Like many young men, Leighton Moore wasn’t enchanted by school. At 16, he opted out and worked in his family’s motel in Ocean City, Maryland. After a trip to Jamaica, he was inspired to recreate the relaxed atmosphere and vibe and open his own place back home. Seacrets debuted in 1988 as an intimate Tiki bar and was a runaway success. Several expansions followed and today, hospitality experts estimate the Seacrets entertainment complex to be one of the highest-grossing in the US with more than $23 million in annual revenue. With more than six acres, it is a sprawling bayside campus with 18 bars, multiple restaurants, nightclubs, live music performance areas, its own radio station and in 2016, the Seacrets Distillery.
One can imagine that 18 bars holding up to 5,000 people at any given time would require a fair amount of liquor to quench the thirst of patrons. Moore reasoned he would save a bundle if he made his own spirits. Like everything he does, he decided to build a distillery with flair and a theme that would be an attraction unto itself. In 2016, Moore completed his $5.2 million distillery, creating a time-travel experience authentic to the Prohibition era, specifically December 5, 1933, when Prohibition ended at midnight.
Outside, an antique flatbed Mack truck stacked with a pyramid of wooden barrels idles loudly. Inside, every brick is reclaimed, every door is antique, pipe fittings are colour-coded to look retro, signage is dressed in period typeface.
Even the modern freight elevator has been convincingly disguised to look like a Depression-era lift. “It’s a time machine,” Moore said. “It’s taking you back to 1933.”
But what really sells the time-travel effect are the dozens of antiques Moore has displayed throughout the 12,000 square foot building, nearly all of them he sourced himself by scouring eBay, at a cost of $1.5 million.
They include an ornate lamp from the first dining car on the transcontinental railroad, hanging over the lobby desk. Tour-goers punch in using a 1914 time clock with a satisfying ding! In the distillery office, another tour stop, sits a shopworn wood-and-steel desk once belonging to Thomas Edison.
The tour takes you through the process from grain to bottle, after which The next stop leads to the “pharmacy,” another space dripping with Jazz Age antiques.
The time-travel premise is still in play: with alcohol still outlawed here in 1933, tour guests are prompted to contact the “doctor” by telephone to get a “prescription” for medicinal liquor – something that really happened during Prohibition.
While the tour itself is an incredible experience, so is the award-winning liquor produced by the Specific Mechanical 240 gallon still. Every spirit in their arsenal of Whiskey, various Vodkas, Spiced Rum and Gin has won multiple awards from all the major competitions.
Year after year the success of Seacrets entertainment complex and the products produced from the distillery fuel rumours of expansion and the possibility of adding a secondary location. Leighton Moore is certainly no stranger to achieving goals but he’s also not one to make rash decisions. His existing still from Specific is meeting today’s demand, but if his master distiller keeps up the current pace, the next expansion might have to include a very large trophy room.