Friday, March 06, 2015

Ralph Erenzo and Tuthilltown Spirits - Amazing!

I've posted about a half dozen times about Tuthilltown distillery. I have long been a fan. But I was not able to get down there until last October. Unfortunately, it's taken me that long to do a piece on them. My apologies to Ralph Erenzo.

Ralph Erenzo was not the first to distill in New York state Nor was he the first to distill in the Hudson Valley. But he was the first to take it to a whole new level. Brandies and Eau de Vie's had been distilled in the valley for years. But Erenzo secured a distilling license and he blew the lid off the distilling industry by breaking one wall down after another. He distiller rye which hadn;t been done in New York state for who knows how many years. He distilled Bourbon. It was preposterous at the time he did it - who did he think he was kidding distilling bourbon outside of the sacred grounds of Kentucky and Tennessee? And he got so big, so fat, that UK whiskey giant Grants offered him a partnership deal that was too sweet to turn down! Today, no one talks about distilling in New York state without seeking his opinion or advice. Ralph is an impressive guy!

Before Prohibition more than 1,000 farm distillers produced alcohol from New York grains and fruits. In 2005 Tuthilltown Spirits brought the tradition of small batch spirits production back to the Hudson Valley.

For 220 years Tuthilltown Gristmill, a landmark which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, used waterpower to render local grains to flour. In 2001 Ralph Erenzo and Vicki Morgan acquired the riverfront property. In 2003, Ralph Erenzo and Brian Lee created Tuthilltown Spirits LLC. They converted one of the mill granaries to a micro-distillery. Two and a half years later, Tuthilltown Spirits produced their first batches of vodka from scraps they collected at a local apple slicing plant.

Today, Tuthilltown Spirits distills vodka from apples grown at orchards less than five miles away and the highly awarded Hudson Whiskey line, using grain harvested by farmers less than ten miles away.  The Visitor Center offers guests the opportunity to taste the collection of whiskeys, vodkas, gins, liqueurs, and other unique, handmade spirits.  Tours illustrate how Tuthilltown’s spirits are made by hand, one batch at a time.  Guests are encouraged to stay for the day and enjoy the family-friendly environment. The onsite restaurant, The Gristmill at Tuthilltown, serves homemade, American cuisine, featuring prime steaks, grass-fed beef, seafood and locally grown produce in the historic 1788 gristmill. Executive Chef Jared Krom’s menu is inspired by  modern American cooking, showcasing fresh, local artisan products and ingredients of the Hudson Valley.
Innovation at Tuthilltown is snowballing thanks to the input of over 50 hardworking and creative team members. New products, cocktails, dishes, and tour improvements are brought to fruition each week.   Tuthilltown Spirits is proud to have been the early bird in the post-prohibition New York distilling scene.  The team is now at the forefront of the craft distilling movement and is quickly building legacy of sustainable growth.

"The 2007 Farm Distillery Act let farms become full-on distilleries with doors flung open to tourist-friendly tasting rooms. When Ralph Erenzo founded Tuthilltown Spirits in 2003, he was the only farm-based distiller in the state. Thanks to this legislation, just a few years later New York boasts over 40, with many more fermenting,"wrote Gabrielle Langholtz in Edible Manhattan.

"[In] entrepreneurial man named Ralph Erenzo, who had moved from Manhattan to the Hudson Valley, was researching the possibility of booze-making and discovered a little-known 2000 law on the books that allowed locavore micro-distilling at a greatly reduced licensing rate. The state had slashed the $65,000 distilling permit to just $1,500 — so long as the producer was a little guy, making less than 35,000 gallons a year," wrote Amy E. Zavatto in Edible Manhattan. "This became the precursor for Erenzo’s grand opus: helping to create a new law that would become the 2007 Farm Distillery Act, which would let farms become full-on distilleries with doors flung open to tourist-friendly tasting rooms. When Erenzo founded Tuthilltown Spirits in 2003, he was the only farm-based distiller in the state. Thanks to the changes in those laws and a new attitude in Albany, just a few years later New York boasts over 40, with many more fermenting."

