Hudson Whiskey’s Refreshing Evolution

The cult favorite from Upstate New York undergoes a multi-sensory upgrade

It’s hard to keep track of the many ways the team behind Hudson Whiskey has pioneered the craft distillery movement. Of course, there’s the well-known tale of founder Ralph Erenzo lobbying in New York State for the brand’s very existence and carefully changing archaic laws. There’s the liquor’s devout following, inside and outside of the state, of consumers desiring something delectable. And then there’s the fact that they declared their own appellation, Empire Rye, and brought others in (competitors, none the less) to make the category stronger. Now, with all the knowledge they’ve amassed, Hudson Whiskey debuts a rebrand that enhances the liquid itself and most everything around it. And there’s a good reason why.

“Since 2003 [when the brand launched], the category has matured and evolved around us and because of the trail Ralph Erenzo blazed, there are now over 1,800 craft distilleries in the US and over 180 in NY state alone,” Brand Manager Paul Coffey tells CH. He says the intention behind the visual shift, as well as the refreshed liquid, happens to be their desire to once again set the tone for what New York whiskey can be. “That means, liquid that has evolved over time, a fresh new look to reflect our bold character and reimagined names that evoke classic New York moments and that unmistakable New York spirit.”

One obvious change within the new design—inspired by the subway system—is those product names. Gone are the straightforward names like Baby Bourbon and Maple Cask Rye; in their place, are clever plays on the brand’s birth state. “The new variant names reflect New York attitude and embrace the kind of characters, places and moments that only exist in New York,” Coffey says. “From the majestic views of the Hudson Valley to the bright lights of Broadway, Hudson Whiskey is a celebration of that spirit and the brilliant, creative and resilient people who call New York home.”

Inside the bottle, “Hudson Whiskey now features more mature liquid with the same bold character, carried through in the taste,” Coffey adds. “We still make all of our whiskey at our distillery in the Hudson Valley and use high-quality New York grains from local family farmers.” Their beloved pronounced flavor remains—as does the pioneering spirit behind the liquid, which has continued through years via experimentation with new grains, blends, cask finishes and age statements.

“Hudson is growing up and has evolved,” Coffey says. Part of that is because of their position in the illustrious William Grant & Sons portfolio—an organization with immense talent, especially with regard to whisk(e)y production. “We’re no longer that craft start-up with super-young liquid. Our range is expanding, our age profile is increasing and our price point is more accessible than before.” For future releases, Coffey says we can “expect to see a continued focus on age statement releases, and exciting innovations with grains and cask finishes.”

Those liquid decisions come through the skill of master distiller Brendan O’Rourke who explains that the brand has continued to soften the rough edges often associated with younger whiskeys as they pursued older age profiles and barrel sizes. “When the distillery started, our aging and distilling processes were very primitive,” he says. “We were using two- to three-month-old liquid, aged in tiny barrels. Now we have access to these full barrels and use liquid aged between three and four years old.”

As one may expect, even without an understanding of the updated mash bills (aka the recipe of ingredients for distilling), the liquid is still superb. In addition to the flagship bourbon (now called Bright Lights, Big Bourbon) and rye (known as Do The Rye Thing), as well as their exemplary maple whiskey (called Short Stack), the brand is releasing a limited edition expression this September. Known as Back Room Deal, it’s a straight rye whiskey finished in peated Scotch barrels.

“This is the first of many innovations from Hudson to come as part of the next evolution of the brand,” O’Rourke says. “Hudson Whiskey sends their ex-bourbon barrels across the Atlantic where they are used to age peated whisky, then emptied and returned to the distillery where they are filled up again with straight rye.” It’s bright, fruity and, of course, smoky. We haven’t tried it yet but we certainly intend to get our hands on it.

Images courtesy of Hudson Whiskey