Eliza: Can you give me a quick backstory onTuthilltown and how you came to be?
Gable Erenzo: Quick? No quick version on how we went from rock climbing entrepreneurs to artisan distillers....but Ill try and keep it brief.
When my father Ralph bought Tuthilltown in 2001, the property included 30+ acres, 2 houses, 5+ barns, and an operational 18th century Grist Mill. The original intention was to create a rock climbers ranch on site. We come from a climbing background and have been climbing in the area since 1985, always camping in over crowded campsites and occasionally staying in overpriced motels. Considering the properties vicinity to the "gunks", it was a perfect place for my father's vision to become a reality. An inexpensive place for climbers to pitch a tent, hire a bunk bed, or get a private room. This however was a commercial use and the property was zoned agriculturally, therefor variances were needed. A few vocal and deep pocketed neighbors didnt like the idea of sharing their swimming hole with a bunch of transient rock climbers, and made it impossible for the variances to be approved. In 2003 Ralph invited a friend over who sat on the zoning board and asked "what can we do here without running up against the same problems. His response was simple, find an agricultural use. This set Ralph on a whole new track which eventually lead to opening NYs first Whiskey Distillery since prohibition. In the process of researching farm wineries, Ralph came across the farm distillers license, which had just been created. Only a couple others had heard of this at the time, and no one had yet received one. A perfect opportunity to revive a formerly robust NY industry.
At this point Ralph met his future partner, Brian Lee. Brian came from a high tech background of audio engineering. The two met when Brian contacted Ralph about potentially taking over production at the Grist Mill when George Smith (former owner and miller) retired. After milling with George for the final season, Brian realized that running an 18th century Grist Mill was not an ideal retirement strategy. The two began to talk and Ralph revealed his idea for a distillery. After a long conversation and a week or two to gestate, Brian took a second mortgage out on his home and funded the purchase of our first Still. Ralph put up the property and the two began the long task of gutting the building, building a distillery, learning to distill, sourcing grains and fruits and building what would become NYs oldest and most well known distillery.
Eliza: Tell me about your newest spirit,Half Moon Gin. Where did you get that awesome name? What's the story behind it?
Gable: So glad you like the name! We love it too. Keeping with the whole Hudson Valley theme, Half Moon Gin is named for the vessel in which Henry Hudson sailed up the River which now carries his name. In 1609 the Half Moon (Halv Mein) brought Henry Hudson and his rag tag bunch of seamen from New Amsterdam up to Albany. Inspired by that spirit of exploration, Tuthilltown has created a Gin that takes a fresh look at the traditional production methods. Instead of taking a neutral grain spirit and flavoring it with numerous fruits and botanicals, we started with a base spirit of grain and fruit prevalent in the Hudson Valley, wheat and apples. By focusing equally on the base spirit as we do the flavoring components, we where able to produce a Gin unique among Gins.Half Moon Orchard Gin has the subtle sweet finish of apples with a rounded mouth feel unparalleled by other Gins. Half Moon Orchard Gin is the first release in a line of Half Moon Gins that will explore this method further, blending other local grains and fruits to create new and unique bases that will then be flavored with a botanical bill specifically tailored to the flavor and mouth feel of the hand crafted neutral spirit base, creating an exceptional NY Gin.
Eliza: I know the Hudson Whiskey's use locally sourced products - is Half Moon local as well?
Gable: Absolutely! The Tuthilltown philosophy is tied to the local fruit and grain harvests. All the apple and wheat for the neutral spirit base are grown local to Tuthilltown. The apples only a few miles away and the wheat comes from the finger lakes. Tuthilltown has formed a strategic partnership with another NY distillery in the Finger Lakes that produces the wheat neutral spirit for Half Moon. The apples are fermented and distilled at Tuthilltown. Many of the botanicals come from NY, but a number of the flavoring components are not indigenous to our area and are therefor shipped in from elsewhere in the USA.
Eliza: Where can we buy this juice (in the NYC area), and how much is it?
Gable: Well, we just released our first batch before our distillery fire, and have yet to be able to produce batch 2. We are back up and running and Gin should be flowing again in the next week or two. That said, there are still a number of high end accounts in NYC that still have a small stock of Half Moon. I would suggest asking your local shop to order it for you if they dont carry it already. Our distributor in NY is Martin Scott. You could always find a bottle at Drinkupny.com, Astor, Park Ave and many others. It is usually around $37 for a 1Liter.
Eliza: Finally, most people associate gin cocktails with the summertime. I however, like it all year round. Can you give me an example of a great winter cocktail that uses Half Moon?
Gable: Good timing actually. i just made a nice hot cider cocktail with Half Moon that came out really nice.
-1 partHalf Moon Orchard Gin
-2 parts local unpasteurized apple cider
-.5 part fresh squeezed lime
-3 dashes ofTuthilltown Basement Bitters
- 1 cinnamon stick
-.5 oz Royal Rose Three Chilles Simple Syrup
Combine everything in a small pot and heat until close to boil. Let cool slightly and serve with the cinnamon stick as garnish.
CLICK HERE to watch the journey of the father and son behind Tutthilltown Spirits.
By Eliza Czander