Last Friday night, I was in Louisville, KY finishing up a week-long distillery trek at an awesome craft spirits sampler at the Distilled Spirits Epicenter, and was introduced to some fantastic, craft producers from all over the country — Illinois, Oregon, Michigan, Tennessee — but I was especially heartened to see a couple of familiar faces from the Hudson Valley region. Pouring their liquidy treasures that night were master distiller Dave Pickerell, the man behind Hillrock Estate Distillery‘s gorgeous whiskies, and the wonderful Ralph Erenzo, distiller and partner from the wonderful Tuthilltown Spirits.
One week to the day later, I’ll get to see both Pickerell and Erenzo again at the kick-off Manhattan Cocktail Classic Gala at the New York Public Library. For the first time EVER (!) in the history of MCC, there will be twenty freakin’ four New York spirits producers on hand, pouring their delicious, hand-crafted spirits in a special NY-centric party room at the Gala, and in other spots over the course of the weekend-long event.
“Thirty distilleries have opened in New York since 2007, and 18 of those are in the Hudson Valley,” Erenzo told me. “That didn’t exist before.” True enough — Erenzo himself was the man who kicked off the home-grown spirits trend here in the mid-aughts. That new, strength-in-numbers vitality has made the Gov himself take notice — the State of New York helped fund the presence and presentation of those 24 distilleries you’ll get to check out tomorrow night. And that’s hopefully only the beginning. Erenzo is working on getting the state to sponsor a malting facility for use by both distilleries and breweries (“Up to now, if you needed malted barley you had to go out of state or to Canada,” he says). Hillrock, who grows their own barley and have their own malt house, has shown it can be done. On a larger scale, it could be a great spirited boon to spirit and suds makers.
“Spirits made in New York was a trend for a while,” said Erenzo with a big grin, “but now, it’s a movement.” Cin-cin to that.