Tuthilltown Spirits may be known for their Baby Bourbon, but their bench goes deep. Another spirit that they make on-site, that I personally keep as a regular on my shelf, is their Manhattan Rye Whiskey.
- Check out our article on the Tuthilltown Distillery for a more in depth look at the history of this distillery!
The facility itself dates to 1788, when the eponymous Mr. Tuthill founded a grist mill to supply flour and other grains to the local region. The area became known as Tuthilltown (although that won’t help if you put that in Google – try Gardiner, NY instead) and is the quintessential bucolic New York location.
The distillery started when a former professional rock climber named Ralph Erenzo purchased the land in 2001, planning to build a bed and breakfast to share the beauty with other New Yorkers looking to escape the busy urban cities. After some difficulty obtaining permits, those plans never came to fruition, but by 2003 Ralph had enlisted the help of Brian Lee (an engineer by trade) and decided to turn his plot of land into a distillery. If they couldn’t bring people to the land, they could bring a taste of the land to the people.
Over the next few years the two built the distillery from the ground up, essentially creating the blueprints of how to run a farm distillery in New York (blueprints which others would soon follow). Using locally sourced ingredients and recipes true to the history of the region, they built a strong following and in 2010 the distillery was purchased by William Grant & Sons. Since then, the day to day operation has remained in the hands of the local New Yorkers, but thanks to that investment they have been able to greatly improve their output and start distributing their spirit to a much larger audience.
New York used to be known for its rye whiskey, which makes sense given the proximity to Canada (and their Canadian proclivity for rye whiskey). Tuthilltown wanted to bring back that rich history of rye whiskey production with their Manhattan Rye spirit.
This used to be a 100% rye based whiskey, but recently about 10% of the mash bill has been taken up by malted barley to improve the taste. Naturally, all of the rye is locally sourced from New York with the malted barley being the only outsourced product.
Almost every part of the whiskey making process happens on-site. At least, the important bits do. The corn comes in pre-milled (the 1788 grist mill still exists, but it takes about four hours to make a single bag of flour– not economical) and is cooked and fermented on-site in large vats. Originally the distillery used an old pasta sauce cooker for the process, but the recent acquisition means bigger custom built equipment is used these days instead.
Once the rye and barley combination is fermented, it is filled into new charred oak barrels and socked away in the distillery’s rickhouses for a period of between one and four years. To aide in the maturation process heavy bass sounds are pumped through the warehouse at night to force the spirit into every nook and cranny of the barrels.
Once the whiskey is properly matured, it is shipped to a New Jersey facility for bottling and distribution.
I really like this bottle design, and I think it’s darn smart.
There’s little doubt that the design is unique and distinctive. It’s easy to spot a bottle of Tuthilltown’s product on the store shelves due to the shorter fatter bottle design.
That design is a bit of a gamble that seems to have paid off. The fatter design means that stores and bartenders who stock it need to make extra room for it on the shelves, since it won’t fit in a standard spot or a speed well on a bar. What that means in practice is that the bottle has to be on the back bar, in full view of the patrons, and front and center on the shelf. There’s also no way to put it in the back row — the short height means it only makes sense in the front. So while it might not be as tall as the other bottles clamoring for attention, it plays by a different set of rules and guarantees that it will get noticed.
The perfectly round shape is another smart move. Take Tahwahkaro for example, they tried a similar move with a wide bottle trying to get more shelf appeal than other new whiskies. But because they made their bottle thinner in depth as well as wider in width, store owners are likely to slot it in sideways, completely obscuring the label and making it actually harder to see. The perfectly round shape of Tuthilltown’s bottles, though, forces store owners to play ball and display the way they intended.
I appreciate the design, the short, fat round bottle with a severely tapered shoulder and a short neck. The whole thing is capped off with a wax covered cork that I enjoy as well. The label on the bottle is clean and clear, taking a minimalist modern approach that exudes that New York sophistication.
Normally, a rye whiskey doesn’t have very much to offer in the aroma department. But in this case, the small is amazing and complex. I get the caramel and vanilla that you usually associate with barrel aged spirits, but layered on top is an apple cinnamon-esque spice that makes me think of candied apples at Halloween. Or apple cider doughnuts. In short, it smells like New York in a bottle.
The liquid is smooth and has a good weight to it, not too viscous and not too thin.
What’s interesting is that I get a lot of the same flavors that I had in their Baby Bourbon, which makes sense given that they use the same barrels in the same location so a lot of those same notes are going to transfer over. The caramel and vanilla with a hint of black cherry is still a valid description, but starting a couple moments after the liquid hits your mouth there’s a peppery taste that comes in and lingers long after the spirit has left. It’s not overpowering, but instead more of a pleasant taste that compliments the other flavors perfectly.
I actually think that this might have made things worse.
As-is, the spirit is great when taken neat. But the added ice tones down some of those sweeter flavors and seems to let the black cherry shine a bit brighter. If you’re really into black cherry, great. Add ice to your Hudson Rye. If you’re like me, though, keep it neat.
Cocktail (Old Fashioned)
This is what this spirit was born to do, and it does it well.
Just like with the Baby Bourbon, the flavors are perfectly matched and the bright and cheerful orange bitters do a good job balancing the deep and earthy tones from the whiskey. The black cherry flavors might be accentuated with the ice, but in this presentation it works to the drink’s advantage.
Where this cocktail really elevates the drink is the peppery spice that the rye whiskey adds. It’s another flavor and another sensation that shines through the cocktail and balances well with the sweetness of the sugar.
I could (and have, on occasion) drink this all day long.
We may have found this spirit’s true calling in the Old Fashioned, but that doesn’t make it any less delicious in a Mule.
As with the baby Bourbon the flavors do a great job balancing the sweetness and bitterness of the ginger beer, and thanks to the peppery spice in the rye, there’s that added kick that just makes a mule the perfect summer cocktail.
The Baby Bourbon is Tutthiltown’s flagship product, and for good reason. But their Hudson Rye shouldn’t be counted out – it’s a specialized spirit. The flavors and the aroma remind me of my youth back in the Hudson Valley. It almost makes me want to move back, but then I remember state income taxes and I’m again happy here in Texas.
Hudson Manhattan Rye
Owner: Tuthilltown Spirits (William Grant & Sons)
Production: Tuthilltown, New York
Grain bill: 90% New York rye, 10% malted barley
Aging: No Age Statement
Proof: 46% ABV
Price: $53 / 750ml
Overall Rating: 5/5
It tastes just like autumn in New York.