Yesterday, I had the extreme pleasure of visiting Jeff Blake, owner, and Tim Wlley, Head of Operations, at Hillrock Estate Distillery in Ancram, NY. This is a magnificent jewel box of a distillery. According to Jeff, this is the only field to glass, comepletely verticle operation in North America. That's right, Hillrock grows it's own barley, wheat, and rye and makes distillates from their own farm grown cereals!
Everything about this complex is extremely well executed. For those who have traveled a bit on the east coast, Hillrock is very close to Boxwood (VA) in terms of sheer beauty and sophistication. Incredible!
This is a picture of the malting house, where the grains are soaked, and then germinated and and then smoked (when they smoke grains) and kiln dried. This building is also use for storing whiskey in small casks.
The bar is an extremely old bar from an old restaurant in the northern part of back road Dutchess County. Almost 100 years old.
This si a small, 10-gallon solera. This series of casks is filled, drained, and refilled several times of year. All Hillrock products go through an initial small wood aging before being blended into large quantities.
The room with the copper is fantastic, and is showcased just off the bar, through a set of French doors.
This is another of the soleras, based in the malting house.
This is grain germinating on the malt house foloor. The grain is soaked in warm water, and then spread across the floor, as if in a zen garen. The grain must be raked every 8 hours, for three days. Warm begins to build as energy is expended by the seeds, as they germinated, sending out little tendrils.
This is a sample of the grain picked up from the floor. You can see the tendrils starting to protrude from the husks. The room smells like oatmeal or bread.
This is a resevoir off the still where the distillate, after running through a condenser, bubbles up before flowing to a large tank. The distillate is clear, and the liquid is now cooled.
Owner, Jeff Baker
Tim Welly, head of operations, and all around good guy. He is pasionate about his job.
Hillrock Estate has out their Solaera Aged Bourbon right now, but will come out with a small selection of small-batch items over the next year. The quality is exceedingly great. We tried some samples not only of the Solera Bourbon, but of several of the newer products in production. Fantastic!
Hillrock firmly confirms that the Hudson Valley is one of the new, and up-and-coming distilling regions in the US. And helps to anchor the wine, beers, ciders, and spirits industry that has absolutely exploded in the Hudson Valley!