In 2001, Ralph Erenzo and Vicki Morgan acquired this property in Gardiner, New York, hoping to build a cozy B&B-type haven for climbers and hikers from the Gunks, aka the Shawangunk Mountains. The neighbors weren't so hot on the idea of climbers coming in from all over, so they explored another project: building a small distillery on this beautiful plot of land using apples, corn, and other grains from nearby farms.
First built in 1788 to render local grains into flour via waterpower, the historic gristmill is adjacent to the distillery. It's since been converted it into a restaurant, the Tuttlehouse at the Mill, which sits on the banks of the Shawangunk Kill overlooking the creek and a trickling waterfall.
The ever knowledgeable and friendly Tuthilltown Spirits founder and distiller, Ralph took us on the tour. Here he is in the tasting room ready to pour us a flight of whiskey. But first! Let's visit the distillery.
Here's one of the production guys with his earmuffs on to block out the ear-blasting noises from the machinery in action. Tuthilltown is currently working to expand the facilities; they just broke ground a couple weeks ago to eventually double in size.
They use malted barley from Canada because it's eco-friendlier (that's ecologically and economically) than sourcing from the Midwest. The rest of the grains are from nearby farms. Just a few miles up the road, Tantillo Farm grows Tuthilltown's rye and corn (unrelated: they make fantastic cider doughnuts).
Much of the equipment used in the distillery is repurposed from things found on the farm when they first arrived. This one actually came from a nearby dairy. Here the cooked mash cools down to the proper temperature before it's pumped into the fermentation room.
We headed upstairs to see the three stills: 100-gallon, 200-gallon, and the tallest one, built for 680-gallon capacity. They had to cut a hole through the roof and use a crane to drop that one in. Elegant-looking yet very utilitarian, the stills are from Carl, Germany's oldest distillery fabricator (since 1869). Each of Tuthilltown's whiskeys are distilled twice.
Still More Stills
This nifty-looking doodad with all the portholes is used to condense the different alcohols that boil at different temperatures and separate them from one another. The first alcohols that come out are the "heads," which they wouldn't use at all. The "heart" is the good ethanol they want for the whiskey, which is then moved into stainless drums to later be transferred into oak casks. Some of the "tails" also goes into the batch to help flavor it.
All made from American oak. The four-gallon "baby" barrels are used for the Baby Bourbon. Since, by law, bourbon may only be called bourbon if it's matured in first-use casks, they sell them afterwards, usually to microbreweries and homebrewers. Depending on the size they range from about $100 to $200.
The tour was a barrel of fun (an American oak barrel, naturally), but it's time to hit up the tasting room! You'll see a flight of the 375-milliliter whiskey bottles on the counter. They're all hand-numbered and waxed because it was faster for their early two-man line (not because it looks cooler, which it does). While we love the Baby Bourbon (just want to pinch its baby cheeks—and by that, we mean, drink more of it) their Rye Whiskey is another favorite. It pours a dark amber, is spicy with a minty bite, and makes a mean Manhattan.