Hudson Four Grain Bourbon Review

Whiskey Name: Hudson Four Grain Bourbon

Distillery: Tuthilltown

Whiskey Type: Straight Bourbon

Release Date: General release

Price: £35 ... but you only get a 375ml bottle for that

Age: Less than 4 years

ABV: 46%

Mashbill: About 60% corn apparently. The rest is made up of rye, wheat and malted barley.

Introduction/Background: Tuthilltown were well ahead of the craft distillery curve. They’ve been distilling up in New York State since the start of the Millennium, long before the world really woke up and smelt the caramel. In 2010 they were bought by the Grant family, of Glenfiddich fame, since when the distinctive 375ml bottles have been relatively easy to find across the UK.

Rather than making a choice between rye and wheat as the ‘other’ grain in their mashbill, Hudson have opted to let the two of them battle it out. A fair few four-grain mashbills seem to be popping up nowadays, as distilleries strive for a USP, but Hudson were doing it first, so all credit to them.

Another USP is their maturation method. You often hear descriptions of whiskey “slumbering” through maturation, but Tuthilltown doesn’t let its juice get a very good night’s sleep; massive speakers blare music at the casks, in the hope that pounding bass lines allied to small casks will extract maximum flavour within a shorter period. What their neighbours think, I’ve no idea.

The primary objection to Hudson tends to be the price. £35 is a fair amount of money for what is, in effect, a half bottle. In full-bottle perspective they’re talking around £65-£70, which puts them in theoretical competition with some pretty hefty hitters. But I guess they’ve got to cover that electricity bill somehow...  

Appearance: Dark for the age.

Nose: Considering it spent its life listening to bass, this bourbon’s nose is all about the high notes. Bounds out of the glass in a very striking and unusual manner. Loads of fruit; oranges, raspberries and perhaps a touch of peach for me. More about the spirit than the cask in my opinion, clearly still an adolescent. Tons of cereal, though feels more baked bread than raw grain. There’s also an ester or two buzzing about. Slightly wide cut? Or is that just the wheat asking for a little more time in cask?

Mouth: Identical. I’m talking absolutely identical; a carbon copy of the nose to an almost startling degree. At first I thought there was a bit of extra dark chocolate icing, but then I went back to the nose and found it there too. Those esters still buzz about; makes me wonder how this would taste were you to remove the rye or the wheat. An intriguing puzzler.

Finish: Medium length. Flavours keep on singing from that same sheet.

Value for Money: Perhaps a bit of a stretch.

Summary: I keep turning this whiskey over in my head. In a weird way, what it reminded me most of was a one year old malt spirit from Eden Mill that had spent its life in a virgin European oak cask. Bags of oranges in both cases. And here’s the thing: I loved that Eden Mill. So on paper I ought to love the Hudson. Except that I loved the Eden Mill for its potential. I remember going on and on about it, and writing “I can’t wait to see how this ends up.” In Hudson’s case it feels like a brilliant work in progress that has been abruptly called to a halt and stuck in bottle ahead of time. Double the age, it could be a stunner. I’m being extra-critical because of the price, too. If this were a 700ml bottle for £35 I’d probably be saying “go out and buy it now.” It’s worth trying by the glass because it is a very unique bourbon experience. But I’m not sure I’d commit to a bottle.

Overall Verdict: Sits in a dark room with the music on full volume. Perhaps it’s right that it feels a tad adolescent. But as with all teenagers, it isn’t cheap, and you wish it was a little older.

Review by WhiskyPilgrim