American Minis – Hudson Baby Bourbon 46%

I must admit up front that while I’d heard great things about Hudson’s Baby Bourbon, my one and only previous Hudson experience with their single malt years ago was… not great. In truth, it was a clear deterrent to prioritizing further explorations. For years I would see their squat half bottles in various airports and think… should I? And never did.

However when a dram lands in your lap, one must put aside past prejudice and enter into the exploration with an open mind. It particularly helps when sampling with others who had no such preconceived notions from past forays.

What did we find?

Hudson Baby Bourbon 46%

  • Nose – We were initially greeted with sweet corn, coffee, cherries, resin, a bit funky but in a fun way, red licorice
  • Palate – A bit rough – much more so than anticipated from the nose, not complex, woody and a bit medicinal
  • Finish – None to speak of…
  • Water – We gamely tried hoping it might coax out additional elements… don’t, just don’t

Overall it wasn’t a bad start. It certainly was promising on the nose but a disappointment on the palate. We were calibrated for brasher, younger more spirited American drams, however even keeping that in mind, this was potentially interesting but certainly not  brilliant.

We returned after sampling the other three American whiskies to see if the Baby Bourbon had evolved or changed over the hour or so…. The additional time didn’t do it any favours. What remained in the glass had soured, losing those sweet funky elements that made it promising.

So what do we know? Well, touted as the first legal pot-still whiskey to be produced in New York since prohibition, Tuthilltown distillery uses local corn, aged in small 2 gallon barrels… and then coax along the maturity with ‘sonic maturation’ from bass speakers that agitate the cask and the liquid. Hmmm… 

It seems I’m not alone in being ambivalent about Hudson – more than many other bourbon’s out there, you can find a wide range of reactions from absolute raving love to distain and derision!

I tried to find the official tasting notes, however it seems that the distillery has gone in a  different direction and no longer has this ‘Baby Bourbon’ option, shifting instead to a “Bright Lights, Big Bourbon” expression.

Here was our full American quartet:


With more from our 2019 Master of Malt Advent Calendar…

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Hudson Single Malt Whiskey 46% (2014, Batch 1)

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…

Hudson Singel Malt Whiskey

Hudson Single Malt Whiskey (Whisky Lady)

Hudson Single Malt Whiskey 46%
2014, Batch 1, Bottle 282
  • 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!
More info:
  • 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)
We speculated that high contact between new make spirit and wood in smaller barrels, in this case, simply does not produce the aromas and flavours we find appealing.
In reading further about this whiskey, I understand they have a two-step process:
  • 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
The results for us were very much in the ‘disappointing’ territory – for our host clearly the ‘disaster’ end of the spectrum as he had expectations of something distinctive in a positive way.

Hudson close-up (Whisky Lady)

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).

Here are a few reviews I found interesting:

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