The story of Hillrock Distillery has been 200 years in the making. It all started back in the early 1800s. Back then, New York was producing more than half of the nation’s barley and rye, which made the Hudson Valley the country’s breadbasket. Local craft spirits were flourishing with the abundant high-quality grain available in the area. During that time, more than a thousand farm distilleries produced whiskey and gin, but in the 1930s came Prohibition. It forced the distilleries to shut their doors and brought the distribution to a near-screeching halt.
It’s the mission of Hillrock Distillery to change that. They strive to produce the finest hand-crafted spirits that are made with their own grain. The spirits are floor malted, craft distilled in a copper pot still, aged in fine oak and hand bottled in the Hudson Valley.
The team at Hillrock is made up of experienced professionals that are dedicated to ensuring the highest quality and innovation in the craft distilling industry. The key team members are Jeff Baker, Dave Pickerell, Tim Welly, and Danielle Eddy.
Jeff Baker is the owner and driving force behind Hillrock Estate Distillery which is located on the family farm in Ancram, New York. A huge advocate of the farm-to-table movement, Jeff also established one of the region’s first pasture raised, sustainable beef operations. He is an Executive Managing Director/Partner of an NYC-based real estate investment banking firm as well.
Another industry icon is Master Distiller Dave Pickerell. He directs Hillrock’s production and operations. Dave has earned respect worldwide as one of the top Master Distillers and spirit experts. He was a Board Member and Past Chair of the Kentucky Distillers Association and recipient of the “best distillery visitor attraction in the world” designation by Whiskey Magazine.
Next, comes Tim Welly, who serves as head of operations and distiller. He has spent over 12 years in the restaurant and wine industry, training under Winemaker John Graziano for more than four years. Tim attended Ohio Wesleyan University, where he studied Economics and Management.
Finally, Danielle Eddy serves as the Director of PR/Marketing and Sales. She has more than 12 years of experience in the food and beverage industry. Danielle served as the Director of Public Relations at the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States before joining Hillrock in 2012.
So about those spirits. The World’s First Solera Aged Bourbon has been created at Hillrock. Solera is a stack of barrels where a small portion of whiskey is removed periodically as new whiskey is added. The age and complexity increase over time, but no barrel is ever completely emptied. Hillrock combines small barrel-aged Hillrock Estate Bourbon with mature seed bourbon and finishes in 20-year-old Oloroso Sherry casks to balance flavors. The spirit you’ll find has a pronounced nose of caramel, dried fruit, vanilla, oak, and spice. It’s accented by an elegant floral note. The full-bodied palate opens with rich notes of brown sugar, molasses, and toffee, and is followed by roasted corn, clove, cinnamon and a touch of spicy rye. The long, balanced finish is completed when the Oloroso sherry notes of walnut, fig and candied fruit blend with caramel and butterscotch. Hillrock’s Solera Bourbon’s current average age is more than 6 years and the rye content sets at approximately 37-percent.
Next on tap is double cask rye. Why "Double Cask"? Well, after a couple of years aging in standard American oak barrels, the rye finishes aging in a second barrel made from deeply charred wood, which gives the whiskey a ton of mellow sweetness and vanilla as well as hints of prunes, apricots, and rye. Notes of caramel and rye dominate the palate and are complemented by touches of cinnamon, cloves, mint, and butterscotch. Long, warming finish that is slightly sweet. This rye whiskey is a total masterpiece... black pepper spice floating on a rich and malty sweet body with an unbelievably long finish.
Lastly, with a sweet and full-bodied profile, the Single Malt is our favorite of the bunch. The maltiness of the barley is the most noticeable trait on first taste, like pumpernickel bread. Then toasted caramel, vanilla, cinnamon, and cedar join the party. Finishes with a pleasant heat somewhat akin to a bourbon or rye, with a slight leatheriness.
We recently made a trek to the distillery ourselves and learned that the distillery plans on adding 2 (perhaps even 3) more siblings to it's lineup. We were told that Bourbon and Rye offerings both might be available in Sauternes cask finish AND the rye might also be offered in port cask finish. We tried the new items at the distillery and all 3 are outstanding, we the port cask finish being our favorite (you can find more pictures of our day at the distillery on our Facebook page and we strongly recommend you do the same if you love whiskey and happen to be in the New York area).
Are you thirsty yet?