Poughkeepsie Journal Raves About Hudson Valley Distilling Industry's Amazing Growth
Before the craft beverage scene took root in the Hudson Valley, there was Hudson Whiskey.
As the first whiskey distillery in New York since Prohibition, Tuthilltown Spirits Distillery in Gardiner, the distiller of Hudson Whiskey, was ahead of the curve. In the past 10 years since its founding, the whiskey industry has blossomed. Its growing presence in the Hudson Valley has created jobs, generated tax revenue and contributed to tourism.
Since 2005, 114 licensed distillers opened in New York, including six in Dutchess and Ulster Counties according to ny.gov.
Dutchess County denizens can enjoy Denning’s Point Distillery in Beacon or Dutch’s Spirits in Pine Plains, while Ulster County is home to several distilleries, including Coppersea Distilling in West Park and Tuthilltown.
A nationwide phenomenon, the distilled spirits industry contributed to 1,256,732 jobs and generated $15,503,825 in state and local taxes in 2010, the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States reports.
Celebrating its 10th anniversary since its launch, Hudson Whiskey offers a distinct selection of whiskey styles, each emblematic of the Hudson Valley.
“It created something that was hyper local,” said Gable Erenzo, 35, distiller and brand ambassador for Hudson Whiskey.
Originally from New York City, Ralph Erenzo, founder of Hudson Whiskey and Gable Erenzo’s father, saw potential in the Hudson Valley and Tuthilltown. Originally hoping to open a rock-climbers’ ranch, Ralph Erenzo switched plans to a distillery when he was unable to obtain a variance to use the property for something other than farming.
In order to do so, Ralph Erenzo had to find a way to overcome a stifling license fee that had discouraged previous distilleries from opening in that state.
Ralph Erenzo pushed for a cheaper distiller’s license targeted at small operations, resulting in a new category that cost $1,500, down from $65,000, as long as the distiller produced less than 35,000 gallons per year.
For a long time, distilleries remained the missing link in establishing Dutchess County and the mid-Hudson Valley as a prime foodie attraction, said Lydia Higginson, deputy director of tourism at Dutchess Tourism.
“A huge draw for the tourist and the individual, the rise of distilleries over the last few years helps complete our offering and brands us as a food and beverage destination,” Higginson said.
The opportunity to see where the grains and other ingredients grow draws tourists attracted by the farm-to-table movement, she said.
Hudson Whiskey offers tours of its distillery, including a tasting room on site. Tuthilltown Spirits Distillery also features a restaurant.
This boost extends beyond the distilleries, benefiting local business — namely the farms. By purchasing ingredients locally, Tuthilltown Spirits Distillery maintains close ties with area farms while generating business, Gable Erenzo said.
“A lot of farms that were struggling could now sell at a top dollar price point,” he said.
Tantillo Farm in Gardiner reports an increase in visitors and tourists since Tuthilltown Spirits Distillery opened.
“We really like working with them (Hudson Whiskey),” said Beverly Tantillo, secretary at the farm. “They really do contribute and help the neighborhood. Just by being here, they bring in people from all over.”
Today, Hudson Whiskey is sold in 15 countries outside the United States.
As the scene grows and more distilleries pop up, Gable Erenzo said it’s not a competition, but camaraderie among distillers. In many cases, Hudson Whiskey offered advice and help for people interested in joining the industry.
“It’s great to see more people push the envelope and do new and exciting things,” he said.
Geoffrey Wilson: firstname.lastname@example.org, 845-437-4882, Twitter: @PoJoGeoffWilson
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