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Issue 121 - Hudson Valley - A New Beginning in Distilling

Whisky Magazine Issue 121
July 2014


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Hudson Valley - A New Beginning in Distilling

A sneak preview of New York's newest whiskies

During Colonial times rum, made from molasses imported from Caribbean sugar plantations, was the drink of early settlers before the Revolutionary War. Whiskey, already distilled here, gained ground during and after the war with production limited to farmers who had surplus grain.

New York's Hudson Valley, running south from Albany to Yonkers, near New York City, once hosted countless family distilleries where Scots, Irish, Dutch and German settlers used old country skills which flourished before post war tax demands and punitive distillation laws drove killed off the game.

Fortunately recent relaxation in laws encourage a new band of distilleries, five to date, enthusiastically resurrecting spirits making while concocting new delights in ciders, whiskeys, bourbons, brandies, gins, and vodkas.

Exploring old haunts like Valatie and Clermont – historic landmark villages New York City dwellers drive a hundred miles north to visit – I found new distilleries again making spirits using locally harvested ingredients.

Valatie's harvest spirit

Valatie, formerly a mill town, is home to apple orchard Golden Harvest Farms and adjacent five-year-old offshoot Harvest Spirits Distillery where self-taught artisan Derek Grout makes renowned applejack ciders, local fruit brandies and core vodkas and has just added a single malt whiskey to his line.

“Five years ago I began by making traditional applejack during an abnormally cold winter” he explains. “As the cider ferment...

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