Tag Archives: Tuthilltown

Tuthilltown Spirits New York Whiskey

Tuthilltown Spirits New York Whiskey
Batch #3, 2009
46% ABV, 92 Proof
About $45, Limited Availability

What The Distillery Says (from notes taken at the distillery tour):
New York Whiskey is Tuthilltown’s experimental line, a series of one-offs used to let the distillers flex their creative muscles.  It all started with a blend of leftovers from the weeks distilling.  Matt loved that one.  It was complex and weird (in a good way).  Batch #3 is 100% wheat.

What Richard Says:
Nose: A sweetness that brings to mind a dram that’s now forgotten. It seems like a mixture of rum and Canadian whisky.  Water dampens the rum notes and pulls forward the oak.
Palate: A very medicinal flavor.  Sinus clearing bite with little of the sweetness promised on the nose.  Water opens it up but it is still not the most outgoing whiskey.
Finish: It finishes spicy and then retreats to something reminiscent of cough syrup.  Odd but not altogether unpleasant.
Comments: It became more evident to me as I try more whiskey matured over a shorter time span through the use of smaller casks that this imparts a medicinal note on the whiskeys.  I get this from Laphroaig Quarter Cask too.  I’m all for innovation but I haven’t seen proof yet that this is a corner worth cutting.  Overall, this is an interesting whiskey.  It’s not for me but I don’t want t dissuade others from trying it.  Innovation has a tendency to be polarizing when it comes to whiskey.  If you’re in the area then give it a go and decide for yourself.
Rating: Average

What Matt Says:
Nose: Karo syrup, pecans, heavily citrus, honeysuckle and a big plug of charred oak.
Palate: Oak, sweet potato, brown sugar and sweet cream butter.
Finish: Dark fruits, light spice, sweet cherries and menthol.  Like a very sweet cough drop or the cherry lollipops my pediatrician gave out when I got a vaccination or had blood drawn (did this happen to anyone else?).
Comments: My experience with this whiskey was very different from Richard’s.  I really enjoyed it at the distillery and didn’t get the menthol/medicinal note.  Maybe it’s the power of suggestion, but I get it every time now.  I still enjoy this whiskey though.  It feels like Fall.  My official rating is “average”, but I really think it’s somewhere between “average” and “stands out”.
Rating:  Average

Overall Rating:  Average.  An interesting dram worth trying.

A visit to Tuthilltown Spirits

Hudson Baby Bourbon
Hudson Baby Bourbon

I traveled up to the Hudson Valley this weekend to re-energize from the grueling pace of the City.  While I was up there, I decided to head over to Tuthilltown Spirits for a distillery tour, a tasting, and nice chat with Gable Erenzo (Distiller, Brand Ambassador, etc.).  As you know, I am a huge fan of the micro-distillation movement.  So, this was a particular treat for me.

When Tuthilltown opened around six years ago, they were the first whiskey distillery in New York State since prohibition.  They are no longer the only (Finger Lakes Distilling started producing whiskey this year), but they are still the first and there are a few other things that make them special.  Every whiskey produced at Tuthilltown is double distilled.  They have a “large” 400 gallon combination pot and column still that uses a steam jacket to heat the mash (which includes the solids from fermentation for a more flavorful product).  There is another smaller still for the second distillation.

As with many of the microdistillers, Tuthilltown uses a variety of small barrels for maturation.  Smaller barrel size allows for greater surface area contact between wood and spirit, thus speeding up the maturation process.  Since the whiskey only matures 6-10 months, the spirit does not experience the environmental changes that a 3-6 year old bourbon from one of the Kentucky behemoths feel.  In an attempt to rectify this situation, the warehouse walls are lined with baseboard heaters.  The heaters are powered with hot waste-water from the stills.  So, when the stills are running, the warehouse gets very warm, but the warehouse can get very cold (in the winter at least) when the stills are dormant for the night.  Additionally, there are bass speakers placed all over the warehouse that play very deep bass each night.  Gable calls this “sonic aging”.  The bass vibrates the barrels, agitating the spirit and creating micro expansions and contractions in the barrels themselves.  If you visit Tuthilltown, you will notice another oddity.  They store their barrels on end.  When I asked Gable if he noticed a difference in the end product.  He said they’ve always done it that way, so he’s never been able to compare   They regularly rotate the barrels though.

What is really striking about Tuthilltown is their commitment to the environment.  Except for the oak in the barrels and the malted barley in their single malt and four grain whiskies, all of their whiskey ingredients are grown within 10 miles of the distillery.  The waste water from distillation is used to heat the warehouse and is then circulated through a reed pond to be absorbed by the reeds.  They currently burn the waste alcohols for fuel and the ultimate goal is to be completely off grid.

