Whiskey Review: Hudson Whiskey Do The Rye Thing

I’ve been a fan of Hudson Whiskey since well before I started reviewing spirits professionally — and in that time, my appreciation has only increased. They used to produce a Manhattan Rye that I liked quite a bit, but that seems to have been discontinued in favor of this new rye whiskey offering, packaged in their new corporate dressing. So how does the new kid stack up compared to it’s predecessor?


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History

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 upstate New York location.

The distillery itself 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.

Product

As mentioned, Hudson used to produce a Manhattan Rye that I was quite fond of drinking, and this seems to be their updated version of that spirit. The heavy use of rye here is very intentional, as rye whiskey is traditionally the kind of spirit that was produced in this colder northern climate when it was first settled by Europeans.

This spirit starts as a combination of 95% New York rye whiskey and 5% malted barley.

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 minimum of three years (previously, the Manhattan rye was blended from stocks between one and four years, so this is a bit older).

Once the whiskey is properly matured, it is shipped to a New Jersey facility for bottling and distribution.

Packaging

This packaging is a bit of a travesty, in my opinion.

The bottle remains the same as it has been: a plump short, cylinder with a gently sloping shoulder. The bottle is capped off with a wood and cork stopper, which is a slight improvement from the last version, but the wax seal is now missing.

As for the label, I truly loved the old branding for their Hudson whiskey line. It was rustic but simple, a beautiful and elegant design that was equally at home in a modern bar or the strong 1960’s aesthetic of the TWA Hotel. It was fantastic.

That, however, is completely out the window here. In their re-branding, they have gone instead for bold and simple — less Michelangelo and more Mondrian. It feels more urban, and claims to borrow the styling of the New York City subway system. Which works… kind of… if someone already told you that’s what its suppose to evoke and if you squint real hard. In an informal and highly unscientific poll I conducted among some of my New York-based family and friends, consensus was that they could barely see the resemblance even after I told them about the NYC subway reference.

The NYC subway style guide is available to purchase. They can look this stuff up. Lines are denoted in colored symbols, not colored stripes. Stripes on subway signs are at the top, not the bottom. They got the font right, but really that’s the only thing. I can understand them wanting to make some changes so as not to be sued by the city, but this makes it downright unrecognizable.

In short, they tore down Penn Station and put up Madison Square Garden in its place.

Neat

This. Smells. Amazing.

Right off the bat, I’m getting that baked apple aroma that’s a good hallmark of a rye whiskey, but there’s much more to it. You’ve got some baking spices, cinnamon, and brown sugar that all combine to make it smell almost exactly like a delicious apple pie, complete with that little bit of richness and depth that comes from having a nicely browned pie crust. It even develops a bit of a dark cherry note as it sits in the glass. The only niggling issue I have is a tiny bit of green Jolly Rancher aroma I’m picking up — but it comes and goes as you sniff the glass.

Thankfully, all of those aromas seem to have made it into the glass and make an appearance in the flavor profile. It starts off with some brown sugar and caramel sweetness, which is quickly followed by the baking spices and cinnamon, then a little bit of lemon zest. There’s also a little earthiness thrown in courtesy of some cedar wood flavor. From there, the baked apple kicks in as the primary flavor components from the rye come into view with some help from that dark cherry note as well — and then finally the black pepper spice you usually associate with a rye-forward whiskey. On the finish, I’m getting some lemon zest, the black pepper spice, and the cinnamon for quite a while.

There’s a depth and a richness here that I really appreciate, at times getting near crossing that line into just straight “charred wood” flavor territory — but never quite crossing over. The flavors are powerful without being overwhelming, without any bitterness or offensive characteristics.

On Ice

There’s a lot of fruit and spice in this spirit, which are all flavors that I commonly see eliminated from the picture once you add in a little bit of ice. But in this case, I think the depth and the saturation of those flavors means that all you’ll see here is just a slight atenuation.

Usually, I recommend that people drink the spirit neat to get the full impact and all of the flavors. But here, I think you still get all of the flavors, just slightly toned down. There’s still the baked apple, the brown sugar, the cinnamon, even the lemon zest and pepper finish. It just isn’t quite as forceful as when taken neat, which might be a good way to introduce new whiskey drinkers to the spirit.

Cocktail (Old Fashioned)

I’m a big fan of darker, richer versions of an old fashioned cocktail, and this spirit has a lot of that depth and richness to offer. But beyond that, it actually has some really nice complimentary flavors that it brings to the table.

There’s something delicious about the interplay here between the baked apple, the cinnamon spice, and the herbal elements in the bitters. I think those herbal components are adding just a bit of levity and aromatic lift to the drink that makes it so much better in comparison to how it was neat or on the rocks. In my opinion it doesn’t even need the sugar cube — it’s perfect as-is. Just whiskey and a dash of bitters.

Fizz (Mule)

This is exactly what I’m looking for in a good Kentucky Mule.

Front and center is the interplay between the richer components of the spirit and the bright and cheerful ginger beer, which both are discernable individually but combine to make a flavor that is well balanced and delicious. Even the little bit of cedar wood in there is doing its part to make this cocktail interesting. Add to that the apple fruit flavor, dark cherry, and the cinnamon spice that comes to the party… and you’ve got a well balanced, complex, and delicious cocktail that I would happily sip all day long.


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Overall Rating

As mentioned only a few dozen times, I reviewed and really liked the Hudson Manhattan Rye… and I don’t remember it being as rich and delicious as Hudson Do The Rye Thing. There are a lot of amazing flavors that are on display here, and how they combine to make this “rich apple pie” impression is really knocking my socks off. I think this is a fantastic spirit that works amazingly well in just about anything you can put it in.

I really just wish it had a better label. That modern urban look is killing me, and especially in the antique-influenced bottle they are using… it just doesn’t fit.

Tuthilltown Spirits Do The Rye Thing
Production Location: New York, United States
Classification: Straight Rye Whiskey
Aging: No Age Statement (NAS)
Proof: 46% ABV
Price: $35.99 / 750 ml
Product Website: Product Website
Overall Rating:
All reviews are evaluated within the context of their specific spirit classification as specified above. Click here to check out similar spirits we have reviewed.

Overall Rating: 4.5/5
It tastes like a rich and delicious apple pie, so I love everything about this rye whiskey. Except the label.


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One comment

  1. I’ve had this one as well & I got…
    Nose: Honey, Spice, Rye, Cherry
    Palate: Mint, Black Pepper, Rye, Spice, Honey
    Finish: Mint

    Fyi, Total Wine still sells the Manhattan Rye.

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