Hudson Whiskey’s 10th anniversary, Ralph Erenzo, and the absolutely PERFECT Manhattan

It’s a good summer for whiskey fans. Oh, is it a good summer.

Hudson Whiskey’s new 750 mL bottles

The Absolutely Perfect Manhattan using Hudson Manhattan Rye Whiskey. One of the best Manhattans possible.
The Absolutely Perfect Manhattan using Hudson Manhattan Rye Whiskey. One of the best Manhattans possible.

Why? Because we can finally go out a buy a regular 750 mL bottle of Hudson Manhattan Rye and Hudson Baby Bourbon. That’s right. You used to only be able to get this stuff in the tiny 375 mL bottles. You know: the ones that get drunk in a single night and cost $48. And they were worth it even then! But they were a splurge. Which meant that I had only ever tried the Baby Bourbon. But it was fine, so fine.

Well, now you can enjoy the same bourbon in a regular sized bottle, and it’s only $52 for 750 mL. That’s a game changer. Now it’s right up there with Baker’s or Booker’s or Balcones bourbons. But this stuff may be better.

Ralph Erenzo, the Queen Vic Pub and Kitchen, and the Maple Cask Rye

Even if you have enjoyed any of the Hudson whiskeys, you may not know the name Ralph Erenzo. He’s the mastermind behind Hudson. Not the master distiller, mind you, but the guy who got everything going. The guy who changed the game for distillers in New York. Ten years ago, in fact, he opened the first (legal, ahem!) distillery in New York since Prohibition started.

I got to meet him at the Queen Vic Pub and Kitchen here in Houston, and also got to try a couple of the other whiskeys I had never supped before: the Four Grain Bourbon and the Maple Cask Rye. The Queen Vic also made some great appetizers and a couple of good cocktails.

Another great cocktail from the Queen Vic Pub and Kitchen in Houston, TX
Another great cocktail from the Queen Vic Pub and Kitchen in Houston, TX
A bacon cocktail using the Hudson Maple Cask Rye Whiskey. From the Queen Vic Pub and Kitchen in Houston, TX
A bacon cocktail using the Hudson Maple Cask Rye Whiskey. From the Queen Vic Pub and Kitchen in Houston, TX

But the highlight was the Maple Cask Rye. I crap you negative. Like you, I don’t get into the fake sweetened whiskey so faddish these days. They can be good, but I like them mixed usually. Not this one. The cocktail that used the Maple Cask Rye with a bacon rim just hid the genius of the whiskey itself. This is not some whiskey with syrup added. No, it’s much grander than that.

What Hudson does is they loan their used rye barrels to a local maple syrup manufacturer. The maple guys age their maple syrup in the used barrels and sell the maple syrup as “bourbon barrel aged” or some such. Then Hudson gets the whiskey back and puts the rye back into the barrels for a bit. So the maple syrup gets the flavor of the rye from the barrels, but then the rye whiskey ends up getting the flavor of the maple syrup back from the barrels. It’s genius. Drinking a glass of the Maple Cask Rye is like eating the best damn stack of pancakes imaginable. Well, maybe that’s not the best analogy, but hell, it works.

Hudson Maple Cask Rye Whiskey: A step beyond your typical sweetened whiskey
Hudson Maple Cask Rye Whiskey: A step beyond your typical sweetened whiskey

The Hudson Manhattan Rye

I had to go out and buy a 750 mL bottle of the Manhattan Rye, of course, and this rye is up there with the best. It’s at 46%, but it’s smooth and drinkable. It may be my favorite rye whiskey yet. There’s a sweetness to it, too, which it makes it all the more approachable. I would not mix this stuff: it’s too good.

But it is called the Hudson Manhattan Rye, but so I had to try it in a Manhattan (my version is 2 1/4 oz rye, 3/4 oz sweet vermouth, 6 dashes Angostura bitters). And it is perfect. Not in the strict cocktail sense, mind you, but perfect in the “this is the best damn Manhattan I’ve ever had” sense.

Okay, maybe I am prone to hyperbole, but this whiskey is that good: it makes me excited. And I’m glad I can actually afford it now.

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