While whiskey is job #1 at Tuthilltown, Gable and his father Ralph (along with business partner Brian Lee and a small staff of workers) also supply the Hudson Valley, New York City and select other markets with rum and vodka.  The vodka is made from cider produced at a farm down the road and they offer both a double distilled (Heart Of The Hudson) and a triple distilled variety (Spirit Of The Hudson).  My wife and I both prefer the Heart of the Hudson Vodka.  Triple distillation is overkill and makes it just another vodka.  The double distilled spirit smells strongly of fresh apples and carries a hint of the flavor.

Due to the nature of their license, the tasting room can only pour spirits made from local products.  So you won’t find the single malt or the rum in the tasting room.  I’m a fan of their whiskeys in general and you can read our review of the Four Grain Bourbon here.  The Manhattan Rye is one of my favorite ryes (although the one they bottled for Park Avenue Liquors is even better than the standard).  They offer a Baby Bourbon (100% corn bourbon aged in tiny casks for about 6 months) and un-aged corn whiskey (which is surprisingly smooth and flavorful).  Richard and I will be posting a formal review of the latest bottling of New York Whiskey this week.  The New York Whiskey line is Tuthilltown’s experimental collection.  This bottling is 100% wheat.  It’s smooth and lovely.

So what is on the horizon for Tuthilltown?  Well, they have already laid down some whiskey in second use barrels for bourbon style whiskey.  They won’t be able to call it “bourbon” because of the second use barrels, but I’m sure it will be well received.  Whiskey enthusiasts and cocktail crafters alike love Tuthilltown whiskeys but some complain about the price point.  It’s around $45 for 375ml of their main whiskey line.  The second use matured whiskeys will be available under another label at a lower price point.  Gable is also growing some hops on the property for a hop infused whiskey.  I really enjoyed Charbay’s hop infused whiskey, I can’t wait to see Tuthilltown’s offering.

If you want more information about Tuthilltown or for a tour, check out the website.

Drink well, drink responsibly.

Whisky On The Hudson ‘09

If you’ve been following me on Twitter, you already know that Thursday night was the Whisky Guild’s annual Whisky On The Hudson booze cruise.  You also know that I forgot my ticket and had to wrangle a new one (which makes this the most expensive tasting event I’ve ever attended.  Not the Guild’s fault, but there it is). Despite my ineptitude, Thursday turned out to be a really great night.  I schmoozed with industry insiders, helped turn other attendees on to new things, and most importantly I learned a lot.  I was even surprised a couple of times.

The boat was bigger this year, but the number of presenters was about the same, which made for a more comfortable socializing experience.  The down side was that things looked a little sparse for a while.  I decided to get the lay of the land first and to seek out some friends.  First I headed to a part of the boat where Glenmorangie had set up a little jazz club, where you could taste the whole line (including many Ardbeg’s) and relax a bit.  Of course, there was a mob around the Signet.  Even though I love Glenmorangie, I was on a mission (I grabbed some of the new Ardbeg Supernova on the way out though).  I didn’t want to be sidetracked.  However, I am easily sidetracked.

I found a boat map to help look for the William Grant & Sons tables.  I know I will find Dr. Whisky there.  On my way, I get turned around and end up talking Rick Wasmund of Copper Fox Distillery in Virginia.  Wasmund’s Single Malt Whisky (hmm, he leaves out the ‘e’ even though it is an American Single Malt) is a pot stilled whisky that uses barley malted over apple and cherry wood.  I tried it last year and was not impressed, but a trusted source said that they have improved the product, so I was willing to give it a try.  I was pleasantly surprised.  You can taste the influence of the fruit woods, but it does not come off as overly fruity.  It’s bold, round and balanced.  To sweeten the deal, Rick was also pouring an aged rye (containing both rye and his proprietary malted barley) and white dog* of both whiskies.  I’ve tried a lot of white dog in the past couple of months (it seems to be the it whisk(e)y these days).  I have to say, these were my favorites.  The malting process really smoothes out the rough edges commonly associated with white whisky.  The most interesting thing Rick has to offer is a box set that contains two bottles of the white whisky and a miniature charred oak barrel.  You can age your own whisky!  He had a second fill barrel there with five month old whisky.  It was different from the bottled stuff.  The wood was really bold.  This is a must have for any whisky nerd (like myself).  Here’s the rub.  Wasmund’s is only available in the D.C. area right now.  They are working on getting New York distribution, but the rest of the country is still without fruit wood malted single malt.

