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    Hudson

    There is a revolution taking place in American whiskey-making, evidenced by the eatraordinary growth in small – and some not so small – craft distilleries. The American Craft Distilling Institute (‘The Voice of Craft Distilling’), founded in 2003 with a bakers’ dozen small-batch, independently owned distilleries, now has 750 paid up members. Around 900 people attended its 10th Anniversary Conference in Denver, Colorado.

    The fashion now is for ‘big flavour’ – not only in whiskey. Think how ghastly American coffee once was; look at the success of robust Californian wines and most recently of the burgeoning of craft breweries. A new generation of American drinkers are ready to re-discover their own spirit – rye whiskey as well as bourbon.

    One such pioneer is Ralf Erenzo, who moved into Gardiner, up-state New York in 2001 with plans to build a rock-climbing centre. Forced to change his plans owing to objections from his neighbours, he turned his attention to spirits when he read that New York state had lowered the annual permit for distilling from $60,000 to $1,250 and capped production at 35,000 gallons [132,480 litres] per annum.

    Two years later Tuthilltown Spirits was born in the Hudson Valley, making New York’s first legal whiskey since the introduction of Prohibition in 1920. “We want to capture the flavour of the thing we are making our spirits from,” he told my learned colleague, Dave Broom [see his The World Atlas of Whisky]: “Whiskey should taste like the grain from which it is made. We use no peat and focus on individual grains for specific whiskeys. Our corn whiskey smells and tastes corny. Our rye whiskey is grainy and spicy and full of character. American whiskeys are also about the wood. Storage in new charred oak casks results in deeper colour, more caramel and vanilla aromas and flavours, and more spice… We knew we couldn’t do it the same way as others. We are both by nature and by necessity innovative.”

    Dave goes on to quote Jess Graber, founder of Stranahan Distillery (2002). “The genie is out of the bottle, and the innovators, with a gleam in their eye, will find a way to give us all something new to taste and talk about.” Unusually for America, the Hudson whiskeys from Tuthilltown Distillery are pot-distilled. Small batch and ‘hand crafted’ they each use diferent mash bills: Baby Bourbon is 100% corn (i.e. maize) grown in New York state, Four Grain Bourbon is a mix of corn, rye, wheat and malted barley, and Manhattan Rye is 100% rye. 

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