A new, craft vodka called “The Bay” is expected to be hitting the shelves of local liquor stores next week and is owned by a Cecil County man.

Andrew Auwerda, president of Philadelphia Distilling, lives in Warwick with his wife, Jennifer, a Chesapeake City native, and their two young sons.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re from the region or a visitor,” Auwerda said. “If you spend time on the Chesapeake Bay, these flavors become part of your life.”

“That’s what happened to me when I went to the University of Maryland at College Park and fell in love with eating blue crabs and spending time with friends on the water,” he said.

Auwerda described his newest product as a reflection of that life. The vodka is infused with a proprietary blend of traditional seafood spices and sea salt familiar with anyone who has ever eaten Maryland blue crabs.

The vodka officially launched in the Washington D.C. market and parts of Maryland on March 25, which is Maryland Day. Auwerda is anxious for it to arrive at liquor stores around the county within a week.

The Bay is a vodka distilled four-times and highlighted with the seafood seasonings that the owners hope will appeal to a lot of folks in the region, but also elsewhere.

Auwerda’s latest product, which retails for $26, is the fifth product to be made at his Philadelphia craft distillery that opened for business in October of 2005 and launched its first product — Bluecoat American Dry Gin — in April of 2006.

The Warwick resident didn’t always intend to go into the distillery business, but couldn’t resist an offer from his nephew, Robert Cassell, to partner with him and a friend, Timothy Yarnall, to open Philadelphia’s first craft distillery since before prohibition.

Auwerda, who has a bachelor’s degree in economics and had already created and sold his own cosmetic company in New York City, brought business and marketing savvy to the table.

Cassell, who worked at a craft brewery in Downingtown, Pa., is the brainchild behind the distillery, convincing his partners that a craft distillery could easily follow the successful path of craft breweries.

He trained in Michigan and in Scotland, and is now the master distiller at the company.

Yarnall is the company’s key salesman, while Auwerda focuses on marketing and branding. Both men travel frequently promoting the products.

Bluecoat gin is their oldest product and is currently distributed in 40 states and four countries.

“It’s a long process to increase distribution and properly market our products,” Auwerda said. “It doesn’t happen overnight.”

“But, we’re hoping we’ll click with that innovation, novelty product that everyone wants,” he said. “My passion and my connection to Maryland and the Chesapeake Bay are behind our latest product. It makes a great Bloody Mary, oyster shooter, or on the rocks.”

Their other products are Penn 1681 vodka, Vieux Carre absinthe and XXX Shine whiskey.

He said they chose Philadelphia to open their distillery because of its place in American history. The owners link each new product to tell a story about American history.

It’s a small business located on the northeast side of Philadelphia and they employ six people, including the three owners.

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