Saturday, March 14, 2009

Handmade whiskey

by Mike Pardus

I've been seriously remiss in not documenting and thanking my friends Gable and Cathy Erenzo from Tuthilltown Spirits in Gardiner, NY, for sharing the "fruits" of their labors with me for almost a year now. Hand crafted, using only locally grown grains and fruits, doing everything from scratch ( most distillers buy spent mash from beer brewers, Tuthilltown buys their ingredients fresh from local growers), they are turning out a product that puts thought back into the past time of drinking distilled spirits. If you're a foodie, everyone you know is fluent in wine. When was the last time you sipped a glass of rye whiskey? When was the last time you discussed the nuance of Bourbon? Can you actually taste the corn in clear corn whiskey?

Of course, it takes serious discipline to taste 7 high octane beverages without losing focus. Needless to say, serious discipline is not what this has been about. I have tasted these products and given thought to each - but just long enough to decide that they were good; after that, all hell broke loose, things were spilled, raucous behavior ensued, and silliness prevailed...isn't it nice to know that you can support local agriculture, explore new flavors, and still act like a frat?

I strongly endorse finding 6+ like minded friends, getting some easy to prepare food (or take-out) and planning a tasting sleep-over. I can pretty much guarantee that a good time will be had by all.

Oh, yeah, strong coffee, fatty foods, and your "pain killer of choice" is recommended for the next day.

Have fun! Be Safe! Don't drive!


Bob said...

There are some times when the accent in the word discipline is on "dis."

Here's a great article from 2000 by Craig LaBan about moonshiner Coe DuPuis

charcuteire said...

I don't know that I could identify Jim Beam, Jim Beam Black, Jack Daniels, Old Granddad (or Wild Turkey) or Early Times, but I'm aware that they taste different. I like the premium bourbons very much (mostly made by Beam), but they are out of my price range for anything but special ocasions.

However, where did you find what you sampled? What I named and the four small batch Bourbons by Beam are the only ones I ever find, including in NYC upper west side.

Bob said...

Michael Jackson has a great book called "Whiskey, the Definitive Guide." Armed with that, you should be able to put a little more variety in the mix.

Mike Pardus said...

Check out the Tuthilltown website at the to of my post, there's a list of vendors - many in Manhattan and surrounding boroughs. Be prepared to spend a lot more than you're used to. Using fresh grain instead of spent mash from brewers and aging in VERY small (3 gallon) New American Oak, drive their costs to the point that they have to charge $40 for 375ml.

It's pretty much out of my league for daily sipping too. That's why I recommend a multi-person tasting. Split the food and the whiskey 6-8 ways and you'll have a great night in for less than the cost of a mediocre night out

charcuteire said...

It is at a place in my village where I buy wine, I've just never noticed it. Next time I'm in I'll look and ask. I always like to have a couple of good cognacs (or similar), whiskeys and whiskys in the house. That isn't quite the high end of what I will pay, but my wife and I use perhaps two fifths a year between us and guests.

It is also at the place in Manhattan where I shopped until I was retired. I've never seen it there and I've looked and they knew I looked for some good liquors especially rye and bourbon.

I will also look for the book. I prefer this sort of thing in a snifter as it does have a nose. Ice is of course not done.

I post most places including rhulman as ntsc

charcuteire said...


Do you ever teach any of the CIA courses for serious non-professionals?
Saturdays and the boot camps? I've done some in the past and enjoyed them. Chefs Felder and LeBlanc were very impressive.

Jon in Albany said...

My favorite liquor store in Albany has some of these. I have been slowly working my way across the shelf trying new things. It is always nice to try something different, but when you go to spend $40 on something you've never tasted, you run the risk of wasting $40.

I'm currently nursing a bottle of Basil Hayden, one of the boutique Jim Beam's that charcuteire mentioned. IMHO, it is really nice stuff. When it is gone, I'll skip across the shelf to one of these next time.

charcuteire - if you find yourself coming through Albany, there are two shops with very nice Scotch and bourbon selections. I can point you in their direction.

charcuteire said...

When we find something we don't like, my wife adds it the the cooking liquor shelf. The big problem is that if she needs something she has no hesitancy about raiding the drinking side.

Curently I'm working on three Bourbon's, Knob Creek, Bakers and Old Granddad 114 as well as a bottle of Armagnac. There are also two different single malts, both by Glen Livet.

Mike Pardus said...

Tutilltown makes a wide array of brews, I like them all for various reasons, but some I wouldn't pay the premium for. I am very impressed with their Manhattan Rye and Single Malt Whiskey (100% Barley). The Bourbons are good, but I think the Kentuckians have a lock on nuance and depth there. Gable actually hands out cobalt blue bottles of distilled water with eye droppers - a few drops does indeed "open up" the brew.

In 1984 I was living in Napa, Ca. - waaaaay before there we 50 world class restaurants packed into 20 miles. Anyway, the first post prohibition brew pub - The Mendicino Brewing Company - had just opened it's doors. You could only get the fresh, unfiltered, yeasty stuff at the bar or, once a month, if you were on the "call list" you'd get a call late Saturday telling you to be there early Sunday when you could buy 1 six pack to go (OK, it WAS a six pack of Champagne magnums and weighed about 40#)...but the point is - all of the stuff on the shelves these days and all of your local favs - owe a debt to that place, and if you'd like to see more fine, local distilled products (at lower prices), we're all going to have to create and support the market. $40 for a 375ml bottle sounds steep - but it's really about $4 a snifter- try finding a shot of Early Times for that price at your local bar.

John Jezl said...

We just did something very similar to this. We had a good 20 people over and everyone that wanted to taste brought a bottle of their own. We made vast amounts of Scottish and Irish food... lamb stew, corned beef (home cured, of course), Irish soda bread, shortbread... even deep fried "Mars Bars".

We ended up with 12 whiskeys ranging in age from 8 to *40* years. 1/2 oz of each is all you need and it's a fun, even educational, evening.

charcuteire said...

I would have to argue, at least on technicality, that the first 'brew-pub' was in Chicago. A resturant serving their own beer in this case, perhaps closer to gasthaus.

The Berghof opened in about 1894 in Chicago, according to my parents they didn't shutter during prohibition merely paid off the alderman.

At the time I frequented the place their brewery was just over the state line in Indiana and until WWII they also distilled bourbon. They did a light and a dark beer, I think there was more than one light. There was also a Boch at the correct time of year.
and other seasonals.

They Baby Bourbon should be available in the next few weeks, it is on order. I will try and get the owner to order the Rye. It turns out one of the owners lives a few miles from me, next village south.

tyronebcookin said...

I used to live 20 minutes from the jack daniels distillery (in Lynchburg Tenn, I lived over the line in Hunstville Alabama), never cared for it...

Jim Beam on the other hand was the drink of choice in a much younger version of myself ( or beams eight star if you were tight on money), nowadays I like a little Knob Creek ever now and then (also in the Beam family).

Is there a 'kit' out for making your own bourbon yet?