Our official League rendezvous haven’t been as regular as of late, because we all know just how crazy summer schedules get. But we did take the time out for a pretty awesome tasting with Danielle Eddy, a former colleague and one of the baddest whiskey chicks on this planet, who so generously hosted a rooftop Hillrock soiree.
For those of you already in the know, I haven’t met a soul who hasn’t loved their products. For those of you who just haven’t had it yet, you can thank me (and Danielle) later.
Hillrock Estate Distillery is one of the shiniest, brightest starts to come out of the Hudson Valley over the past few years. They’ve coined the “field to glass” notion, and claim to carefully manage every step of the whiskey-making process, which begins with the best quality, local grains.
In addition to loving the product and their fearless PR guru, Hillrock was carefully crafted by one of my favorite people on the planet, Master Distiller Dave Pickerell. Dave was a former Maker’s Mark distiller and is one of the best resources in this industry. In addition to being one of the most jovial and warmest guys in booze, he’s a whip-smart chemist who has consulted for more than 50 spirits brands. Odds are you have at least one of his projects in your bar right now. Quite simply put: if Dave made it, it has to be good.
In addition to creating the first-ever Solera-Aged Bourbon on the market, the brand has two recent introductions, a Single Malt and a Double Barrel Rye.
Hillrock Solera Aged Bourbon Whiskey
- First bourbon to be aged using a traditional Solera method, which is then finished in Oloroso sherry casks, giving it some really nice dried fruit character.
- What is Solera Aging, you ask? Here’s a great description from Imbibe.
Hillrock Estate Distillery Single Malt Whiskey
- Created entirely from estate grown barley, malted on the floors at Hillrock’s Malthouse (a cool point of difference, given most malts are sourced or partly-sourced from third parties).
- Completely unpeated, so Islay lovers like me need to look at this one through a different lens. Hillrock notes that because it is completely unpeated, it’s more reminiscent of an Irish Whiskey. (Irish Whiskey is typically triple distilled and entirely unpeated, so it carries a more mellow flavor profile)
Hillrock Estate Distillery Double Cask Rye Whiskey
- Double-matured, first in traditional oak casks and then heavily charred American white oak (they use a #4 level char—the highest char level out there).
Why Hillrock Matters: I know many of us suffer from New-York-is-the-Center-of-the-Universe Syndrome (because, duh, it is), so the fantastic growth of the New York State distilling scene can only better support that argument. The state has its own active Distillers Guild (as many other states do), which works regularly with Governor Cuomo. We all know that the wine scene in New York State has been on the rise for some time, so it’s great to see the distilling scene excelling as well.
Second, those of us within the industry who have experience working with the large drinks companies and global leaders are often skeptical about the small distiller movement. While there’s no doubt it’s here (and here to stay), we all agree it makes both sides of the industry better. There’s a wealth of experimentation going on among the small, independent producers, which pushes the large, global brands to be nimble and creative as well. And while it’s bringing a host of new offerings to the consumer (a great thing), sometimes the creativity trumps the quality with these small brands. Hillrock is a shining example of a small distillery offering a different, yet excellent product.
So take a day trip up there. They’re open for tours and tastings.