My wife and I spent the weekend in New York's Hudson Valley, with the goal of seeing some old friends and visiting a few wineries in the area. We visited Robibero Vinyeards, then Whitecliff Vineyard. We had a lot of fun, and tasted and bought a lot of wine.
At Whitecliff the conversation turned to whiskey. That's when we learned we were only a few minutes' drive from Tuthilltown Spirits! I had never toured a distillery before, so we saddled up and headed out.
They use the baby barrels because the whiskey matures faster in them - more surface area in contact with the spirit. I believe our guide mentioned 3 months per gallon.
He explained the "iodine test" to us, which they use to ensure that the conversion is complete.
After that the mixture is pumped into the fermentation room.
The tank on the left is done fermenting, so the corn has settled to the bottom.
We could see the CO2 "boiling" up out of solution. It looked like a coarse porridge.
Our guide explained that due to demand they just had to install a still twice the size of their old ones. It required building the extension to the roof you can see in the picture and was just completed a week before we arrived.
The distiller uses a hydrometer and his palate to determine when the whiskey is ready for the various steps it goes through.
He explained how the first alcohols that come out are the "heads". It's basically wood alcohol, or acetone. They do not use that at all.
Next come the "hearts". That's the good ethanol they want for their whiskey. This is taken off into stainless drums to later be put into oak casks.
The last are the "tails". The tails are not used in the final distillation, but are saved in the wicker-covered demijohns in the last picture. They then add some of the tails to the next batch, which helps flavor the batch and extracts some more of the good alcohols left.
As I have already had their Manhattan Rye, I opted to taste the two bourbons - Baby Bourbon and 4-Grain Bourbon - and the single malt. The 4-grain is made from 51% corn, with the rest being barley, wheat and rye.
As you can see, the selections were delicious, and more than one followed me home. They also had a bourbon-cask-aged maple syrup, which was out of this world and found its way into my bag.
I will be aging the clear corn whiskey in one of my barrels. I haven't decided if it'll go into the rye or barley yet.
With Tuthilltown less than two hours' drive from my home, I see more visits in my future. We had a great time and I would even do the tour again. I look forward to seeing the changes in the distillery as they grow, which they are doing fast!