In our quest to sample interesting drams, members of our whisky tasting group sometime just gamble and grab when an unfamiliar bottle presents itself – without the chance for advance research.
That is exactly how years ago, long before the rave reviews, Sullivans Cove found its way into one member’s collection. He was curious about what Tasmania produces… And lucky us… his curiosity lead to our sampling a great whisky at a time it was sold out in most markets.
The thing about a surprise is that while it can be a delight, it equally can be a disaster.
In the case of this Hudson, one member stumbled across the craft distillery while traveling in the US. Attractively encased in a squat 375 ml old style apothecary bottle, its bright ruby-red beckons, hand labeled with the year, batch and bottle… however… the proof is always in the blind sampling where packaging has no influence!
This is what we found in our May 2015 tasting session…
- Colour – Ruby red
- Nose – Cherries, pear, then a peculiar strong varnish, just too ‘woody’, musty
- Taste – Flat and frankly yuck! Spat out by more than one… just too woody in the wrong way. In short – no one liked it. No one could even describe it on their palate because it was not even remotely close to what we seek in a whisky
- Finish – Bitter in an annoying way but blessedly short
- Water – Spicy and double yuck!
- Tuthilltown Spirits from Gardiner, NY is a micro distillery opened in 2003 and acquired by William Grant and Sons in 2010
- It produces the Hudson whiskey range – named for its location in the Hudson Valley – along with vodka, gin and other spirits
- They pride themselves on being a ‘craft’ distillery and focus on using local grains – from farmers less than 10 miles away
- In this case, it is 100% malted barley, pot-stilled and aged under 4 years in charred new oak ‘petite’ barrels (according to the label)
- Split the spirit then age part for approx 6 months in ‘petite’ casks (3 gallon barrels) and the balance for 18 – 24 months in 14 gallon barrels
- Then blend the two together until make the whiskey profile
While it is always interesting to try something unfamiliar, none would buy it and I wonder how our friend will dispose of the balance? Would it work in a reduction sauce over a red meat? (suggests the vegetarian). Perhaps a cocktail??
It is notable that the distiller suggests putting the single malt in a Manhattan variation with Pinot Noir, rosemary syrup, raspberry purée, lime and plum bitters… not an appealing sounding combination to me. However I’m decidedly against sweet ‘girly’ drinks. Give me a dirty martini over a Manhattan any day!
Truth be told, many months later our host generously donated this bottle to the Whisky Ladies for our American cocktail evening. Still nothing brilliant but either oxidation toned down the varnish or the ladies were in a more charitable mood that evening given it was contrasted with Jim Beam and JD!
As we venture beyond the average fare, we are bound to have a few misses with our hits. Which makes me all the more appreciative of options to buy whisky in smaller bottles – 375 ml like this one, 500 ml like my still un-opened KininVie or the whiskies I found in Tokyo with 180 ml (Chita & Nikka) and 200 ml (Ichiro’s Houou-uhi) bottles. These are a great way to share a sample with a few folks and then only splurge for the ‘full’ volume if the whisky achieves ‘full’ favour!
Normally, after I write our tasting notes, I like to see what others have to say. In this case I’m frankly puzzled… some folks seem to LIKE this whiskey which, to our collective palates, bordered on the undrinkable territory. This may partly be due to significant differences between what was produced in 2011 (most reviews seem to be from this year) and 2014 (our bottle).
- Sour Mash Manifesto – insights from a distillery visit there plus reviews on the range of Hudson whiskies
- Spirits Review – more charitable than us but concludes not worth the price
- B’s Whisky Reviews – calls it a “borderline criminal offering.”
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