By Richard Thomas
A pioneer of New York State craft distilling, Tuthilltown and the brand it founded, Hudson (the brand is owned by William Grant & Sons, the whiskey still supplied by Tuthilltown), are now coming up on the 10th anniversary of the change in state law that opened the door to craft distilling there by making the licensing much cheaper. With that landmark in mind, it’s worth looking back on these whiskeys of “craft whiskey 1.0.”
Hudson Maple Cask Rye is a 100% Rye whiskey, first aged in small, new white oak barrels and then given a finish. The finishing wood is their own old whiskey barrels, sent to a maple syrup producer in Vermont to create whiskey-aged maple syrup. Now infused with the flavor of sweet maple, the barrels are sent back to give this Rye its secondary maturation. After a total aging of “not more than four years,” the results are bottled at 92 proof (46% ABV).
The whiskey has a rich, dark color, one it retains in the glass as in the bottle. It’s a deep red amber, and the liquid itself is quite viscous. It carries itself with visible weight in the swish, and the coat drops only a few thin, slow-moving legs.
That kind of appearance suggests two things: a good new make, but also a lot of wood influence. Both aspects are very much in force throughout the Hudson Maple Cask Rye tasting.
The nose has a scent that is equal measures rye-driven licorice and anise plus the atmosphere of a musty old wood shed full of green, freshly split hardwoods. The flavor is also a matter of rich, sweet rye spices and mapleness on the one hand, and oak-driven spiciness and astringent woodiness on the other. It is also just a touch hot. The wood finally comes to dominate in the finish, with that oak and astringent aspect of the palate being what lingers on, although this fades quickly.
Hudson Maple Cask Rye, with it’s clear use of barrel stock that isn’t just small, but tiny, is over-woody in the way that so many early craft whiskeys were. Yet here, the qualities of the spirit are just as evident. If I were judging this Rye on neat sipping alone, I would give it a C+, but it’s strength and simplicity makes it a good choice for serving on the rocks or using in mixology. If you put something into it, the whiskey won’t diminish.
Hudson Maple Cask Rye nowadays goes for $50 to $55 for the most part, although some online retailers have it marked up all the way to $65. This is for a 375 ml bottle, mind you, and that has always been a serious mark against Hudson whiskeys. Even by craft standards, paying a de facto $100 rate per full sized bottle is very stiff.