When most think of Bourbon and whiskey we think south – we think Kentucky. Of course, Bourbon can be made anywhere in this great country of ours, and indeed it is. Enter Tuthilltown Spirits, a relatively young distillery located in Gardiner, New York, who has been helping bring back the tradition of small batch spirit production to the Hudson River Valley.
Tuthilltown Spirits first began to come to fruition when partners Ralph Erenzo and Vicki Morgan first acquired the riverfront property back in 2001 to open a rock climber’s ranch. Fortunately, the neighbors did not like that idea too much, so in 2003, and after realizing that they had the perfect resources for whiskey, co-founders Ralph Erenzo and Brian Lee created Tuthilltown Spirits LLC. The two founders converted the mill granaries on the property to a micro-distillery and two and a half years later, Tuthilltown Spirits produced their first batches of vodka from scraps they collected at a local apple slicing plant. It was all uphill from there.
Today, and with a consistently growing team, Tuthhilltown Spirits brings several different products to our cabinets, including their ‘Indigenous’ apple and wheat Vodka, Half Moon Orchard Gin and unaged New York Corn Whiskey, all standing next to a barrel aged line of products that includes Tuthilltown Cassis Liqueur, the new Basement Bitters, the limited edition Roggen’s Rum and of course the widely popular lineup of Hudson Whiskeys, a few of which we have for tasting this evening.
What’s interesting about Tuthilltown’s Hudson Whiskey line is that it is now owned by William Grant & Sons, an independent, family owned distilling company out of Scotland. The benefit to this is of course that the Hudson Whiskey brand now has strong financial backing for growth and further experimentation. It also shows that Tuthilltown really hadhas something great under their belt. These unusual and short bottles pop on the shelves but let’s see how they are on the palate. We have three expressions from the Hudson line of whiskeys on the tasting block and my wife, Erin, is gearing up to join me in the tasting. Let’s dive in…
Hudson Baby Bourbon Whiskey Review
First, we’ll be diving into Hudson’s Baby Bourbon – the first legal pot-distilled Bourbon made in New York since prohibition. This single grain bourbon is made from 100% New York corn and aged less than four years in small American Oak barrels. Yes, 100 percent corn in the mash bill. To be honest, this is a first for me, so I’m anxious to see if my palate takes a liking to it.
Price: Approx $45/375ml
Year: ’14; Batch: 5; Bottle: 8148
Color: Copper / Deep Amber
Nose: Sweet, woody corn right away, but that one makes sense here. With that there’s pepper, sugar, fall leaves, hints of char, vanilla and perhaps just an intimation of maple.
Palate: This is an interesting pour indeed. It’s slightly young on the palate, but light and not rough in any way – rather easy. There’s a corn and honey sweetness mingled with a nice dose of spice that builds right into the finish. Like a true Bourbon, the corn, honey, vanilla and caramel sweetness that you get fills the palate, but like I mentioned, there’s a nice dose of spice that cuts right through to help bring some balance. We are really enjoying this. One characteristic that begins to show itself on the back of the palate and also flows into the finish is a faint minerality. It’s not bad but it is noticeable. Erin picked up on this, too, although mostly in the finish.
Finish: Moderate to slightly lingering with a touch of bitter oak. The sweet corn sticks with it and is on top of some caramel and minerals. A metallic finish so-to-speak.
The first thing that stands out to me with these whiskeys are their color and oak influence – a testament to how small casks help “push along” the maturation process in a 2 to 4-year-old whiskey. That being said, this one is still on the “youngish” side and although tasty, it is tough to get past the price for a half bottle. (B-)
Hudson Four Grain Bourbon Whiskey Review
Next up we’re diving into the Four Grain Bourbon Whiskey – made of corn, rye, wheat and barley. Each batch starts with 800 pounds of grain which is ground at the distillery, cooked and fermented, then distilled twice. It is aged in Tuthilltown’s signature small barrels and then of course bottled in their even more distinct 375ml bottles. Like them or hate them, it’s the only way of getting your hands on this whisky.
Price: Approx 45$/750ml
Year: ’11; Batch: 21; Bottle: 2741
Color: Darker than Baby – Rusty brown and dark amber
Nose: The rye portion of the mash bill is the first to notice – mostly on basil, clove and fresh rye bread. The proof is more noticeable on the nose with this one as well – just a little more “punchy.” Much more caramel here, too – rich sweetness, floral notes, dry oak, sweet grain and corn. I think it’s safe to say here that Four Grain has a bit more of “it all,” but when it comes to the mash bill, the added complexity makes sense.
Palate: It, too, is soft on the palate and not as “punchy” as the nose might lead you to believe. It’s more Bourbon than rye at first but then all those spices begin to sneak up on you and role right into a long, lingering finish. Once again, it’s just all there – corn sweetness, caramel and honey, vanilla, wood and rye spice, dry oak and even a touch of cocoa.
Finish: Long with spice, caramel, oak and vanilla.
I love a good hi-rye Bourbon and this one really seems to be right up that alley. The Baby Bourbon was good, but given the price for these “half bottles,” so far this is where the money is for me. One more to go and I’m definitely eager to dive in. (B+)
Hudson Manhattan Rye Review
Last but certainly not least is Tuthilltown’s Hudson Manhattan Rye. Made from whole grain rye one batch at a time, this whiskey was made to bring back the classic New York pre-Prohibition Rye. We all know rye is not the easiest whiskey to distill but Tuthilltown moved ahead to do so in their custom copper pot stills. Post distillation and maturation, Manhattan Rye is hand filled, capped, waxed and numbered once again in their signature “half bottles.” I could have gone without all the wax on the toppers but as you can see from the photo, that was nothing my jack knife couldn’t fix.
Price: Approx 45$/750ml
Year: ’13; Batch: 8; Bottle: 466
Color: Slightly darker than Four Grain with more of a red hue.
Nose: The best way to describe this whiskey at first is big on spice and fruit – roasted cherry and apple peel, cinnamon, clove, mint and dry flowers. Like the other two, there’s also a nice oak influence here – seasoned oak, pepper, vanilla, burnt sugar and hints of maple. A calmer, more balanced nose in comparison. Let’s see how it stacks up on the palate…
Palate: Very aligned with the nose with a nice dark, chary characteristic. Again, it’s very much on a dark fruity sweetness and spice but this one definitely has the most oak influence, perhaps aged just a bit more than the previous two. Who knows? It is darker in color, though.
Finish: Long, sweet and spicy with a wonderful dark roasted quality.
Manhattan Rye takes it by a nose, with the Four Grain Bourbon Whiskey coming in right behind. Again, we enjoyed the Baby Bourbon but the price is just a lot more difficult to justify there. I can say that Baby was the easiest to sip on. Manhattan Rye is nicely balanced with a wonderful oak influence that really belies its age – spice, fruit, dark sweetness and oak, it’s simply a wonderfully made batch. My only fuss with this bottle, and as you can tell from the picture, the cork ripped right out of the cap. It happens. (B+)
In closing, these craft whiskeys are no doubt something special and Tuthilltown, in my mind, is definitely one of the distilleries that are leading the craft market, especially once you consider all the non-distiller producers out there who are throwing products from large seller distilleries like MGP on the shelves every day of the week. I can only imagine that several folks have a hard time getting past the price, and I have juggled with it myself in the past, mostly because you are only getting 375ml of whiskey in a heavily saturated and competitive market. However, these whiskeys are indeed well made and the craft and “spirit” contained within are certainly noticeable.