Wine & Spirits

By Derek S. Gerard

Even though it’s technically spring, let’s get two things straight here: 1) it’s still cold, and 2) bourbon is always a good idea. Don’t get me wrong, I tend to gravitate towards gin and other such delicious clear liquors once the promise of warm weather surfaces, but bourbon is a lifelong friend.

Located in Ancram, NY, Hillrock Estate Distillery is a lovely new, rural distillery that is producing amazing top-shelf bourbon. The buildings on premises are from a restored old distillery from the 19th century, and they are the only post-Prohibition distillery to floor malt and craft whiskey on-site from estate-grown grain. Solera bourbon is something I honestly have never heard of until my wife brought me home a bottle of this amazing stuff. Bourbon is aged in wood barrels, right? So, basically, it’s a blending process where no barrel is ever fully drained when bottling occurs. They take some out to bottle, leave some in the barrel, and then refill the barrel with another “batch” of bourbon. It’s a process that is done frequently with sherry, port wine and rum, but never before with bourbon, and that’s what makes it so special.

Hillrock’s Master Distiller is Dave Pickerell, who is kind of a rock star in the distilling world. Other than being a chemical engineer, Dave worked at Maker’s Mark for 14 years. Maker’s Mark is like, a ridiculously successful spirits company, which should give you a good idea of what this gentleman can do.

Hillrock’s bourbon is fragrantly oaky, with a lot of heat and a lovely spicy aftertaste. Citrus and caramel notes can be detected as well. It’s good on the rocks, but I prefer it neat. I’m drinking it as we speak, in the middle of an early spring snowy day. I’m ready for the warmer months, but bourbon like this makes anything bearable.

Originally published April 2013
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