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Issue 109 - A Locavore's Tipple

Whisky Magazine Issue 109
February 2013


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A Locavore's Tipple

Liza Weisstuch goes in search of slow food whiskey

S tanding in front of the still house at Hillrock Distillery, Jeff Baker points east to a distant ridge line that runs north to south along lush greenery. It's the eastern border of New York's Hudson Valley. To the west is the Hudson River. His sprawling property is in an area known as the ‘Chimney to Montreal.'

“That's barley there, and rye over there,” said Baker, owner and founder of Hillrock Estate Distillery. It was a temperate October day and as he spoke he swept his arms this way and that across the farmland to accentuate the expanse of the nearly 100-acre estate. “We planted last fall; we'll harvest within the next few weeks,” he said. His two Australian shepherds came bolting down the grassy hill towards him.

The still house is part of a three building minicomplex that also includes a malt house and a granary with a refined tasting room on par with Napa Valley's finest. The malt house (“More like malt castle,” Baker says of the structure with a 24-by-36 foot malting floor) is the first of its kind to be built on distillery grounds since before Prohibition. The buildings appear to sit precisely in the middle of the expansive farmland. They are quaint and were designed to match the early 1800s architectural styles of the Baker home on a nearby hill, which dates back to 1806 and was moved piece by piece from its original location miles away. The buildings look diminutive in their majestic postcard-ready surroundings, which feel more English countryside t...

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