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New York Distilled

January 27, 2010

The Profussor is a creature of habit.  Cocktail posts are for Fridays.  But today is special, because yesterday I attended a killer seminar and tasting that I’d like to talk about.

But first a legal disclaimer as may or may not be required by an act of federal legislation:

The event that follows was not open to the public. I was an invited, based on my past posts on cocktails and spirits. At the event I received fifteen (15) free samples of alcoholic libations, which were followed by light appetizers. I paid nothing to attend. In addition I was graciously given a one-liter bottle of LiV Potato Vodka, one 750 ml bottle of Finger Lakes Distilling McKenzie Rye Whiskey, and one 375 ml bottle of Long Island Spirits Sorbetta Lemon by their respective distillers.

I’m glad that that is out of the way.  Now let’s begin.

My love of craft spirits is no secret.  I have written extensively about my closest distillery, Harvest Spirits.  And for me it has been one of the bright spots of living in this area.

Well, it turns out that New York is rife with micro distilleries.

I won’t bore you (today) with the details of how that happened, but it has.  The upside is that we have passionate, committed people making authentic handcrafted spirits using local ingredients.  And many of them have tasting rooms where you can visit and try their products for yourself.

Yesterday I got to meet a few of these people.  And while I plan to talk about them more individually in the weeks to come, today I want to introduce you to the players.

Maybe the best way to do that is to tell you about what was served.  The tasting and seminar was broken up into three flights.  The first flight was six unaged spirits.  The second flight was five aged spirits.  The third flight was four cordials.  That’s 15 tastes in less than two hours.  Sadly, out of necessity there was plenty of spitting and dumping involved.  Luckily, I’ve done that before.

Shannon Brock of the New York Wine & Culinary Center organized the event and opened with a few words. The NYW&CC seems suspiciously similar to Copia in Napa, except that it is still solvent.  If you have been up to Canandaigua and stopped in to the Center, I’d be curious to hear your impressions.

Ralph Erenzo, distiller and partner at Tuthilltown Spirits and granddaddy of the craft spirits movement in New York, spoke for a few minutes about being a NY farm distillery.  NY farm distilleries will not be making rum, since sugar cane is not grown in New York State (although there are other licenses that will permit its production – more on that later).  Ralph makes whiskey from New York corn, vodka from New York apples and rye from New York rye.

Then came round one, the unaged spirits.
1)    LiV Vodka – It’s short for Long Island Vodka, and it’s made from 100% potatoes.
2)    Harvest Spirits Core Vodka – Which has moved well past my beloved batch 21.
3)    Hidden Marsh BEE Vodka – A very delicate spirit made from honey.
4)    Mazza Chautauqua Plum Eau de Vie – Intense perfume of plums and flowers.
5)    Finger Lakes Distilling Seneca Drums Gin – Hugely aromatic.
6)    Tuthilltown Spirits New York Corn Whiskey – This isn’t something you find everywhere.

Round two was the aged spirits.
1)    Tuthilltown Spirits Manhattan Rye Whiskey – Grainy, grassy and spicy.
2)    Finger Lakes Distilling McKenzie Rye Whiskey – Similarly grainy, but with a sweetness from being finished in sherry casks.
3)    Harvest Spirits Cornelius Applejack – Already up to batch number three.
4)    Hidden Marsh Queen’s Flight Honey Brandy – Good, but not as crazy good as it sounds.
5)    Warwick Valley Bourbon Barrel Apple Liqueur – Actually much better than it sounds.

Finally, round three brought the cordials.
1)    Mazza Chautauqua Grappa of Steuben – Which is a French and American hybrid red grape.
2)    Long Island Spirits Sorbetta Lemon – A limoncello made with a potato vodka base.
3)    Warwick Valley Sour Cherry Cordial – One of the tastiest bottles of the day.
4)    Long Island Spirits Sorbetta Orange – I had never heard the word orangecello before today.

I have so much to tell you about all of these producers and their wares.  Let’s just consider this a working table of contents moving forward; something to whet the appetite for my future Friday cocktail columns.

And in the meantime, you can check out what Bill Dowd has to say on the matter.  He was in attendance too, and I had the chance to introduce myself.  Considering our tastes are so different, we got along just fine.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. BenP permalink
    January 27, 2010 1:12 pm

    Wow, that sounds like a lot of fun! I am very curious to hear more and to hear whether I should start looking for any of these bottles here in Massachusetts.

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