This bottle boasts a pretty bold statement on its label: “This Is Your Favorite Whiskey”. To be fair, Hudson Whiskey hasn’t led us astray yet — I’ve been tasting their stuff for years now and their flavors have always been great. But even if this bottle is as solid as the rest of their product line, will this bourbon live up to the expectation set by its name?
- Check out our article on the Tuthilltown Distillery for an 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 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 that 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.
- Learn More: What Is Bourbon Whiskey?
This is pretty much just a “single barrel” version of Hudson’s Bright Lights, Big Bourbon offering. It is the exact same grain bill and process, aged the exact same length of time (and both are kosher!), but the difference here is that these barrels were hand selected for their exceptional qualities.
For their bourbons, Tuthilltown Spirits starts with 95% local New York grown corn 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 exactly efficient) but is cooked and fermented on-site in large vats. Originally, the distillery used an old pasta sauce cooker for the process, but the WG&S acquisition helped them upgrade to larger, custom built equipment these days.
Once the corn 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 (previous versions of bourbon were blended from stocks between one and four years, so this is a bit older). Once properly matured the distillery staff selects the best barrels of the bunch and sets those aside for this specific labeling.
Once the whiskey is properly matured, it is shipped to a New Jersey facility for bottling and distribution.
If you’ve read my reviews of newer Hudson Whiskey products, you’ll already know I’m not a fan of this packaging.
The bottle remains the same as always: 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 (seen here on their Manhattan Rye). It was rustic design that was still clean and minimal enough to be equally at home in a modern bar or the strong 1960’s aesthetic of the TWA Hotel. It was fantastic.
That, however, went completely out the window sometime around 2020. In their re-branding, they have gone instead for bold and somewhat 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 isn’t recognizable as an homage to the subway — and therefore just feels like a blocky, pseudo-modernist design.
In short, they tore down Penn Station and put up Madison Square Garden in its place.
From the first sniff, this is a deeper, richer, and more well-saturated aroma than you normally see in a bourbon. The most prominent note is sweet brown sugar, followed by some cedar chips, vanilla, and some raw corn. Added into the mix is a bit of dark dried fruit, like figs and raisins, providing a velvety base for the other flavors to play on. It’s a little bit more complex than the Bright Lights, Big Bourbon version with a little extra power as well.
This theme of being just a touch more refined than we’ve seen in other versions continues into the flavors as well. Just like the other Hudson bourbons, there’s a big burst of brown sugar on the front of the flavor profile, followed by some caramel and vanilla. What makes this different is that cedar chip aroma continuing into the flavors, a little less severe and more pleasant than the charred wood note in the others. On the finish, there’s a good bit of cherry that leaves something fruity and delicious to remember the experience by.
My biggest fear with the addition of some ice is always that the spirit will lose its saturation and complexity. Ice has a tendency to water down the flavors, and that can sometimes lead to problems on ice or when using those spirits in cocktails. Thankfully, though, this bottle doesn’t seem to have any of those problems.
All of the flavors we saw before are still present, although a little more squished together. Instead of developing like a Polaroid photograph, all of the flavors appear at once — with one exception: there’s the charred oak note slipping in stealthily here, something that we saw with the lower priced version of this spirit but seemingly absent when we tried this bottle neat. It isn’t overpowering, but it does provide just a touch of bitterness on the edges of your tongue.
Otherwise, this is still a well-balanced and complex spirit to sip on the rocks.
Cocktail (Old Fashioned)
I’m always a fan when a spirit maintains its depth and complexity despite the added ice. I like a darker version of an old fashioned, one with some power and gravitas, and that’s exactly what I am getting here. The brown sugar and dark cherry flavors do a good job adding the richness I was looking for, but with enough sweetness that this bourbon pretty much balances the bitters all on its own.
The one interesting standout here is that the cedar chip flavor seems to be particularly highlighted in this cocktail. There’s an interesting interaction with the herbs and spices in the Angostura bitters that is making it pop, and I’m not mad. It’s an interesting and unique aspect that works well here (and probably goes very well with a good cigar).
This is a pretty great take on the Kentucky Mule cocktail, but there is something still missing I think.
In terms of the flavors, this hits the nail on the head for me, personally. The darker and richer components from the bourbon do an amazing job balancing out the bright ginger beer and lime juice, leading to a balanced and enjoyable cocktail. It isn’t quite the bright, summery drink you’d normally expect, but instead something more interesting and complex. It’s kind of like the more fall-appropriate version of this cocktail.
The only complaint I have is that the flavors just kind of fizzle out at the end. Usually, there’s a bit of black pepper spice in a bourbon, which adds some texture and complexity on the finish… but here it’s just flat. The same flavors you saw before simply fade to black. It isn’t bad, but it doesn’t leave me all that impressed.
Well, Hudson continues to put out an excellent product. While this bottle might not have quite reached the level of “my favorite whiskey”, it’s not terribly far off either.
What we have here is a bigger, better version of their Bright Lights, Big Bourbon offering, with some better saturated flavors and more refined tasting notes. It does a better job in the cocktails, and makes for a delicious sipping spirit. I think this is a solid winner, even if it’s still not my absolute favorite.
|Tuthilltown Spirits This Is Your Favorite Whiskey|
New York, United States
Classification: Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Aging: No Age Statement (NAS)
Proof: 46% ABV
Price: $44.99 / 750 ml
Overall Rating: 4/5
A better, more refined version of their flagship bourbon at roughly the same price. Buying this is a no-brainer.