The passing of the Volstead Act, aka The National Prohibition Act, in October of 1919, was the culmination of more than a century of attempts to remove alcohol from society by various temperance organizations. Prohibition lasted in the United States for 13 years, until the passing of the Twenty-first Amendment in December, 1933. The years between the 18th and 21st Amendments saw the rise of some of the most notorious criminals in the nation’s history, as well as setting the foundation for the Jazz Age, a glittering era of dazzling decadence and illicit urban”speakeasies” immortalized in the works of F. Scott Fitzgerald. Jay Gatsby, the doomed figure at the center of Fitzgerald’s greatest work, “The Great Gatsby”, made his fortune as a bootlegger. Al Capone, Lucky Luciano and Enoch L. Johnson, made famous by Steve Buscemi as Nucky Thompson in HBO’s critically acclaimed 5 season series “Boardwalk Empire”, all amassed great fortunes through the control of the illegal booze trade.
Another result of that long ago legislation was the eradication of hundreds of distilleries in New York State, and for years there were none. All that changed in 2005, when Tuthilltown Spirits, in upstate Gardiner, brought the tradition of small batch spirits production back to the Hudson Valley. Tuthilltown’s portfolio includes whiskeys, vodkas, gins and other unique innovative spirits that are the first legally produced in New York since Prohibition was repealed. New York’s first bourbon, HUDSON BABY BOURBON, is distilled from 100% New York corn and their Indigenous Vodka and Half Moon Gins are produced from New York apples and wheat. These are all handmade spirits which start at the farm distillery as raw grain and fruit and are made without added flavor or color and are not chill or carbon filtered.
For 220 years Tuthilltown Gristmill, a landmark listed on the National Register of Historic Places, used waterpower to render local grains to flour. In 2001, Ralph Erenzo and Vicki Morgan acquired the riverfront property. In 2003, Erenzo and Brian Lee created Tuthilltown Spirits LLC. They converted one of the mill granaries to a micro-distillery. Two and a half years later, Tuthilltown Spirits produced their first batches of vodka from scraps they collected at a local apple slicing plant. Today, Tuthilltown Spirits distills vodkas from apples grown at orchards less than 5 miles away and the highly awarded HUDSON whiskeys using grain harvested by farmers less than 10 miles away. Their gin combines New York wheat and apples for a light silky spirit. The farm distillery also produces rum, eau de vie, brandy, absinthe and infusions.
The distillery is a two hour ride from NYC up the Thruway, and a day trip to the rustic complex is well worth it. Guests are welcome to stop in for tastings during store hours and tours are offered by appointment. The vibe is like an old western frontier town, with gravel roads that wind along the river and connect the buildings that are spread over the sylvan acres. The staff appear and disappear like Wonka’s Oompa Loompas, quietly adjusting valves, checking gauges and moving barrels and bottles around the facility with focused efficiency. There is a well-stocked gift shop that carries every label in Tuthilltown’s portfolio, as well as cool hoodies, t-shirts, and other assorted gifts and treats. The store also boasts a bar where guests are welcome to sample the spirits and learn more about Tuthilltown Distillery’s history. Erenzo is like the Indiana Jones of the burgeoning group of distillery owners in upstate New York, and has amassed an almost encyclopedic knowledge of the liquor licensing laws, some arcane and obscure, during his campaigns in Albany to expand the rights of small craft distilleries in the state.
In the fall of 2012, a build-up of flammable vapors in the still room set off a backdraft that nearly caused the farm to go up in smoke. Thanks to the courageous and quick-thinking efforts of local fire fighters, not only was the distillery saved, but 100 freshly filled 10 gallon oak casks holding bourbon and rye now share a part of Tuthilltown’s history. Their charred exteriors yet untainted contents got Erenzo thinking, and eventually doing what he does best, innovating. On the two-year anniversary of the fire, the father-son distilling team of Erenzo and his son, Gable, released the limited edition Hudson Double Charred. A blend of bourbon and rye, Hudson Double Charred is spicy and complex, with dry, herbal notes balanced by smoky vanilla.
In 2012, Hudson was approached by a maple syrup tapper looking to buy bourbon barrels to make a cask-aged maple syrup. The distillers at Hudson instead suggested a trade; after aging his maple syrup in the bourbon barrels, the maple tapper sends back his used barrels in exchange for freshly-dumped ones. The maple cured barrels are then filled by Hudson with rye whiskey and set aside to finish. This year’s release is the second batch of this uniquely crafted and aged whiskey. Hudson Maple Cask Rye is a sweeter experience; aging rye whiskey in casks that have held artisanal maple syrup imparts a natural, rounded maple sweetness with notes of toasted vanilla, black tea, and pancake-perfect maple syrup. Both the Hudson Double Charred and Hudson Maple Cask Rye are made in small batches and released as a seasonal limited edition. Only 470 cases of the Double Charred are available, along with 880 cases of the Maple Cask Rye.
Tuthill House at the Mill at Tuthilltown serves homemade, American cuisine, featuring prime steaks, grass-fed beef, seafood and locally grown produce in the historic 1788 Mill. Executive Chef Jared Krom’s menu is inspired by American cooking, showcasing fresh, local artisan products and ingredients of the Hudson Valley. Bartender Darren Joseph is extremely clever with his cocktail concoctions, and is highly skilled at blending the various spirits from the distillery with unique flavors such as garlic and other elements that make for surprisingly tasty sips. Ichabod Crane or George Washington would feel right at home in the dining room, which is designed around the original mechanic structures of the mill. A friend is planning a Steampunk themed wedding for the summer, and Tuthilltown Spirits Distillery might be the perfect spot.
Hudson Double Charred is available in New York, Texas and California and the Hudson Maple Cask in NY, NJ, CT, TX, IL, MA and California. Go to HudsonWhiskey.com for more information. The two new products are available for $44.99 in liquor stores and are in bars and fine restaurants.
14 Gristmill Lane
Gardiner, NY 12525
845 633 8734