When it comes to speeding up the maturation process in American whiskey, distilleries have access to a few different options. They can age their whiskeys in smaller barrels than the 53-gallon standard, which increases surface area contact with wood, and thus speeds the interaction between wood and spirit. They can also use “honeycombed” barrels that have more wood staves or panels in their interior, which has the same effect. But such processes come with a downside, which whiskey purists tend to describe as a different or undesirable flavor profile caused by “rushing” the aging process. The truth of these matters is still a matter of whiskey geek debate—some claim that use of smaller barrels can provide sought-after flavor profiles in shorter time period, while other whiskey fans treat the entire concept as some form of “cheating.” In our eyes, though, a process is just a process—it can be used with good results, or bad.
Tuthilltown Spirits, meanwhile, has taken this process and employed it in a more unique way in their Hudson Manhattan Rye. Rather than exclusively aging this spirit in 53 gallon standard barrels or exclusively in smaller ones, it ages its 100% rye whiskey in three different sizes of barrel at once, resulting in aged whiskeys with three different flavor profiles. These three ryes can then be blended together into a single whole, which will contain both the influences of the larger and smaller barrels.
Given that the Tuthilltown Spirits range of products, which also includes Hudson Baby Bourbon, recently moved to offering its products in larger, 750 ml bottles rather than the 375 ml bottles it had mostly packaged before, this seems like a good time to revisit the Manhattan Rye, as it’s likely being discovered now by a wider range of spirits enthusiasts. The distillery claims that this two year old, 100% rye whiskey is calculated for the Manhattan cocktail itself, but after tasting it we’re not so sure that’s the most obvious application for it.
On the nose, this smells both very sweet and quite cereal-grain forward, as you would likely expect with many young ryes. Maple syrup is a major impression, along with musty malt, cherry fruitiness and rye bread. This smells almost in the style of some rye whiskeys I’ve tasted in recent years made with malted rye, rather than the more traditional unmalted rye, particularly in the doughy/musty quality malted rye tends to yield.
On the palate, Hudson Manhattan Rye is sweet and slightly syrupy in texture, with an intriguingly unusual flavor profile. It’s quite cocoa-y, for one, with a strong nutty and slightly roasty quality that is reminiscent of brewers’ chocolate malt. Maple syrup sweetness shows up again, and quite a lot of dark fruit with it, yielding a profile not unlike chocolate-covered cherries. Suffice to say, this isn’t exactly traditional for American rye whiskey, and it presents less “rye spice” and baking spices than seen in most other 100% ryes. The residual sweetness in particular is on the high side, making its toffee-like flavors seem a tad cloying.
Given the name, you’d think that Hudson Manhattan Rye would be made specifically with the Manhattan cocktail in mind, but combining sweet vermouth or Luxardo cherries with this particular whiskey feels like it would be overkill. The base spirit is already dark fruit accented and considerably sweet; a Manhattan made with it would be doubly so. This is one case where a reduction in residual sweetness might make a considerable difference in the finished product.
Distillery: Tuthilltown Spirits
City: Gardiner, NY
Style: American rye whiskey
ABV: 46% (92 proof)
Availability: 750 ml bottles, $49.99 MSRP
Jim Vorel is a Paste staff writer and resident brown liquor geek. You can follow him on Twitter for more drink writing.