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Tuthilltown Hudson Whiskey Reviews

Tuthilltown’s Hudson line is arguably the most successful “craft” or “micro” whiskey in the United States over the last decade. Started in 2001 by Ralph Erenzo and Brian Lee, the Tuthilltown Distillery has been cranking out whiskey consistently for the last 6-7 years. Hudson has been one of the biggest success stories and trailblazers in this micro-movement. As a result, the distillery got the attention of one of the largest beverage alcohol companies in the world in William Grant and Sons (Grant). The Hudson line was purchased by Grant in 2010, but the distillery still makes the product in their Gardiner, NY facility.

Gable Erenzo, Ralph’s son, has taken a big step forward in running the operation since his father’s serious auto accident last December (2010) (I am glad to hear that Ralph is doing much better and back involved day to day). According to Gable the partnership with Grant has allowed Tuthilltown to benefit from resources they didn’t have prior. Most notably, the distillery can now rely on Grant to assist with tricky distillation problems, technological, and production advances they wouldn’t have access to this quickly under more organic growth conditions.

In recent years, Tuthilltown has moved from using only small 3 gallon barrels to aging their products in both 3 gallon (for around six months) and 14 gallon barrels (for 18-24 months). All of their whiskeys are aged in this manner. Tuthilltown then blends a combination of these barrels to get the desired flavor profile. Gable informed me the distillery is continuing to increase the age of their products while making sure production stays consistent.

So let’s get into a comprehensive look at the entire lineup:

Hudson New York Corn Whiskey, ABV/Proof: 46%/92, $50 (375ml bottle)
New York Corn Whiskey was the first whiskey (light whiskey actually) in the Hudson line. It is also the first legal grain spirit distilled in New York in more than 70 years. It’s made from 100% corn that is sourced from local farms within about 10 miles of the distillery, and uses a combination of 40% field corn and 60% heirloom corn. Tuthilltown says heirloom varietals have a higher yield, less starch, and richer, bolder, “cornier” flavor. I believe them! But frankly for me it was a bit too rustic of an experience. The nose of this whiskey is extremely corny, vegetal, and not overly sweet at all. It’s much like opening up a tin can of corn. The aromas consist of boiled corn cobs, hay, and buttered popcorn. The palate is light and dry with mild sweetness, finishing with a nutty quality. It’s pure corn start to finish, but too rough for me to consider it a recommended product.
Sour Mash Manifesto Rating: (6.2 Decent)

Hudson Baby Bourbon, ABV/Proof: 46%/92, $50 (375ml bottle)
Tuthilltown Distillery’s Hudson Baby Bourbon is essentially the New York Corn Whiskey that has been aged in oak barrels. Tuthilltown was one of the first distilleries to work considerably with smaller barrels as noted above. As a result, the oak influence is big on the nose, but certainly helps on the palate injecting much needed sweetness into the corn whiskey. It opens up with freshly splintered (almost green) oak, vanilla, and fragrant floral aromas. There is an ever present corn and caramel underbelly as well. On the sip corn cakes and vanilla interplay with peppermint and toasted wood before the spices and tannin emerge on the finish. This one is a good sipper, if a bit rough around the edges (and green again too!) like it’s brother.
Sour Mash Manifesto Rating: (7.7 Good/Solid)

Hudson Manhattan Rye Whiskey, ABV/Proof: 46%/92, $50 (375ml bottle)
Manhattan Rye was the third release from Tuthilltown’s Hudson line. The namesake is quite obvious, but also pays homage to the cocktail that bares its name. Tuthilltown created the first rye whiskey to be made in New York since Prohibition, and sourced as much local rye grain as possible. Being a single grain, 100% rye whiskey, it took the distillery a number of trials before they finally got results to their liking. Rye is a very tough grain to distill because it gums up easily like glue, and requires a great deal of temperature regulation to get the finished mash correct. The results are good, but lacking the refinement you might expect in a product at this price range. From nose to sip, Manhattan Rye is all about the spices. The nose consists of sweet maple syrup, allspice, cinnamon stick, mint, dusty rye grain, and fresh oak. A resinous front entry on the palate makes way for a mid-sip explosion of pepper, mint, and cinnamon. The finish is equally zesty. Hudson Manhattan Rye has some spunk, but it really tastes it’s age in the end.
Sour Mash Manifesto Rating: (7.4 Good/Solid)

Hudson Single Malt Whiskey, ABV/Proof: 46%/92, $50 (375ml bottle)
Always looking to grow and expand the Hudson whiskey line, Tuthilltown debuted a single malt whiskey about three years ago. Barley is one grain the distillery has had difficulty obtaining locally due to the regions’ poor barley growing conditions. What’s interesting is in spite of the fact that it’s a single grain whiskey, the malt does not emerge easily through the oak-forward aromas and flavors. The result is an intensely spiced, cinnamon-bomb of a whiskey. But honestly it kind of works in a strange way. In addition to the cinnamon explosion, nutmeg, black pepper, and honeysuckle are present on the nose. A sweet fruitiness on the palate makes a brief appearance before being choked out by oak and spices. This one is not without its moments, but very one dimensional.
Sour Mash Manifesto Rating: (7.3 Good/Solid)