Once again, I was off to find Dr. Whisky.  He’s always good for a laugh and some quality information.  In route, I caught a glimpse of a Jefferson’s Reserve bottle.  “I wonder if they brought the Presidential Select,” I think to myself.  It’s not on the table.  I ask and they deliver.  Trey Zoeller, V.P. of Bourbon Operations for Castle Brands, comes over and we start talking about this whisky from the now defunct Stitzel-Weller distillery.  This is one of Malt Advocate’s “Must Buy” bourbons (but you already knew that).  It’s every thing John Hansell says it is (we’ll have a formal review someday).  As Trey and I reminisce about dead distilleries (we agree that the Hirsch <Michter’s> 16yo is superior to the 20yo), he tells me that he has another batch of this Stitzel-Weller bourbon that he plans to release next year as Jefferson’s Presidential Select 18yo.  I can’t wait.

Finally, I make it back to the Balvenie table where I find a bearded(!) Dr. Whisky pouring the entire Balvenie line.  We have a chat and I try the new 17yo (Madeira cask).  This is a good one folks.  I was a little disappointed with the Rum cask 17yo from last year.  The palate did not deliver on what the nose promised.  The Madeira 17yo is just the opposite.  The nose is a little weak and uninteresting, but it really delivers on flavor.  Later, I came back and tried the 21yo.  A very fine dram indeed.

Much of the remainder of the night was a flurry of schmoozing and tasting (I even ran into Mark Gillespie of WhiskyCast).  I reacquainted myself with the Glenlivet 15yo (aged in virgin charred Limousin oak).  Limousin oak is used in Cognac barrels and is tricky to work with but it makes a damn fine whisky.  The 15yo is the only Glenlivet to use Limousin oak casks.  This specialty oak gives the whisky a richness and boldness that round out and compliment the sharp, fruity qualities common to Glenlivet.  This is smoother and richer than the standard expression.

I had the opportunity to try the PC6 and PC7 (both distilled at Bruichladdich).  These are both good drams with a fair amount of peat.  I prefer the PC6.

Dave Conroy of International Beverage Company, Inc., took me through his whiskies from Mull and Islay.  I don’t remember ever trying Bunnahabhain before and I think I would remember an unpeated Islay.  I liked it at every age.  There is a sweetness and complexity that I associate more with the mainland.  This is very approachable whisky.  Dave also introduced me to Tobermory and Ledaig (both from the Isle of Mull).  Really good stuff, the Ledaig especially is a must try for any peat lovers out there.

Other things that stood out for me that night were the Knappogue Castle 1995 Irish whisky, the Hibiki 12yo Blended Japanese whisky, Deanston 30yo, and Tuthilltown’s New York Whiskey.  However, the topper had to be the tasting lab led by Master Ambassador for Laphroaig, Simon Brooking.  We tasted peated barley, he lit a peat brick on fire, and each dram was accompanied by a song (or a joke) and a toast.  Simon is a real showman.  We tasted Ardmore 30yo (loved it), Laphroaig 10yo, Quarter Cask, 15yo, 18yo, and 25yo.  I really like the Quarter Cask (and the 25yo of course).  The 18yo is a new addition that will be replacing the 15yo.  They are very different whiskies, so if you are a fan of the 15yo, stock up.  Personally, I prefer the 15yo, but I seem to be among the minority in the critics’ circles.  Maybe I’ll have to give it another go in a less overwhelming setting.

So, that was my Whisky on the Hudson experience.  I’m already looking forward to next year.  The Whisky Guild does several of these events around the country each year.  You should check it out.

* “White dog” is a common term for whisky straight from the still (non-matured, no water added).  I’m not sure if Wasmund’s non-matured whisky is unwatered or not, but it is pretty high proof.

Drink well.  Drink responsibly.


Hudson Four Grain Bourbon Whiskey

46% ABV/92 Proof
Year ’08, Batch 6, Bottle 410
Available in the New York and California – around $45 for 375ml

What the distillery says:
Hudson Four Grain Bourbon Whiskey brings together the distinct characteristics of corn, rye, wheat, and malted 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 our signature small barrels (the barrels they use are about the size of a rugby ball, or slightly bigger that a football for those who have never traveled abroad -matt). Our Four Grain Bourbon is a rich full flavored spirit. The grains are perfectly suited one to the others so that the end result balances the soft richness of corn, the sharp peppery notes of rye, all the smooth subtlety of wheat and the sweetness of malted barley. Each bottle is hand numbered.

