The Hudson Whiskey range boasts the first legally distilled and aged grain spirits produced in New York since Prohibition! Fantastic in itself, Tuthilltown Spirits' craft distillery (yep, another one – we love 'em!) charm certainly runs deeper than this single fact, with its very existence oweing much to fate and circumstance. Its success however is owed only to hard work and the high quality of what they have managed to create in the past few years.
When Ralph Erenzo bought Tuthilltown Gristmill and the 35 acres that surrounded it, distilling was far from the professional climber’s thoughts. Originally, he had dreamt of creating the perfect climber’s paradise: a ranch that would act as a base camp for those wishing to scale the cliffs at nearby Shawangunk Ridge.
Hunter, Britain's favourite rock climber
The residents of Gardiner were rather less keen on Ralph’s plans however and objected, placing him in a situation that anyone who's ever applied for planning permission in the UK can probably sympathise with. Despite trying to fight his case, the dream was dead in the rather expensive water and Ralph now found himself at a sizeable crossroads.
When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade (or a G&T) – so what do you suppose you do when New York gives you high quality corn? It was time for Plan B and with Brian Lee on board, the decision was made to turn the old Gristmill into a distillery! The only problem was, neither of them knew anything about distilling...
Undeterred, two years of hard work and research followed and thanks to the pair's can-do, hands-on, cost-saving attitude, spirit was finally produced for the first time in 2003. Vodka. From apple leftovers. This was, at least, a start and soon they began experimenting with anything they could get their hands on until they got a hold on this distilling lark.
Live, Climb, Distill.
Their experimentation included the use of tiny barrels with Hudson Baby Bourbon getting its name from the 2 gallon casks it's aged in.
Upon hearing that regularly giving the barrels a shake would encourage greater interaction between wood and spirit, they also came up with a novel way of achieving this agitation without committing manpower they simply didn't have. Bass speakers were fitted throughout the warehouse, continuously pumping out bass heavy 'choons'! Sure enough, the casks all happily vibrated away. This is Tuthilltown Spirits' 'sonic maturation process'.
As well as the first New York bourbon, Manhattan Rye has also been produced, something that harks back to the pre-Prohibition era of farm distilling in New York. Back then, the state was known to produce excellent rye whiskey, which, in turn, was used in cocktails such as the Manhattan! Invented in the mid-to-late 19th century, Jennie Churchill (Winston's mother) is often said to have been involved. (Probably just a myth, but quite a good one.)
Lady Randolph Churchill (Jennie)
They also produce a Four Grain Bourbon on the recommendation of Lenell Smothers, whose Brooklyn liquor store was one of the finest in the city. She offered various nuggets of sage advice in the early days as well as becoming one of Thuthilltown Spirits' earliest customers.
Fast forward a few years and the distillery has gone from strength to strength, gaining popularity across America and attracting the attention of William Grant, who now distribute Hudson Whiskey around the world. Their instructions to Ralph and co? Just keep on keeping on!
Earlier this month, the Hudson whiskey range cleaned up with 7 medals at the International Wine & Spirits Competition (IWSC) 2013, including a Gold Outstanding for their Baby Bourbon. It's a testament to their dedication, hard work and, let's face it, mighty fine whiskey!