Friday, August 7, 2009

First Taste: Tuthilltown Manhattan Rye

Everyone has a friend who thinks he's good at something...and isn't. Or prides himself on his secret recipe for barbecue sauce, or kimchi, or the way he smokes his own 18 pound turkey, yet always has so much food leftover.

I think of those folks sometimes when tasting spirits sent to me as part of the wave of new products coming from small distillers and entrepreneurs. (There's no space here to distinguish between those who really own and operate their own stills and those whose spirits are made to order by large distilleries; perhaps some other time.) So many I try are oddly out of balance, with one note or another so dominant that I think they must be created to satisfy no one but the maker. Gin isn't supposed to smell like Provence during the lavender harvest, ya feel me? So I've become skeptical when spirits new to market appear in my tasting lair (actually, the kitchen counter.)

It took Tuthilltown Manhattan Rye Hudson Whiskey to shut my mouth and open my nose. There are a lot of oaky aromas at first, but they are clean and crisp, not the puff of plywood or sawdust that often comes from poor barrel management. There are also fresh crushed apple notes, with a hint of vanilla and a fully grainy, almost cooked breakfast cereal quality. On the palate, there's little of the expected rye roughness; instead, the edges have been smoothed, perhaps by Tuthilltown's use of small barrels, but this is still a lively, peppery rye, and there's even some anise and caraway popping through. It finishes with a bit of char, but clean, brisk and quite smooth, and not the slightest bit hot, even at 46% alcohol. It is both robust and charming, Hugh Jackman, but not Wolverine.

I offered some as an after dinner treat to a couple of neighbors recently, guys who I don't think of as boozehounds. Suffice it to say that it was a good thing I did my tasting before passing the 375 ml bottle around. Currently limited availability, 45% alcohol by volume.

My score: 8

(Photo of bottle: Matt Calardo)

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