Hudson Four Grain Whiskey, ABV/Proof: 46%/92, $50 (375ml bottle)
Tuthilltown has covered a great deal of ground in a relatively short period of time. One of the distillery’s early customers, Lenell Smothers, owner of Lenell’s in Brooklyn, NY, thought the distillery should consider using 2 small flavoring grains instead of just wheat OR rye. Lenell’s suggestion was taken to heart by the folks at Tuthilltown, and Hudson Four Grain Whiskey was born. The mashbill (grain recipe) consists of 60% corn – the same local and heirloom varieties that make up the Corn Whiskey and Baby Bourbon. The remaining proportions are rye, wheat, and malted barley. The result is the most balanced and well crafted whiskey in the Hudson lineup by a good margin. Rum, dried fruits, sourdough bread, and wood spices are prevalent on the nose. The palate is spicy with chewy corn and caramel anchoring everything. The finish is fruity with a firm dose of toasted oak. I enjoyed this one most of the entire lineup.
Sour Mash Manifesto Rating: (8.1 Very Good/Excellent)

I’ve seen a trend where products aged in only small barrels can at times have an awkward, almost rushed floral woodiness to them. All of the Hudson products have varied levels of this flavor profile. I’m a big believer that a whiskey doesn’t have to be old to be great, but I also believe it’s ready when it’s ready. Tuthilltown is ran by great and passionate people, and their whiskeys have some good “guts” to them. I believe strongly that bigger barrels and more time will undoubtedly improve these products as the distillery grows.

One big consideration is price. If you want to try this small batch product made with local ingredients (as much as possible), you’ll have to pay $45-50 for a 375ML bottle (Half Bottle size). That’s not chump change, even if it is some of the best whiskey packaging on the market. As you can see, the samples I received were all over the board in terms of ratings. For anyone interested in trying the best that Tuthilltown has to offer, I’d confidently point you first towards the Four Grain Whiskey. Secondly I would direct you to the Baby Bourbon. Both of these, especially the Four Grain, have some very good merits.

17 Comments

  1. sam k says:

    Thanks for the “fair and balanced” critique, Jason, as always. I have yet to try a Hudson spirit, primarily due to the astonishingly high price point. I’m sure that very factor is what made them most attractive to Grant. I look forward to getting a taste at some point, for sure.

    I do, however, question your “best packaging” take. I think those squat bottles are kind of ugly, especially compared to the small distillers that are using some beautiful, custom-designed American-made glass (think High West, et al).

  2. Sam, they look like apothecary bottles – for some reason I just like that. But there are a number of nice looking bottles out there. As for price you are not alone there. It’s an expensive bottle for a blend of 6 month and 18-24 month old juice. When you consider what other, very highly sought after bottles are going for that puts it into context even further.

  3. sam k says:

    Taste is not only subjective in the product, but the packaging, too. Not saying you’re wrong, just that I disagree. This shape would seem to “glug” a lot when being poured.

    Adding up the total on your investment here, you paid $250 for the equivalent of two-and-a-half 750 ml bottles of whiskey that average a 7.4 rating. That’s well more than you’d have paid for the same quantity of the recent Parker’s Heritage (10 y.o. 9.6 rating). I know it’s apples to oranges, and I’m all for the craft distillers… just got a bottle of High West OMG ($42 for a 750), and paid $57 for a 750 of Delaware Phoenix Rye Dog last spring, but the Hudsons are WAY out there on the price/quality scale.

  4. It’s all very subjective indeed. Sam, just to clarify, these were samples provided by Tuthilltown. I mentioned that in the review but in hindsight it wasn’t too clear. But your point is still very much valid – they are expensive.

  5. Tommy Viola says:

    Yeah, the price issue with Hudson whiskeys is a big one for me. I want to support micros, and I understand that the costs are different for a smaller producer. But when you can get a 750 of McKenzie Rye for $40, and a 375 of Hudson is going for $50, it’s hard to make the leap for Tuthilltown. Given your review, I’d like to try the Four Grain, but I’m going to have to pass, unless I see it on a bar for a reasonable price.

  6. MW says:

    The price is WAY out-of-line! I understand they need to make $…but I’m REALLY sick & tired of whiskey/whisky distillers treating customers like an ATM machine. They need to find investors willing to float them along until they actually have something worth selling OR sell these whiteish whiskeys at a much lower price. This co. does have an investor w/deep pockets so it’s even more insulting. If they were half the price, I might try one of the older ones but forget about it at these prices. It’s pretty darn close to white dog/moonshine. I’ve noticed the same very dusty bottles in one of my favorite liquor stores for months now – the owner even said it’s a hard sell -small bottles/very young whiskey/overpriced.

