The Tasting Panel magazine

August 2012

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 73 of 128

A New York state of whiskey. Hudson's Manhattan Rye, New York Corn and Baby Bourbon whiskeys are hand- crafted New York whiskey. Hudson Baby Bourbon is New York's first bourbon. From Bunks to Bourbon With agriculture in mind, Erenzo's first thoughts turned to establishing a winery, but, almost serendipitously, it came to their attention that a law restricting the making of spirits in New York State, in place since Prohibition, had just been lifted with the creation of the A1 Farm Distillers License. (Locally, before Prohibition, more than a thousand farm dis- tillers produced alcohol from New York grains and fruits.) A distillery seemed a handsome fit, not only promising to revive local farming but also bringing back to the Hudson Valley the tradition of small-batch distillation of spirits. The 220-year-old Tuthilltown post-and-beam gristmill, a landmark listed on the National Register of Historic Places, used waterpower to grind locally grown grains into flour. In 2001, Ralph Erenzo and Vicki Morgan acquired the prop- erty, and with the help of partner and engineer Brian Lee, converted one of the mill granaries into a micro-distillery. Hands-On Experience When the distillery was started, no one involved had any experience in the making of spirits. Gable, schooled in business in Colorado Springs, switched to SUNY New Paltz when the distillery began. After two and a half years hands-on in the distillery, Tuthilltown Spirits produced its first batches of vodka (from scraps collected at a local apple- slicing plant) and corn whiskey. From that corn whiskey base, Hudson Baby Bourbon, New York's first bourbon, was created, distilled from 100% New York State corn. Eventually, the team was able to ramp up production from 50 gallons a week to 450. All Hudson whiskies are handmade, starting at the distill- ery as raw grain, and are made without added flavor or color and are neither chilled nor carbon-filtered. Hudson Whiskey is made from grain, the majority of which is harvested by farmers within ten miles of the distillery. The unique qualities of Hudson whiskies come not only from the time in the barrel, but also from the barrel size. The Erenzos began with small, three-gallon oak barrels, to keep the batches smaller while they found their way, but in the process they discovered what would become one of the secrets of the unique quality of their Hudson Baby Bourbon. The three-gallon size greatly increases the contact area of the spirit with the charred interior. After only three months, the whiskey is ready to be blended with whiskies aged barrels of other sizes—5, 10, 14, 26 and 53 gallons—creating, as Gable says, "The unique wide range of flavors and rounder mouthfeel." A Working Relationship The special qualities of the Hudson whiskies attracted the attention of William Grant & Sons, a family-owned independent distiller established 1887, with distribution in 180 different markets. Grant had no U.S.-made whiskey, and in 2009, sought out Tuthilltown Spirits' Hudson Whiskey line for their Innovation Portfolio. The William Grant & Sons story was very similar to that of Tuthilltown Spirits. Both were family businesses whose founders invested everything in developing a successful distillery. William Grant & Sons President Simon Hunt came personally to Tuthilltown Distillery to negotiate, family-to- family. A year later, an agreement was forged between the two families for the ownership, production and distribution rights of the Hudson Whiskey line. Gable Erenzo says of the deal, "It allowed us to be able to maintain independence as a craft distillery, while benefiting from the support of a more established and experienced industry veteran. We have the freedom to continue to innovate and create new prod- ucts, with the added benefit of access to William Grant & Sons' 125 years of distilling, engineering, sales and distribu- tion experience." Growing the Hudson Whiskey Brand The Hudson Whiskey line now includes five expressions: Single Malt, Four Grain, Bourbon, New York Corn Whiskey, Baby Bourbon and Manhattan Rye. This is indeed a family affair. Ralph Erenzo designed the distinctive bottle and label, which is sealed by hand with wax. Various uncles and cous- ins lend a hand, and wife Cathy Erenzo is onboard managing HR, state and federal compliance and the retail store, which has grown to host three tours a day on weekends, with 20 to 25 people in each tour. So when Gable Erenzo identifies himself as a Hudson Whiskey Ambassador, alone or out with his posse, meeting with mixologists and encouraging them to concoct their own personal riffs on Hudson Spirits, he not only represents the brand, he is the brand. august 2012 / the tasting panel / 73

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of The Tasting Panel magazine - August 2012