OK, enough. To my tasting! The funny thing was, I felt like going to Ralph's place was a must, but a little redundant. I'd pretty much already had a lot of his stuff. They called the tasting room the visitor's center, which I found odd at the beginning, but by the end, I was hooked. To call it a tasting room is mundane. To undergo the Tuthilltown experience was another thing. The first thing I tried was the Noble Handcrafted Tonic 1 Barrel Aged Maple Syrup Absolutely fantastic! Rich, multi-layer, and absolutely fantastic! Brought home a bottle of this asap!

The tasting room is spacious, but never  isolating, as sometimes large ones can be. Instead it is very well merchandised and full of very fun bric-a-brac. Many fun souvenirs to take home! And plenty of nooks and crannies that one never feels like they are in a giant, cavern like room. And the service at the bar was excellent!

Tuthilltown sends used Hudson Whiskey barrels to Woods Syrup, a Vermont maple producer that ages syrup in those same barrels, decants them, then sends them back to Tuthilltown. At that point Tuthilltown finishes off a small selection of rye in the used casks. For those who like their rye unadulterated, I say, bugger off. I loved this one. If you're a bourbon person, you'll love this rye. It's got a hint of caramel and maple and just a slight, slight hint of sweetness that takes the edge off what is regular rye. LOVED this!

I am a bourbon guy, so I am a sucker and geek for this one. Tuthilltown's Four Grain Bourbon Whiskey is a blend of corn, rye, wheat, and malted barley melded into a micro-batch artisanal bourbon whiskey. They use whole grain fermentation hoping to ensure a more rounded mouthfeel. The tasting notes cite praline and vanilla - and they absolutely come through. They fell this is an “easy sipping” whiskey, and I quite agree. Lovely!

This is Tuthilltown's historic Hudson Manhattan Rye Whiskey. This is a brown, spicy elixir, rich and warm. Hints of cereal, toast, and butter, but with abounding aromas of honey, pepper, and cinnamon, as well as a touch of old apple. My go to rye for a Manhattan! A fabulous spirit!

The Hudson Valley produces more artisanal cassis than anywhere else in North America. Tuthilltown makes an incredible cassis! Unlike some of the winemakers, this cassis is a distilled product! The black currants are organically grown, hand-harvested local fruit. The fruit macerates with raw cane sugar in a neutral spirit for 4 months in Tuthilltown Whiskey-cured barrels. Big, big dark currant flavors with wonderful acidity. A lip-smacking treat!

I love Half Moon Orchard Gin made from fresh New York state apples and New York state wheat. Fresh, bright, zesty, with a hint of apples and juniper. Fantastic. Makes for an awesome G&T!

Indigenous is a new line of vodkas made from locally grown produce. Indigenous Empire State Wheat Vodka is distilled from 100% NY State wheat. A lovely, fresh vodka that's almost creamy. A fabulous mixer!  Indigenous Fresh Pressed Apple Vodka is made from 100% Hudson Valley apples grown at Tantillo’s Farm and other local orchards, just miles from the distillery. After the apples are pressed and the cider is fermented, each batch is distilled twice. Hints of apple absolutely come through, but not heavy. This is a great martini gin!

The visitor center has a large deck outside. It was a crappy day when I was there, I didn't much feel like hanging out there, but in the summer and fall it must be absolutely gorgeous!

HOWEVER...I was drawn to their on-site restaurant! I walked into a lovely greeting room, and was told I could have a table or sit at the br. I absolutely chose the bar.

I sat at the well stocked bat an had a Manhattan made with Tuthilltown rye! Absolutely superb. And I had it with a side order of fries and a dipping sauce! Very nice!

Going to Tuthilltown isn't just going to another tasting room. I understand why they call it a visitor center! It's fun, exciting, and it's an's not just a tasting bar! And I really appreciated that! And you will to! It's a must go!

Read Amy Zavatto's piece in Edible Manhattan: