Terroir is Critical in Crafting Savory Spirits at Hudson Valley Distillers

Hudson Valley Distillers

The importance of terroir is not only critical to making excellent wines; it is also critical in creating the flavors for whiskeys.  Founders/owners of Hudson Valley Distillers, Thomas Yozzo and Chris Moyer, after traveling the country searching for the proper location to open a distillery, realized the importance of terroir. Ultimately they returned to the Hudson Valley where Tom Yozzo had grown up. According to Tom, New York was the place to be given the population density, the abundant farmlands, the terroir, and the renaissance of small batch spirits, beers, and wines.

Chris and Tom met in 1990 as fraternity brothers at Bloomsburg University. For more than 20 years, they discussed opening a business after Tom retired from law enforcement. There were many business options to consider; however creating a distillery in the Hudson Valley, where the small batch and craft beverage industry was booming, was the perfect location. When they discovered an old farm in Clermont that had previously been a nursery they took the leap of faith, bought the farm and named it Spirits Grove Farm. Situated on the 12-acre farm was a house, retail center, 150 –year-old barn, a four-acre apple orchard, and four greenhouses.

Hudson Valley Distillers opened on Spirits Grove Farm in April 2014. Tom and Chris’ vision for the distillery was to make unique, high-quality spirits by hand from thoughtfully selected locally-sourced ingredients. On the farm, four acres contain an organic apple orchard with Honey Crisp, Fuji and Empire apples all dedicated to creating specialty brandies. The farm contains a total of 15 acres, three that are leased to grow grains. All the land has become totally organic with no use of chemicals or sprays.

Current production of approximately 250 barrels annually include: vodka, applejack, and an un-aged applejack “Fine Shine” (the distillery’s version of moonshine and the mother spirit of all its applejacks) – all made from local apples.  The apples are sourced fresh-pressed from Migliorelli Farms in Red Hook. The distillery’s Clear Mountain Gin is made with Hudson-Chatham Winery’s blended red wine from several New York grapes. Its Old Tom Gin is based on a gin recipe, which was popular in 18th- century England and has seen a resurgence in the “Craft Cocktail” movement. The distillery’s Chancellor Imperial Whiskey is made with Imperial Stout from Chatham Brewing Company. Recently 300 gallons of Chatham Brewing’s Imperial Porter was delivered to the distillery for making a clear whiskey that will be aged from six to 12 months.

On June 20, Hudson Valley Distillers will celebrate its first anniversary when it will premier new releases – a rye whiskey made with all locally-sourced malted barley and rye grains, and Clear Mountain and Old Tom Gins.  The party will be held in the Cocktail Grove, a relaxing cocktail lounge and tasting room, which opened in January, where craft cocktails and local light fare will be served.  The anniversary party on Saturday, June 20 will be held from noon to 6 p.m. The whole family is invited, including the family dog. Food service will be provided by Daughter’s Fare & Ale as guests enjoys live entertainment from Hickory Smoked and Maggie Rothwell.

The Cocktail Grove is open Friday and Saturday, noon-6 p.m. and Sunday, 6-8 p.m. Beginning in mid-July, it will be open Wednesday-Sunday. Tours of the distillery are given Friday-Sunday, noon-6 p.m. or by appointment. For further information, call 518.537.6820 or visit Hudson Valley Distillers.

This is the third story in the series “A Whiskey Rebellion: Craft distilling in the Hudson Valley.”

Margaret was public relations director for two luxury New York City hotels, where she did extensive research into America's culinary heritage. She is a founding member of The James Beard Foundation; formerly, owner of a Jersey Shore inn and restaurant, The Pelican Bistro, recognized as one of the 10 Best New Restaurants in NJ by New Jersey Monthly, and a PR consultant to restaurateurs. For the past several years she has been a contributing writer about food, drink and restaurant news for many publications. She is a passionate cook and wine lover who moved to the Hudson Valley and is in awe of the immense wealth of agricultural, artisanal and culinary talent in the area. Connect with her at www.TastefulLiving.net, Hudson Valley Wine & Restaurant Examiner and Shore Region Food & Restaurant Examiner. She can be reached at mmorgan531@gmail.com.

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