Jun 12, 2010

whiskey "made in New York"...


It is such a strange thing that you feel emotionally connected to everything that is from your neighborhood, city or country. We love local farmer markets, our neighborhood coffee shop, the bar at the corner even if it sucks, in my case apricots "Made in Turkey" or Brooklyn Symphony Orchestra. I remember it was the same feeling in New York when Hudson Whiskey line of Tuthilltown Spirits started to take their places on bar shelves. People liked their whiskey without questioning. It was the first whiskey distillery after prohibition in New York State, sold in adorable old fashioned bottles, labels numbered with hand writing and produced by using local products. I have to admit that there was a genius marketing behind the whole operation which I still appreciate a lot. 

It is a shame that it took me so long to visit their distillery in Gardiner, NY. So today I arrived from Mount Tremper to New Paltz via Woodstock and then took a short cab ride to Tuthilltown Distillery. Since I was pretty early I spent some time in their cute shop and waited for the tour to start. It was pretty nice to see Ralph Erenzo, one of the partners of Tuthilltown Spirits struggling with his tractor and trying to make it work so he can start to work on the field. He definitely didn't look like a man who closed a huge deal with W. Grant & Sons a couple of weeks ago. It was a relief to see that their humble, local and non-corporate image wasn't just made up for marketing purposes.


Anyway the distillery is way smaller than I thought. It is a really small operation and cannot be run faster than this because of the diversity of their product line. Tuthilltown Distillery produces two different kind of vodkas, single malt, rye, wheat and corn whiskeys, two types of bourbons, rum, gin and as a new project hop infused whiskey with only two small stills and the smallest mashtun I have ever seen. To be able to overcome production difficulties, to lower the costs and to speed up the money flow they came up with smart new ideas like pumping air into washbacks for feeding the yeast with more oxygen, using 2, 3 and 5 gallon casks for quicker maturation, small bottles to be able to sell faster, etc. 

Everybody on site looks very proud of the unique way the distillery works now but also looks forward about the changes coming very soon with their new partner and big money. Actually I am also excited to see the change. I don't think like some others that they will loose quality or style of their artisanal whiskeys. This team looks like that they have the ability to use a bigger budget very wisely.

Now, the only down side of the day... We were allowed to taste only three products we choose by law and on top of that we couldn't taste or purchase their Single Malt Whiskey or River Rum since they are not made by local goods. I was dreaming for this tasting for days, bummer... I used my choice for Baby Bourbon, Manhattan Rye and their distillery only product New York Whiskey which is distilled from 100% wheat. All three of them were unique and really good whiskeys with a characteristic spiciness but I came back home only with the wheat whiskey bottle. I have to say they are pricy whiskeys.