Pure Spirits: Hudson Baby Bourbon & Hudson Manhatten Rye

“If you think of whisky (without the small letter of e), of course, you will most likely think of scotland first.” Those were the words I used to introduce an article on the G. Rozelieures Origine Single Malt from Lorraine two days ago. But whoever thinks of whiskey with the small letter of e will – next to Ireland – certainly also think of the United States. And there, of course, it is especially Kentucky, where the famous straight bourbon whiskey comes from, that will come to mind first. Some will perhaps also name Tennessee or Canadian Whiskey, but I guess that would finally be the end of the first associations.  Probably no one would think of New York in connection with whiskey. Except, of course, it is about whiskey bars. (provided test products)

And yet the way leads us to New York today. It is this state where a small series of whiskeys comes from of which I would like to introduce two bottles today. And I really look forward to this review because I have very high expectations about these two bottles. The reason for this is the high amount of premature praise which mainly the “Baby Bourbon” recently got. But before I will have a closer look on the two bottlings, I’d first like to write some words about the manufacturer.

Both whiskeys are made by “Tuthilltown Spirits” and are called “Hudson Whiskeys”. The still young company behind this name is part of the ever growing US “Craft- and Micro-Distillery” movement. In 2001, the two entrepreneurs Ralph Erenzo and Brian Lee acquired the old Tuthilltown Gristmill north of New York City and not far from the Hudson River, and it was only shortly after the acquisition that they finally made the decision to produce whiskey. The name for the brand was quickly found and emphasizes the regional but also the traditional affinity of the brand. This is also taken literally since at the Tuthilltown Gristmill the focus lies on local organic products and the manufacturer tries to take account of the classical distilling craft as much as possible by relying on manual labor in the production process. That all this is highly unusual in the state of New York in the context of distilling whiskey is shown by the following fact: Since the end of the prohibition (which was more than 80 years ago), Hudson Whiskey produces the first matured Whiskey of New York. And in terms of Bourbon it is even the first New York Bourbon of all times. So the people there can be quite proud of their product. The American Whiskey Magazine chose Hudson Whiskey as the “Craft Distillery of the Year” and in 2010 they were voted “Best US Artisan Distiller”, while the whiskeys were named “Best New American Whiskeys”. The press was also quite positive in Europe respectively in Germany. The products (that are distributed by Campari since 2015) received very good critics and the Baby Bourbon was voted “Spirit of the Year” by the influential Mixology magazine last year (2016). Already in 2015 the Hudson Baby Bourbon reached the second rank in a bourbon competition of Mixology magazine and was second only to Elijah Craig 12 years.

detailed information on the actual bottling can be found on the backside of both bottles

So now it’s time to have a more detailed look on the bottles. I will begin with the Hudson Baby Bourbon.

As I’ve alreay said, the Hudson Baby Bourbon is New York’s first historic bourbon. But this is by no means all that is unusual with this bourbon; it honors the historical roots of bourbon: corn whiskey – by relying 100% on corn from the surrounding countryside in the making of the spirit. This is very rare in the production of bourbon since artificial enzymes usually have to be added during the fermentation process, but it promises a distinct taste, of course. In addition, the whiskey is distilled on Pot Stills, which is not particularly common in the USA, but also has a great impact on the taste. As typical for small “micro-distillers”, the barrels used for the maturation processes are rather small. Correspondingly, the oak wood has a faster and considerably bigger influence on the liquid.  However, no official statement is given about the exact length of the maturity period (but it is rather short, which is why it is called a “Baby Bourbon”). There is no charcoal or chill-filtration done at the Tuthilltown Gristmill. Like the Hudson Manhattan Rye presented below, the Baby Bourbon is produced only in very small batches, which is also due to the traditional, manual workload. The bottles are also quite small with only 0.35 liters and with around 40 to 45 euros they are also a little bit more expensive. The Baby Bourbon is bottled at 46% ABV.

Tasting Notes:

Aroma: Yes, this is clearly a bourbon and yes, it does stand out from other bourbons nonetheless. How can that be? Well, the intensity of the typical flavors is simply different from what you are accustomed to. It is surprisingly not as sweet on the nose as you might expect it from a Bourbon with a higher amount of corn (and, of course, it couldn’t be higher than 100%). It even brings a very fine and subtle smoke into the glass. There are very strong oak influences, an existing but subtle vanilla and a rather soft caramel. Over time, fruity tones are coming through, a little citrus is recognizable almost like a tangerine (in other Bourbons I usually tend towards describing it as mere orange). A really interesting one. By now, I am smelling at this bourbon for a longer time than I usually do. There is much to discover here. So far, the Hudson Baby Bourbon actually lives up to all the premature praise.

Taste: On the palate, too, this bourbon confirms that is a little bit odd. But as it is often with the odd ones, it brings what it takes to be the first in class. There is aromatic oak, caramel and here the tangerine finally transforms into an orange. Despite all this, however, it remains surprisingly dry, but very intensively. I can find some cinnamon and a little gingerbread and also some bitter vanilla. A really great one!

Finish: long, dry, with oak, spices and some vanilla – Well, what can I say? I have to agree to all the critics. And I do not say that because I would somehow care about my reputation but because this is really an excellent whiskey!

detailed information on the actual bottling can be found on the backside of both bottles

Before the prohibition, the production of rye whiskey was widespread throughout the USA, but also in the state of New York. This tradition is currently being revived in many parts of the country and, of course, the Tuthilltown Distillers are also practice this tradition on New York. So they decided to name the Rye after the most famous place in the state: Manhattan Rye. According to the manufacturer, 90% of the ingredients used for the Hudson Manhattan Rye Whiskey are taken from the immediate surrounding area. Here too, they do not tell how long exactly the whiskey was allowed to mature in the barrel before it is bottled with 46% ABV. The price for one 0,35l-bottle also is around 40 to 45 euros. Even though the Rye has not won as many prizes as the Hudson Baby Bourbon, it was also awarded a few medals. But how does the Hudson Manhattan Rye compete in the tasting?

Tasting Notes:

Aroma: The spicy character of this whiskey is larger compared to the Baby Bourbon (as you would expect it from a Rye Whiskey); the rye is clearly noticeable. Behind it, I can find some caramel and liquorice, a spicy freshness of citron, cinnamon, cloves and oak.

Taste: On the palate it is a rye whiskey like I love them: complex and spicy, with wild honey, a dash of liquorice and again there is some cinnamon. Rye bread comes through plus some oak and a hint of candied black cherry.

Finish: spicy, long and with a fine sweetness

As a conclusion, I cannot help myself but recommend both bottles to you! They are clearly outstanding and remarkably good.

Buying sources: At specialized retailer or online.

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