  7. Jeffrey Woolley says:

    The bottles are definitely attractive to me, too, though they strike me as being a little small! Several months ago I tried the Baby Bourbon and was very pleased to find I disliked it. I found it gluey, withered, and harsh. I was pleased because I would have had to spring for their various offerings, had I liked it. My approach toward the so-called craft whiskeys now is I will try them at a bar (or a friend’s) but will not purchase them without trying them. I have yet to try a craft I would buy (excepting Old Potrero 18th Century, which I find intriguing). Hudson’s pricing is mere foolishness and completely disconnected from quality and value. Maybe they should start a designer clothing line…

  8. Vince says:

    Jason:

    I tasted all of these at WhiskyFest in Chicago. I agree that the two best were the four grain and the baby bourbon but to my palate they were not even average. I think all of these were very below average and I would not recommend any of them to my friends. And the price is just absurd!

  9. Vince and Jeffrey thanks for the comment! It’s clear they’ve got a price issue to work out.

  10. MW and Tommy, thanks for the comment. We’re adding you guys to the “price too high” consensus as well. ; )

  11. I tried the four grain a long time ago and was not impressed in the slightest. Like others here, put me firmly in the “rip off” category.

  12. SteveBM says:

    The bottle design is clean and I see your liking them to apothecary bottles, but I feel they could’ve taken it a step further to create something more attractive, less boring.

    I’m also of the opinion that these whiskeys are ridiculously overpriced and definitely under-deliver. I’ve tried the four grain, baby, and corn and was not impressed. I found the flavors of the four grain and baby bourbons to be bland and just grainy. I give them credit for trying to do something different and I’m sure New Yorkers are all over this stuff but I’ll stay away because of price and quality.

  13. sam k says:

    Having started the kvetching about price here, let me play devils’ advocate, as well. Tuthilltown has been able to GET these prices throughout their existence, a remarkable accomplishment. If they weren’t perceived by their customers as being worthy, they’d have folded by now.

    Their ability to command these premium markups is, in my opinion, the primary reason Grant was interested in the brand. To make this kind of investment in a fledgling industry, there has to be some potential for profit in the not-too-distant future, and the Hudson line has a proven track record. There are plenty of craft distillers making whiskey as good or better that could have been considered, but didn’t make the cut.

    Now that Grant has lent technical assistance and capital infusion, I’d expect improvements across the board in the final product, and that’s a good thing. The only problem is that those of us in the recently notorious “99 percent” will have to set our sights on other craft whiskeys. Tuthilltown was never meant for us, nor will it ever be.

    Much like overhyped “limited edition” scotches on the market, we’ve already seen the rise of a ballyhooed craft line that is meant for a different market than we necessarily understand or represent. So be it. The success of Tuthilltown will be good for the craft segment as a whole.

    I, on the other hand, remain reassured that distillers like Finger Lakes, High West, New Holland, and Dad’s Hat (a brand new Pennsylvania rye whiskey distillery in Bucks County with white whiskey soon to be released) will be keeping us enthusiasts talking (and drinking!).

  14. Sam, great points all around. They’ve been able to command a great price and that no doubt got their attention. Interestingly though Tom McKenzie of one of the distilleries you mentioned, Finger Lakes, had an interesting insight. In comparison to Tuthilltown, Finger Lakes has about 1/10th of the personnel and can produce mash in about 1/4th the time because they use barley malt instead of enzymes. This converts starts much more quickly. In short, it seems the production process is a bit more intense at Tuthilltown, which could be the biggest reason for the higher prices. I frankly don’t know, but I thought this insight was good.

    I too expect improvements at Tuthilltown. The average age of the whiskey has gone up in the last year and Gable is committed to seeing that increase. Again, I’d ask them to take a look at Koval’s 30 gallon approach – that’s a great middle ground barrel size.

  15. Eamonn says:

    Really glad that you put up this post. Living in the NYC area, these bottles seem to get a lot of publicity and I’ve always been intrigued but now I know that I should save my $50 for now at least. Thanks for another helpful review.

  16. Eamonn, glad it was helpful. I always like to tell people to please remember this is just one guys opinion. I would recommend trying them out in a restaurant first and see what you think. Cheers.

  17. Sam says:

    I had the opportunity to visit Tuthilltown Spirits with my father and brother this weekend. The tour was a terrific. We saw the guts of the operation and our guide was completely transparent with how the entire process worked. It was a lot of fun.

    It’s fair to categorize their bourbons as young and I would call them “rough and tumble” versus the refined taste of something like Elmer T Lee. (And given the choice, I would prefer the Four Grain over ETL.) I like a little character in my drink, and Hudson has plenty of that.

    It will be interesting to see how they continue to grow as the distribution agreement with William Grant & Sons evolves.

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