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.