24 April 2012

Hudson Manhattan Rye "A Remarkable Ryebration"

It has to be said that apart from good company there’s one thing guaranteed to make a great whisky even greater, and that’s the story behind it.

Back in 2001 Ralph Erenzo a former professional rock climber, bought a plot of farming land in the town of Gardiner, situated around an hour’s drive north of New York City. At this stage distilling whisky or any other spirit for that matter was the last thing on his mind, as Ralph’s only intention at the time was to open a climber’s ranch in the idyllic surroundings of the Hudson Valley.

Though unfortunately for him but very fortunately for us, his plans were soon scuppered following objections from the locals. But no sooner had his plans hit the buffers he met Brian Lee, a technical whiz in the broadcast industry, who at the time was looking for a new project to get his teeth stuck into.

Then as if it were a case of dramming destiny, they did what anyone with no distilling experience or no initial ambition to work in the industry would do, they decided to use the land to build and open New York’s first whisky distillery since prohibition.

After two years of building the distillery, learning the ropes and devising some unique techniques, such as blasting out hip hop and rap music in the warehouse as an effective alternative to hiring someone to rotate the barrels. The stills at the Tuthillton distillery were now well and truly flowing.

I was very fortunate to meet and spend some time with Ralph at this year’s Whisky Live London. Not only did he dish up a plethora of dramming delights and highlights of the night, he did so in a manner which was as infectious as it was inspiring.

To be honest I could have gone on all night listening to him or at the very least until there was no more Hudson Manhattan Rye left in the building, which for me was the outright star of the evening and an all-round amazing drop of ‘Liquid Americana’.

The nose kicks off with a text book whirlwind example of all the foundations that make up a great rye; garishly glorious and giving grains, a wanton wave of wood spice and a brazen but balanced bout of bitter orange.

A slow dissolving hot pan of demerara sugar and a tin of peaches in syrup make for the next set of delights, along with a glorious glug of white pepper and spearmint infused honey.

Toasted almonds and a clove heavy wedge of fruitcake then add an amazing level of enhancement and depth. As does the arrival and presence of some particularly vibrant vanilla and a smidge of alluring anise.

The palate kicks off with a tower of toasted rye bread that’s been smeared with Frank Cooper’s Vintage Oxford marmalade, followed by a real ‘wham bam thank you dram’ dose of gutsy and giving wood spice.

A trio of syrups in the corn, maple and cherry cough variety then flow their way into the proceedings, as does a petite protuberance of Pernod and oodles of opulent oak.

Clove spiced honey with echoes of cough candy make for the next set of palatable pleasures, along with yet more of those toasted almonds and an ever elevating presence of pepper, which works superbly on the balancing front.

It has to be said that with regards to its finish your left feeling tantalised and teased, as it lingers marvellously for a few moments, then before you know it drifts off to become a distant but much loved memory.

But to be honest I think this adds to the charm of a dram that in my mind could only be improved if enjoyed on the observation deck of the Empire State Building, whilst listening to a band play Gershwin’s ‘Rhapsody in Blue’ and being surrounded by the stunning skyline views of a Manhattan summer sunset.