What Richard says:
Nose: I get the light odor of candied fruit with this one. It’s much lighter and more floral than a typical bourbon. This could be from the relative youth and short time spent in the barrel. The nose itself isn’t young per se, just delicate.
Palate: The palate is surprising and tells more of the whiskey’s age than the nose. There is no sweetness at all. The flavor profile less complex than I would have hoped and all I really get is a hint of licorice. There is not spice at all and the only other flavor or sensation is an alcohol burn if you hold it hold the palate.
Finish: Even sips leave a mellow finish that disappears all but for a lingering warmth at the back of the mouth. Little flavor hangs around. A larger sampling leaves an almost medicinal ending.
Comments: I applaud the effort made here. We should all try to support the inovation seen in the burgeoning craft distilling movement. That said, this whiskey just doesn’t move me. The nose promises something nice and different but the palate doesn’t deliver.
Rating: Average

What Matt says:
Nose: It smells somewhat sweet with hints of caramel and butterscotch. I can also smell the char from the barrel, but only very slightly.
Palate: This whiskey tastes young. Not that it’s harsh, because it’s not. However, it tastes like it has not come into it’s own yet. A slow and careful tasting can almost dissect this whiskey into it’s separate grains. A few more years in the barrel would help the flavors marry and develop into something greater than the sum of its parts.
Finish: This whiskey does not stick around long. It leaves a slight sweetness on the tongue and a burn along the edges that makes my mouth water. Perhaps this would be good as an aperitif?
Comments: I have tried most of what Tuthilltown Distillery (the makers of this whiskey) have to offer and this is not the best whiskey they make. I too applaud the effort, but it falls just shy of some of their other whiskeys. If you find yourself standing in front of a few bottles of Hudson Whiskey, I say try the Single Malt or Baby Bourbon. However, I’m giving this one a ‘Must Try’ because I think everyone should try these boutique whiskeys. They are at the forefront of whisk(e)y innovation. Additionally, I suggest trying this one with a little water. The water opens up the flavors a little, making this dram much more interesting.
Rating: Must Try

Overall Rating: If you were a fan of the Woodford Reserve Four Grain and were hoping to find a replacement, this is not your answer. I suggest writing Chris Morris (the Master Distiller) directly and begging him to make it a permanent part of the Woodford line. This is more like a smoother version of Michter’s American Whiskey. Good, drinkable, not a stand-out favorite. Average

Spirited Swine

Tonight I experienced the melding of two of mankind’s greatest inventions, distilled spirits and cured meat. Astor Center (the event space for Astor Wines & Spirits in NYC) hosted the Bacon & Bourbon Expo. Mr. Cutlet (Josh Ozersky) played host to the event, where I had the opportunity to pair some of my favorite American whiskeys with a sampling of artisanal smoked meats. The title was a bit of a misnomer. There were nearly as many assorted American whiskeys as true bourbons. I assume the title was for alliteration and because Bacon & Assorted American Whiskey Expo did not roll off the tongue half as well.

I envisioned a semi-guided tour where meat masters conferred with spirit sommeliers to determine pairings of specialty bacons with complimentary whiskeys. Perhaps an applewood smoked bacon with Bernheim’s Wheat Whiskey or something of that nature. However, it was a bit of free-for-all. There were plates stacked with bacon and thick cut pork belly, containers of ham sticks, and a handful of distilleries represented (each with a small selection of their line – about 20 whiskeys in total). There was a long lapse between courses of bacon as the plates emptied, but the event was great fun and I got plenty of bacon and some really great whiskey.

The stand-out whiskey favorites were the Parker’s Heritage 2nd Edition 27 Year Old and the Rittenhouse Very Rare 23 Year Old 100 Proof Rye. As always, the Tuthilltown table was packed as Ralph Erenzo worked his charm on the gathered bourbon enthusiasts. He makes great whiskey, but I’ve got to give this one to Heaven Hill (they make both Parker’s and Rittenhouse).

Even at 96 proof, the Parker’s is dangerously drinkable. One would expect a 27 year old bourbon to be overly woody and a 96 proof bourbon to burn your nose and your throat. This edition of the Parker’s Heritage collection is surprisingly balanced with notes of spice, vanilla, and marzipan. I’m going to give this a ‘Must Try,’ but, at $200, it is out of my price range.

The Rittenhouse is intense, smooth, sweet and spicy. There was a time when I shied away from rye whiskey. After trying some really good ryes (like Sazerac), rye became part of my regular drink list. The Rittenhouse is unique and far smoother than any rye has a right to be. Its price point is higher than the 18yo Sazerac by $20-50 depending on the source and I am not sure that it is worth the difference. Definitely worth a try though.

The bacon list was not as extensive as the whiskey list, but it was quality. My favorites were D’Artagnan’s Hickory Smoked Wild Boar Bacon and the pork belly from RUB (a NYC bar-be-que joint). I can honestly say that I could subsist entirely on pork belly and bourbon.

The big surprise of the evening was the Bacon-Infused Old Fashions being served up by PDT (go here for the recipe). It is even better than it sounds.

As I type this, my throat is raw from talking about whiskey all night and my fingers still smell of smoked pork fat. I think I should go eat a salad.