And now I come to the end of my short stint on American Whiskies. I have a backlog of Scotch I’ll get to work on next. But meanwhile, in their American survey, the Whisky Wafflers tried a Hudson single malt (which did not impress but intrigued anyway). This time we’ve got a more typical American-styled spirit from Hudson. I received this ‘Baby Bourbon’ as a gift and thought we’d put it through its paces. Along the way I’ll compare to the other whiskies tried in this series. I don’t have a lot of craft whiskeys to compare yet so we’ll use the Rogue Dead Guy, recently reviewed, as a benchmark as well as the Knob Creek, which has a more traditional mashbill.
The Hudson Baby Bourbon is a product of Tuthilltown Spirits Distillery, which, as they explain on their website, was founded in 2003 by Ralph Erenzo. Ralph is a pioneering distiller (he predated Rogue’s distillation efforts by about a decade) who helped push through legislation to establish craft distilleries as a legal concerns in New York. So you could say he’s an OG craft distiller. The Hudson brand was sold to William Grant and Sons in 2010. Tuthilltown makes the whiskey, Grant distributes it. This is the Grant of Glenfiddich and Balvenie, among other brands, and have proven to be good stewards of their product.
The subject of the review, while still available here in Oregon and online, has been discontinued. There is no info on the Baby at the Tuthilltown site but the Baby Bourbon’s back label explains it all: it uses 100% New York-grown corn, is aged in charred new American oak for less two to four years. Some of the casks are small, 15 and 25 gallons, and are blended with spirit from the normal 53-gallon Bourbon casks. In the smaller casks, there is more wood-to-spirit contact per gallon, so the magic of aging should be faster in them. On the aging side, the Baby has an edge on the Rogue, though it’s aged far less than Knob Creek’s 9 years. Like Rogue, Tuthilltown promotes locally-sourced ingredients and produces with a pot still, not a continuous Coffey still like Knob Creek.
The Hudson is a dark amber, a little darker than the Rogue (see below) and about the same as the Knob Creek. The Hudson’s nose is big: I can smell it as soon as it’s poured. The nose is well balanced, sweet and dry in equal measure (very dry notes like oak sawdust). The sweetness is from the corn but reminiscent of passionfruit tea and the dry notes are clearly from the oak. If this wasn’t an American whiskey I’d guess there were sherry casks in the marry. In contrast, the Knob Creek has some subtlety but is a couple shades weaker, despite being higher proof (Knob Creek is 50% while the Baby is 46% ABV). Hudson takes the honors for aroma.
On the palate the Hudson’s aroma proves true, as this is a very flavorful spirit. Honey and toffee come in a big way, followed by a twist to marshmallow. It has a lot of corn flavor, and all that sweetness is well balanced by tasty tannins (dry, well structured, clean but not bitter). Mouthfeel is mostly luxurious. There is a bit of heat from the high ABV but it’s not harsh. The Baby does not have a long finish, lingering honey and dryness from the tannins. A straightforward, powerful but not subtle sip.
Comparing the benchmark Knob Creek, the Knob is spicier, not as broadly sweet and livelier on the tongue, which must be the higher ABV as it is not a younger whiskey by any means. There’s a similarly quick finish. Altogether, the Knob Creek is a different experience, dry, spicy and lively but overall less punch than the Hudson.
A quick comparo to the oddball (malt) Rogue, again the Hudson packs more punch both in aroma and in flavor but in a narrower range. The Rogue is a more subtle dram and does reward some introspection.
Hudson Whiskey Baby Bourbon, New York Straight Bourbon Whiskey, 46% ABV
Nose: Strong, well balanced sweet and passionfruit tea against spicy and a bit dusty oak.
Palate: Big flavor: a wave of honey and toffee followed by a twist of marshmallow. Tasty tannins balance well without being bitter. Mouthfeel is luxurious at first, followed by a little heat. It’s smooth, not harsh.
Finish: Quick; fading honey and oakey tannins.
Bottom Line: Hudson sells for $50 and Dead Guy is normally $52. So they are an even match from a price perspective. And they are both small batch, pot still whiskies. The Dead Guy offers a broader but fainter palate. Knob Creek, at $35, is a different experience from the Hudson, being spicy and lively but the Hudson delivers more overall flavor than either the Dead Guy or Knob Creek. It wins by sheer power. I’d say the Hudson is a good foray into craft whiskey and I look forward to trying their new New York Straight Bourbon.