic shirt. After introducing some new athletic gear, the company started growing by leaps and bounds. By 1998, Plank relocated the business to his native Maryland.
Now he’s scoring new successes with another Maryland-based company, this time selling traditional whiskey.
Under Armour was a success story for the record books, and corporate growth led to even more successes. Plank established relationships with major sports teams and expanded with new lines of athletic products, including sneakers. He took the company public in 2005, and it surpassed $1 billion in sales in 2010. It represented the epitome of the American dream of success ― until it didn’t. In January of 2000, Plank stepped down as president of the publicly held company. He still held the dream, however, and said at the time, “So now in our 23rd year in business and our 14th as a public company, our ability to innovate, adapt and improve is stronger and holistically more capable than it’s ever been.”
Today, stock prices have rebounded. Plank still serves as executive chairman and brand chief of the global company that is headquartered on a vast business campus in Baltimore. There are more than 14,000 employees, and annual sales exceed $5 billion. Plank’s duties today focus on the long term, including redefining the company’s brand and exploring new directions. He works closely with new president Patrik Frisk, and the company seems to have found its stride once again. Plank and Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson recently revealed a new Under Armour “spacesuit,” destined to become the “uniform” for early space tourists. Plank’s comment: “We want to stand for all things innovation.”
Innovation seems to be his personal mantra as well. Plank has a current net worth estimated to be $1.8 billion and a group of business enterprises, but he’s intent on following his passions, wherever they may lead. His young Maryland-based distillery named Sagamore Spirit was launched in 2013 and bottled its first batch of whiskey in 2016. It produces traditional rye whiskey from a location along the banks of the Patapsco River near Baltimore, with the intent of bringing “Maryland-style” palate-pleasing rye whiskey back into the public consciousness. It testifies to the entrepreneurial spirit that he admits he has held since childhood.
The distillery occupied the first building of the planned Port Covington development, another of his personal visions for rejuvenating a portion of the historic Baltimore-area waterfront. His privately owned real estate firm, Sagamore Development Co, envisions the creation of a mixed-use neighborhood in South Baltimore that will include housing and offices, trails, fields, recreational amenities and new business opportunities.
A review of Sagamore Spirit’s Cognac Finish Rye, one of the seven currently in production at the young distillery, notes that, while there is work to be done, there is promise in the blend. The whiskey is listed as 101 proof and has a price of around $70 for a 750 ml bottle. Aged four years in charred American white oak barrels, the whiskey is then transferred to old French cognac barrels to age for another eight months.
Reviewers note that the dark amber coloring is pleasant and that the rye possesses hints of vanilla, combining the aromas of “new leather jackets, Fig Newtons and maple bar donuts!” Flavors of brown sugar and date bars add complexity to the taste of ginger and cinnamon, according to those who know and appreciate whiskey.
The Whiskey Wash review notes that the first batch was an exclusive, but the new release confirms it as a “good sipping rye,” somewhat akin to an E.H. Taylor Straight Rye but “darker, moodier and sweeter.” It is suggested that bourbon drinkers might find it a pleasing introduction to rye. It was rated by the reviewers with 4 of a possible 5 stars.
The Sagamore Spirit Reserve Cognac finish took Double Gold honors in the 2019 Denver International Spirit Competition, and four other distillery ryes also won honors.