Yesterday, I had a very opportunistic moment in where I had the chance to experience three expressions from the first distillery in the New York state since Prohibition. Tony Vanaria, Hudson Whiskey brand ambassador, was on a tour of the Manchester bar scene and I caught up with him so I could enjoy a one-on-one master class and learn a little about this cracking brand.
Before we come onto the expressions, lets dive into how Hudson came about, and the story behind its growing success.
Ralph Erenzo and Brian Lee come from two different working backgrounds (Brian a senior technical designer, and Ralph a 25-year rock climber), but have been thrown together with an opportunity, and a dilemma. Back in 2001, they purchased the Tuthilltown Gristmill with the plans to open it as a rock climbers ranch. However, with opposition by the neighbours, they had to come up with a way of utilising their new space. After much deliberation, they realised they had the starting of a whiskey production, and so developed the site into the first distillery in the New York state since Prohibition.
With no prior experience in the trade, they learnt what they could from visiting distilleries around the world, learning the way from experts all whilst obtaining permits, ordering stills and converting the two granaries. Once achieved, they spent the next three years experimenting various ways of creating the perfect whiskey. With no master distiller to appoint, Ralph and Brian did everything by hand, so that they knew exactly what was going on at each stage of the process. They also decided to keep things local, only using the agricultural resources available to them from local farmers.
So how do Brian and Ralph produce Hudson? Well as mentioned, after many trials and errors, they’ve come up with the best way to keep the consistency of each of their expressions.
Utilising local New York Farms, they mill grains such as heirloom corn and cook it within the mash tun by adding hot water. This process releases sugars from the grains to produce something named the mash. This is then cooled, with yeast added to begin the fermentation process. Over 5-6 days, the yeast consumes the sugars and produces alcohol and CO2.
The fermented mash is then transferred to an 100 gallon pot still made in Germany, and twice distilled. Maturation of the heart of the spirit that is cut from the last distillation, happens within small charred new American oak barrels from Missouri. These signature small barrels give the whiskey more wood contact, meaning less time spent in the barrel overall to give the characteristics desired. Water is added to reduce the abv from still strength to barrel strength. Whilst maturing, subwoofers are used for sonic aging process so that the whisky never settles during its time stored away.
So, how do the Hudson expressions fare? Well below, I give to you my tasting notes –
Hudson Baby Bourbon – 46%
100% corn-based (a blend of sweet corn and Wapsey corn), and the first legal pot-still whiskey from New York state since Prohibition, as well as New York’s first ever bourbon.
Very smooth on the nose, with a slight sweetness following alongside liquorice. A smooth start on the palate, with a developing sharpness with a distinct corn flavour dominating. A very long dram, with notes of caramel and vanilla.
Hudson Manhattan Rye – 46%
100% rye base. Slight cherry notes on the nose, with hints of oak coming through with smooth aromas. Plenty of dry wood flavours on the palate, with cherry, spice and honey a plenty to create a dry finish.
Hudson Four Grain – 46%
A mixture of 60% corn, 25% rye, 5% malted barley and 10% wheat, all grind together from the beginning.
Very smooth on the nose with plenty of new wood aromas. A growing flavour on the palate, with a smooth texture to begin, but a spicy finish that dries.
Not a bad offering at all, with the Hudson Manhattan the stand-out for me. It’s great to try something new from the bourbon category, especially hailing from somewhere other than Kentucky or Tennessee. Although only available to us here in the UK in 35cl bottles, it’s worthy of a place in your drinks cabinet due to the difference you will surely receive compared to your other American favourites.
Enjoy bourbon the New York way!
I’d like to give thanks to Tony Vanaria for his time yesterday and providing me with the opportunity to experience Hudson whiskey.
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