The Hudson Baby Bourbon first made me aware of the craft distiller movement in the Hudson Valley and New York State region. I purchased a bottle for my father-in-law many years ago as a gift and we definitely enjoyed sampling it. How they called it “bourbon” surprised me and made me do some research online. The myth of bourbon only being made in Kentucky turned out to be… a myth!! Since Tuthilltown Spirits was one of the pioneers of distilling in the Northeast, it was high on my list of distilleries to visit. It made for a great day trip.
Located directly on the Wallkill River in Gardiner, NY, the history of the property of Tuthilltown Spirits goes back to the 18th century. One of the buildings that is currently used as the on-site restaurant was once a grist mill that started in 1788. The grist mill lasted over 200 years and it was only in 2002 that it stopped production. The property was purchased in 2001 by Ralph Erenzo with the intention of creating a rock-climbing ranch since the site is located not far from the famous rock-climbing cliffs called the Gunks. What started out to be a rock-climbing camp changed directions and became the 1st distillery in New York State built since Prohibition using the newly created farm distillers license. Brian Lee, Ralph’s partner at Tuthilltown, came from Connecticut with technical expertise. For 10 1/2 years now, Tuthilltown Spirits has been distilling gins, vodkas and whiskies.
Our tour for the afternoon was led by Lyon, an enthusiastic guide who was very good and knowledgeable on all things Tuthilltown. Here are some notes from our tour:
- started with a 150 gallon still from Germany
- started producing vodka in 2005 and Baby Bourbon in 2006
- first batch of Baby Bourbon ever was 128 bottles and they used 3 gallon barrels that aged the whiskey for only 3 months, the whiskey was sold using medicinal bottles
- since William Grant & Sons acquired the Hudson Whiskey brand in 2010, its production has increased to 1 million bottles of the Hudson Baby Bourbon made in 2015
- now 10 to 60 gallon barrels are used for the Baby Bourbon and the whiskey is aged from 2 to 4 years
- 90% of the grain is sourced within New York state with the exception of malted barley that comes from Montreal
- corn, wheat and rye are all sourced 45 minutes west in Cochecton, NY
- apples sourced from Tantillo’s Farm in Gardiner, NY
- 1600 lbs of grain (or 32 bags) are used in each mash
- a 1930’s roller mill is used to mill grain, found on eBay
- a 900 gallon pasta sauce cooker is the cook tank
- 1000 gallons of mash is mashed for 1 hour and a heat-exchanger cooling system takes only 5 minutes to cool mash
- they started with one 500 gallon fermentation tank, now they have eight 2500 gallon wine fermentation tanks from California
- fermentation takes between 3 to 4 days
- Pot to column stills, three stills 330 / 650 / 850 gallons
- 90 gallons of liquid produced from the stills, only 40 gallons is considered the “hearts” or the spirit that is kept and aged, the “heads” are only 3% and the “tails” is the rest
- 4% of the total mash ends up in the “hearts”
- for vodka, a 21 column fractional still is used, comes off at 160 proof
- water used comes from a deep well on the property that is triple-distilled
- production times are Monday to Friday in shifts
- they use a couple of cooperages for barrels – the Kelvin Cooperage in Kentucky and the Black Swan Cooperage in Minnesota
- cotton micro filters are used when dumping barrels for bottling
- their new bottling line has tripled the speed of their bottling process
- all bottle are hand-waxed
- 2500 bottles a day are produced as a minimum (3 pallets)
Overall it was a very informative tour and a beautiful property. They have obviously grown tremendously over the last 10 years and with William Grant & Sons they will continue to gain both domestic and international recognition and distribution. They seem to be the first distillery that I visited in the Northeast that had merged with a larger entity and you could tell that the scaling is an ongoing process. Lyon was a great guide!
The tour ended and it was time for our tasting. We were able to choose four of the following spirits:
- Half Moon Orchard Gin (92 proof) – NY State wheat and apples distilled with eight botanicals
- Hudson New York Corn Whiskey (92 proof) – a blend of locally grown corn, unaged whiskey
- Hudson Baby Bourbon (92 proof) – aged New York Corn Whiskey in a first-use charred American Oak barrel
- Hudson Four Grain Bourbon (92 proof) – corn, rye, wheat and malted barley make up this small batch whiskey
- Hudson Manhattan Rye Whiskey (92 proof)
- Hudson Maple Cask Rye Whiskey (92 proof) – Hudson Whiskey barrels sent to Woods Syrup, a maple syrup producer in Vermont that ages syrup in the barrels, barrels are then used to age a small batch of rye
The tasting was a nice way to end the tour before having lunch at the restaurant on site called the Tuthill House at the Mill. The restaurant was a great place to unwind after the tour and they had a number of great craft beers on tap at the bar and the food was very good. There was a wedding party being set up in the upstairs part of the restaurant which contained some of the old grist mill pieces. What a great venue for a party!
Charles’ Notes: This was an interesting visit. I wasn’t sure what to expect in size and modernity. It turned out to be a combination of the old and the new. I had always thought that the bourbon was good, but it was hard for me to buy much of it at the price that was asked for a 375 ml bottle. But it seems like the Hudson whiskey line is now coming more into range with a lot of the other craft products that are available these days. They even have larger bottles now which are at a good price point. The tour experience was excellent. We got to see the whole production area and were able to take photos. Lyon was very good and took his time explaining to the group how everything was distilled. It was fun seeing some of the older equipment that they kept on site as a reminder of where they started. This is very important to have this perspective. The tasting was good and it was nice to have a choice of what to taste. They also had a lot of swag in the gift shop and other products that make for some good gifts. The restaurant was a great way to end the day. Overall, it was a very fun day trip. Highly recommended.