Ralph Erenzo, one of Hudson Whiskey's founders, is a spirits visionary.
Back in 2007, I started noticing these distinctive bottles in bars in Brooklyn and Manhattan. They were on the whiskey shelves, and they were small. I liked their shape — I love all things apothecary, as I have written here previously — and after ordering a drink of what was in them, I liked the contents of those cute bottles. It was Hudson Whiskey, and I’ve been a fan ever since.
I recently spent an hour or so with one of Hudson’s founders, Ralph Erenzo, and talked with him about the distillery, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. (We also talked about climbing, Parisian bars and the splendor of the Hudson River, but that’s a story for another time.) He was in Houston on a PR trip that also included stops in Dallas and Austin.
The big news? The distillery is distributing its wares (at least Baby Bourbon and Manhattan Rye) in industry-standard 750-milliliter bottles for the first time. (Don’t worry, Hudson fans: The oh-so-lovely 375-milliliter bottles aren’t going anywhere.) Even bigger news? Those larger bottles will retail for $50 — only $5 more than the smaller bottles. Erenzo told me that his distillery’s expanded capacity is the reason behind the change: “We have become much more efficient and can make a lot more whiskey now.”
Part of the the efficiency was the result of the Hudson brand being bought in 2010 by industry giant William Grant & Sons. The transaction allowed Erenzo and team to expand its output and put enough whiskey in casks to support export markets and start filling the larger bottles. “We were delighted when William Grant & Sons reached out to us,” Erenzo said. “We share many similarities: The company is family-run, it focuses on innovative products and long-term results, and sees the business advantage in partnership, none more so than with our team at Tuthilltown Spirits. With their unique approach, they were the perfect partner to help us take Hudson Whiskey to the next level.”
Erenzo is an engaging figure and is passionate about his company and the spirits industry. He has been named by The Spirits Business magazine as one of the world’s pioneering distillers and was instrumental in the movement to force U.S. legislators to change Prohibition-era laws and bureaucracy that were holding back the craft-distilling movement. During our conversation, he told me several times that if 12 years ago, someone had told him he would one day be at the helm of one of America’s most influential distilleries, he would have thought they were insane. At the time, he was trying to establish a climbing center in Upstate New York, and when that did not work out, Erenzo set about making spirits history.
When the hour was up, I bid Erenzo farewell, thinking that he was the perfect ambassador for the brand. I actually found myself wanting to drink Hudson even more, just to support what he has accomplished. I got my hands on a bottle of the Baby Bourbon a few days later, and it is drinking really well. If you like vanilla undertones, this is for you. At 92 proof, it was the first legal pot-distilled bourbon made in New York since Prohibition. It’s aged for less than four years in small (three-gallon) American oak barrels, resulting in a very impressive wood component for such a young whiskey. Next on my to-do list is getting a 750-milliliter bottle of Hudson’s Single Malt.
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